Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Clarison, an International Language

Do you speak Clarison?
It’s hard to imagine just how many candidates there have been for an international language over the years. In her wonderful book, In the Land of Invented Languages, Arika Okrent has a select list of planned languages. She noted that a complete list would be full “boring” redundant names (she ask “you many variations on ‘Lingua International’ do you need to get the picture?”). Others were omitted because the actual authorship wasn’t clear. This may be why she doesn’t list “Clarison,” which was the subject of an article in the Salt Lake Herald on August 20, 1898.

The Herald says that it got its information from “the New York Press.” I have not found a newspaper of that name, but there were plenty of New York newspapers. Nor have I found much detail over who created Clarison. A notice of the book Clarison appeared in the Times (London) on July 30, 1898, so I’m guessing the book was probably published on England. Later that year, Current Literature reprinted a four-page description of the language from the London Year Book. I have been unable to find any record in a library of Clarison.

This is what the Times said of Clarison:
commendation is due to “A. L. N.,” the inventor of a new language called “Clarison.” It is probably that no one but the inventor will get as far as “Yo ave frapi lun frecora,” which is “Clarison” for “I have often struck him”; but, none the less, the attempt is ingenious, and worthy of the most cosmopolitan city in the world.
“Yo ave frapi lun frecora” seems to be the great example phrase in Clarison, as it is also cited in the Salt Lake Herald article:
A New Language That Imperialists Should Learn at Once
The new language, “Clarison, is an improvement on Volapuk, yet at first glance it appears an awful mixture, says the New York Press. It looks in print like Italian and French, but has a different sound from either. Here is a sample:

”Posta estis yo vidu descender da ti celo an altri angelu, cu avu grandi otoran; en ti tero silumu da glorio. En lu clamu co a pevril voco, dicant.“

This in plain English is:

”After these thing I saw descending from heaven another angel, who had great authority, and the earth was lightened by his glory. And he cried aloud with a might voice and said.“[1]

Clarison is a clear, sonorous, expressive and emphatic. It is less thin than Italian, less guttural than Spanish, and altogether eliminates the nasal vowel sounds of French and Portuguese. Compound tenses are not separated, as in most modern tongues. Neither ”I have often struck him“ (as in English), nor ”I have him often struck“ (as in German) is allowable. The sentence in Clarison is: ”Yo ave frapi lun frecora“ (I have struck him often). The French form would be ”Je l’ai solvent frappé." It is claimed by the author of Clairson that any person over 21 years of age who knows French, Spanish, Portuguese or Italian will be able to learn all the rules of the new tongue in a few hours, and can currently speak and write it within two or three weeks. The English speaking student of ordinary intelligence can, he declares, read the language in less than three months, and speak it fluently in three or four.
We’re left with some strange examples of the language. One is about the beginning of the apocalypse, the other is little phrase with its implications of repeated violence. Later, shorter, articles (such as this one from the Breckenridge News of Cloverport, Kentucky), noted that
The author of “Clarison” claims that it can be completely mastered in two or three weeks. But the failure of Volapuk ought to serve up a warning. If the Latin races desire a practical world’s language they must take up the story of English.
Clearly as the newspapers described the author of Clarison as simply “the author of Clarison,” they don’t seem to have known any better identity. For lack of better, I’m going to use the initials ALN, and I’m going to assume that the author was a man, but I could be wrong. ALN did his homework. In his London Year Book piece, he is familiar with a variety of international language proposals. There’s a critique of Volapük, and then he mentions
the Pasilingua of Steiner,[2] Dr. Esperanto’s Linguo Internacia,[3] the Ideography of Don Sinibaldo de Mos, and a very extraordinary and quite incomprehensible work, entitled Alevato,[4] by S.P. Andrews, an American. The new proposals were often schoolboyish in their innocence; in some, Latin and Romance terminations were annexed to English and German roots;
ALN was somewhat snarky about this, noting that these languages “provided me with humorous relief among extensive studies, which otherwise would have become dry and wearisome.”

With the unavailability of the book, there is little Clarison to judge. In the article, ALN gives a somewhat longer passage from Revelation, the numbers (ono, do, fro, catro, sinco, sexo, septo, octo, nono, deco), and shows how word building works in the language. Verbs are regular, but there are three genders.

Certainly, this is a language that utterly failed to catch on. After a few months attention in the press, there are no more articles about Clarison. The language has vanished from the face of the earth.

As one final note, here’s the remainder of the passage for Revelation:
“Babilono ti grandi sare cadi, sari cadi; en la sare ti abitan da demonos, en ti albergo di casci nopropril spirito., en di casci napropril en abominil avo. Cara toti ti nationos ave bibi da ti vino de lani fornicil furio; en ti regalus da ti tero ave fornici co lan, en ti mercals da ti tero ave dirici da ti abandan da lani luxo.”

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  1. From Revelations 18:1. A literally apocalyptic choice of a language sample.  ↩
  2. 1885.  ↩
  3. 1887, and that’s Lingvo Internacia.  ↩
  4. 1862.  ↩

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1 comment:

  1. On first glance, I might ask which dialect of Italian this is—one could easily misidentify it as such. Also, that newspaper apparently didn’t have anyone on staff who knew that the French for “often” is « souvent », et pas « solvent » !


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