Hundreds of Tongues to Choose From

I read your article on constructed languages "Forget French - Latin, Klingon, and Esperanto Are All the Rage" (May 19). I think it's well done, but I wish to make two additions. First, you cite that about 150 constructed languages were devised since the 1600s - well, that is well under my numbers. Apart from historic languages, a search on the Internet finds more than 300 URLs, each explaining a different language. And at least one-quarter of them are fully fledged ones. And those languages on the Internet are just a small portion of all those that exist.

Second, there are two main ideas behind creating languages: "auxlangs" and "artlangs." Auxlangs are languages devised to be used in the real world as a means of communication between different cultures and people of different mother tongues. Artlangs are languages devised for themselves alone, as a piece of art. Indeed, the vast majority of them are devised in a constructed environment (literary, cinematographic, etc.).

Other motives may urge people to invent languages. There are logical languages, "universal" languages (or philosophical ones), and very alien or exotic languages devised primarily as a means of research about language "universals," about psycholinguistics.

Piermaria Maraziti


More word lore

I really enjoyed "How Spelling Came to Be" (May 26), about words and their evolution. The author didn't mention that the food names (in French) actually equate with the French words for the animals - like porc is pig, boeuf is cow, poule (poultry) is chicken. I learned that our animal names are Old English while our food names are French because the Normans were the ones who got to eat the food that the Anglo-Saxons prepared.

Carol Cummings

Gaithersburg, Md.

US policy in Bosnia

"No Kid Gloves, Fix-It Guy for World's Tough Spot" (June 1) talked about the recent book by Richard Holbrooke, which gave an excellent insight into how President Clinton's "policy" on Bosnia was formulated. When translated from a career diplomat's "doublespeak," it actually means that there was no Bosnia policy at all.

But while giving us insights into how Bosnia was, in fact, partitioned and half of it given to the Serbs, Mr. Holbrooke strayed from some of the facts. For example, despite Holbrooke's claims to the contrary, Serbian brutality and cruelty had little to do with US decisionmaking during the war in ex-Yugoslavia. The only thing that mattered to Mr. Clinton was the appearance of being in control and being "in tune" with the media. Holbrooke mentioned one particular incident where a Serbian shell killed several dozen people at a marketplace as being "the last straw." How ironic. More than 10,000 Bosnians had been killed by that time in the shelling of Sarajevo alone. The reason that particular incident became the "last straw" was the media's extensive coverage of it.

Holbrooke didn't mention that it was legislation lifting the weapons embargo against the government of Bosnia (spearheaded by Sen. Bob Dole and passed by Congress only a few weeks earlier) that forced Clinton's hand in 1995. If Senator Dole's involvement hadn't brought the Bosnian conflict to an end, Clinton's foreign policy would have looked totally inept. Partition of Bosnia and awarding the Serbs half of it during the "Dayton" agreement was actually the price paid for the administration's fumbling and ineptitude. Unfortunately, the Bosnian people had to pay that price with their lives and lands.

Stjepan Balog

Warren, Mich.

The Bosnian Relief Committee

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