Interslavic

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Featuring Anna Shamanska

If you are a Slavic language speaker, you will understand this completely made-up language. So how do you create a language that can be instantly understood by hundreds of millions of people? Interslavic is even used in movies, like the new Czech war drama The Painted Bird.

Short article:

"Interslavic: How A Made-Up Slavic Language Made It To The Big Screen", Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (9/19/19), by Margot Buff, Carlos Coelho:

Klingon, Elvish, Dothraki, and Nadsat: there are plenty of invented languages used in movies. But one of them, Interslavic, has the potential to be useful to hundreds of millions of people. The language just made its movie debut in a wartime drama, The Painted Bird, and its creator says it could be used by Slavic speakers from Siberia to Slovenia.

Wikipedia

Interslavic (Medžuslovjansky, in Cyrillic: Меджусловјанскы) is a zonal constructed language based on the Slavic languages. Its purpose is to facilitate communication between representatives of different Slavic nations, as well as to allow people who do not know any Slavic language to communicate with Slavs. For the latter, it can fulfill an educational role as well.

Interslavic can be classified as a semi-constructed language. It is essentially a modern continuation of Old Church Slavonic, but also draws on the various improvised language forms Slavs have been using for centuries to communicate with Slavs of other nationalities, for example in multi-Slavic environments and on the Internet, providing them with a scientific base. Thus, both grammar and vocabulary are based on the commonalities between the Slavic languages, and non-Slavic elements are avoided. Its main focus lies on instant understandability rather than easy learning, a balance typical for naturalistic (as opposed to schematic) languages.

The language has a long history, predating constructed languages like Volapük and Esperanto by centuries: the oldest description, written by the Croatian priest Juraj Križanić, goes back to the years 1659–1666. In its current form, Interslavic was created in 2006 under the name Slovianski. In 2011, Slovianski underwent a thorough reform and merged with two other projects, simultaneously changing its name to "Interslavic", a name that was first proposed by the Czech Ignac Hošek in 1908.[6][7]

Interslavic can be written using the Latin and the Cyrillic alphabets.

This reminds me of General Chinese:

General Chinese (Chinese: 通字; pinyin: tōng zi; Wade–Giles: t'ung1-tzu4) is a diaphonemic orthography invented by Yuen Ren Chao to represent the pronunciations of all major varieties of Chinese simultaneously. It is "the most complete genuine Chinese diasystem yet published". It can also be used for the Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese pronunciations of Chinese characters, and challenges the claim that Chinese characters are required for interdialectal communication in written Chinese.

General Chinese is not specifically a romanization system, but two alternative systems: one (Tung-dzih Xonn-dzih) uses Chinese characters phonetically, as a syllabary of 2082 glyphs, and the other (Tung-dzih Lo-maa-dzih) is an alphabetic romanization system with similar sound values and tone spellings to Gwoyeu Romatzyh.

Wikipedia

For a variety of reasons that he spelled out in detail, Chao believed that General Chinese rivalled the Sinographs in its ability to transcend Sinitic topolect differences.

 

Readings

"Sememic spelling" (3/27/19)

Chao, Yuen Ren (1976), "A Preliminary Sketch of General Chinese", Aspects of Chinese sociolinguistics: essays by Yuen Ren Chao (Stanford:  Stanford University Press), pp. 106–143.

Chao, Yuen Ren (1983), 通字方案 (A Project for General Chinese) (Beijing: 商务印书馆).

Norman, Jerry (2006), "Common Dialectal Chinese", in Branner, David Prager (ed.), The Chinese rime tables: linguistic philosophy and historical-comparative phonology, Current Issues in Linguistic Theory, 271 (Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company), pp. 233–254.

[h.t. Don Keyser]



12 Comments

  1. Chris C. said,

    September 24, 2019 @ 6:05 pm

    Surely, Medžuslovjansky is "a continuation of Old Church Slavonic" only in the sense of being something of a potential Slavic lingua franca, and perhaps in the sense that commonalities among Slavic languages are often due to their common development from proto-Slavic, and isn't directly based on it

  2. Thaomas said,

    September 24, 2019 @ 6:19 pm

    Semi-made up would apply to Bahasa Indonesia/Malasia as well.

  3. mishac said,

    September 24, 2019 @ 7:12 pm

    Semi-made up could refer to a lot of languages, from Hindi to Modern Hebrew, to Sanskrit and Koiné Greek. Even modern Japanese is an adaptation of Tokyo dialect mixed with the honorific language from Kyoto.

  4. Michael M said,

    September 24, 2019 @ 7:18 pm

    As a native Polish speaker, I found the bits in Interslavic very easy to understand. Interestingly, she actually mispronounces the name of the language in a characteristically Russian way, saying Mežduslovjansky instead of Mežduslovjansky, with metathesis of the ž and d, which Old Church Slavonic also had but most other languages don't.

  5. Bathrobe said,

    September 24, 2019 @ 7:52 pm

    Esperanto was designed as a kind of "inter-standard European", although it had lots of quirks from its inventor thrown in and went overboard with word-building.

    Later proposed interlanguages were much more focussed on the Romance element of western European languages, including Interlingua and Latino sine flexione among others (see Wikipedia for details).

  6. Stephen Hart said,

    September 24, 2019 @ 9:12 pm

    We shouldn't forget Syldavian:

    http://www.zompist.com/syldavian.html

  7. profan said,

    September 24, 2019 @ 10:05 pm

    As a native Russian speaker who recently took a vacation in Slovenia, Serbia and Bulgaria, I think this is great!

  8. Frédéric Grosshans said,

    September 25, 2019 @ 5:51 am

    @Michael M: I guess you mean "Medžuslovjansky" in the second occurence

  9. Keith said,

    September 25, 2019 @ 8:18 am

    @Michael M & Frédéric G

    I was struck by her pronunciation at 12 seconds into the video: it seems to me that she says "междуславя́нский" while the subtitle reads "medžuslovjansky".

    On the subject of invented languages in literature, the Stainless Steel Rat series of novels by Harry Harrison makes use of Esperanto, and the short story A Spot of Konfrontation by Brian Aldiss makes use of "spEEC" (a purely fictional language used in the story by citizens of the EEC, the forerunner to the European Union).

  10. Chandra said,

    September 25, 2019 @ 4:13 pm

    I shared this with a Slovakian friend, who had this to say:

    "Interesting. I would say that I got 90 % of it. It really is a mix of languages. Some words are very similar to one minority living in Slovakia. Their dialect is more close to Russian language. And many words are similar to words my grandma used.
    It seems like a good idea.
    Also I wonder how it would be perceived by someone who has no contact with other Slavic languages. Because I am 100 % ok with Czech. And so so with Polish, Russian, Ukranian because I met people from these countries and our talks were usualy like each of us was speaking their own language and should there be a word we did not understand we described meaning or helped with English…"

  11. Laret Luval said,

    October 2, 2019 @ 9:02 pm

    Can an average Slavic speaker understand this more easily than, say, Russian?

  12. BZ said,

    October 3, 2019 @ 3:37 pm

    As a fluent Russian speaker I understood maybe 30-40% of the Interslavic stuff.

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