A New Esperanto?: Universal Phonetic Alphabet Is an Attempt to Simplify Intercultural Communication

Photo Courtesy: BBC News

Photo Courtesy: BBC News

This article from BBC News discusses the project of UK banker George Jabbour to create SaypU, a new universal language.   Utilizing a spelling designed to more accurately reflect the phonetic pronunciation of individual letters, the language has a pronunciation that is easy to learn.  Jabbour argues that this feature will enhance the language’s appeal as a common means of communication, reducing the cultural dissonance associated with dissimilar forms of linguistic expression:

“‘If people pronounce and speak in the same way it makes people feel closer to one another.  I do think the world with a single alphabet would be a more peaceful place.”

Drawing comparisons to Esperanto, a language created with similar Utopian aspirations, the article highlights a number of factors that hinder SaypU’s prospects for long-term success.  As an example, Nicolas Ostler, chairman of the Foundation for Endangered Languages, points out that the inability of any alphabet to standardize accents is a significant shortcoming of SaypU’s central premise.

Other critics of the project cite reasons beyond the phonetic challenges.  Henry Hitchings, author of Language Wars, is cynical of language projects that are hoping to achieve the same goals that Esperanto failed to achieve:

“Utopian language projects, in which an artificial system is put forward as an alternative to what’s developed naturally, tend to fail.  People are strongly attached to the distinctiveness and idiosyncrasies of whatever language they use.”

2 Responses to "A New Esperanto?: Universal Phonetic Alphabet Is an Attempt to Simplify Intercultural Communication"

  1. Faye

    Can we get a link to the article? 🙂

  2. Tom Windsor

    Since no one else has responded, I will. We don’t need a new Esperanto. There’s nothing wrong with the old Esperanto which has served the world well for over 125 years.

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