Speedwords is (largely) a relexification of English[Word Order] [The St Joan texts] [Conclusions]
"...the Speedwords bel can convey not only 'beauty' and 'beautiful'.......but
'beautifully' as well; that is, the radical bel effectively renders three English words which are merely
grammatical variants embodying one and the same idea.
In this connection, it is noteworthy that the Chinese have not, in thousands of years, found it necessary to distinguish between 'beauty', 'beautiful', 'beautifully', not between the members of any similar group of words which in many languages present the same idea in varying forms. Indeed, Chinese has no grammatical inflections and has not felt any need for them throughout its long history as a language. Word-order, both in Chinese and Speedwords, suffices to indicate the purpose of every word-unit."
[Dutton Speedwords Dictionary, 1951, page 6]
Rick Harrison also quotes this in his 'language profile: Speedwords' where he rightly observes: "However, if we do examine Dutton's word lists, we do find instances of Speedwords using affixes to distinguish between nouns and modifiers." Also, one may observe, Dutton's comments about Chinese are mistaken and simply regurgitate 'urban myths' about Chinese which were current in his time and, alas, are still sometimes encountered even now. However, I will not dwell on this as it has no real relevance to the genesis of 'briefscript'.
I draw attention to Dutton's last sentence above: "Word-order, both in Chinese and Speedwords, suffices to indicate the purpose of every word-unit." So one would expect word-order must figure prominently in the Speedwords learning material, and be carefully explained. Far from it; there is precious little about word-order. As far as one can tell, the word-order of Speedwords is the word-order of English.
Speedwords did not suddenly appear; like 'briefscript' and, I guess, very many other projects, it developed over a period a time. It began its life, so to speak, as 'International Symbolic Script' (ISS) in 1935. Compare the texts below.
Shaw had given Dutton permission to quote from Saint Joan in 1935 or earlier. The various translations, by Dutton himself, allow us to see how Speedwords developed from the 1930s to its last revision in 1951. The first translation, as I said, was done in ISS.; the 2nd and 3rd were done as the new Speedwords (SW) was improved. The 1951 translation shows Dutton's final version of the language. The change from ISS to SW in 1936 was prompted by a desire to make the language pronunceable.
The St Joan texts
English : "To shut me from the light of the sky and the sight of ISS 1935: "moa j za t aic d t zma & t av d SW 1936 : "g apo j go l lum d l muno & l vi d SW 1946 : "apo j d l lum d l koso & l vu d SW 1951 : "apo j d l lum d l koso & l vu d English : the fields and flowers; to chain my feet so that I can ISS 1935: t zt.hzs & hos; oy.ym jr kps egr k j p SW 1936 : l Disveg & Flo; g libomet ji Ped s k j p SW 1946 : l agz & floz; gemet ji pedz so k j p SW 1951 : l agz & floz; gemet ji pedz so k j p English : never again ride with the soldiers nor climb the hills; ISS 1935: gzn gr xfu m t uqaqs on tg.ma t phps; SW 1936 : ne re poru m l Milr ni tenas l Altv; SW 1946 : ozo re bers m l varz ni ase l holz, SW 1951 : azo re bers m l varz ni ase l holz; English : to make me breathe foul damp darkness, and keep from me ISS 1935: F j mi apa lwrk ala & jg za j SW 1936 : g ma j spi netoa aqi lumo & gar j go SW 1946 : fy j spi puroa aqit lumo & gar j d SW 1951 : fy j spi puroa aqit lumo & gar d j English : everything that brings me back to the love of God when ISS 1935: nco k mvfu j xr z t da d op gt SW 1936 : jet k zem j ba g l am d God te SW 1946 : jm qu zes j ur a l am d Dio qe SW 1951 : jm qu zes j ur a l am d Dio qe English : your wickedness and foolishness tempt me to hate Him: ISS 1935: vr ora & izv eev j daa i: SW 1936 : vi bono & menfo trya j amo h: SW 1946 : vi kupe & mena iflua j amo S: SW 1951 : vi kupe & mena ilua j amo S: English : all this is worse than the furnace in the Bible that ISS 1935: npa c e eua ar t zfc n t cbd k SW 1936 : al c e bem ki l branteg i l bul k SW 1946 : al c e sux z l olkokee i l Bucel qu SW 1951 : al c e sux z l olkokee i l Bucel qu English : was heated seven times." ISS 1935: ge zhy 7 gzs." SW 1936 : x e ka 7 ok." SW 1946 : y hotyd 7 oz." SW 1951 : yhefd 7 oz."
I sent this sample to a fellow conlanger several years ago and got the reply: "Why do briefscripts have to have grammar so like English?" The answer is that they do not; one has only to look, for example, at Babm and Lin to see that.
Perhaps the most telling clue that Speedwords is essentially a relexification of English was Dutton's habit in his correspondence lessons and throught "Dutton World Speedwords" of substituting the Speedwords word for the English in continuous English text after the Speedwords word has been given in a vocabulary list. For example:
T r e noted d l examples quoted ov k continuative tenses i English e made by combining u pt d l verb 'to be' m u il form d l verb ending i - 'ing'. I Speedwords such expressions e adi rendered m l verb e - 'to be' & l ending i '-ing' e ignored, l sentences quoted ov being rendered z sek :-
He is working - s e lab ; She was going home - sh y go a dol.
[Dutton World Speedwords, page 48]
It will be noted from the above excepted paragraph and from the St Joan text, that Speedwords uses the definite article just as in English. Indeed it does. Despite the fact that many languages have no definite or indefinite articles and most of those that do have one or both articles do not use them exactly as in English, there is no explanation given to the use of the definite and indefinte articles in Speedwords.
It will also be seen from paragraph quoted from page 48 of "Dutton World Speedwords" that Speedwords has progressive aspect tenses ('continuative' tenses) just as English does. It is true that on the previous page Dutton did explain the advantage of such tenses. But the explanation does not go on to explain the 'perfect of persistent situations' forms such as sh h e dor "She has been sleeping" and G hy e lud "They had been playing" which are rather different. One is left with the feeling that Dutton is basically just following English.
There are, it is true, one or two differences from English usage, but these a very few and made in order to aid speed, e.g. using the unmarked form of the verb after 'to be' to form progressive aspect tenses and, as we see in the St Joan text, omitting the infinitive maker 'to'.
If a designer of a universal IAL creates a language which largely reflects the word order and, indeed, syntax of her/his native language, then s/he needs, in my opinion, to present very cogent reasons for doing so.
Created August 2003. Last revision:
Copyright © Ray Brown