Balaibalan

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Balaibalan (Turkish: Bâleybelen), also transcribed Bala-i-Balan, Balaïbalan, Balibilen vel sim, is a constructed language created in Timurid or Safavid Iran, and one of the first known constructed languages. Its original creator may have been 14th century mystic Fazlallah Astarabadi, founder of Hurufism, or his followers in the 15th century,[1] or may have been Muhyî-i Gülşenî, born in Edirne, a member of the Gülşenî sufi order in Cairo; in any case, the elaboration of the language was a collective endeavour. The sole documentary attestation of Bâleybelen is a dictionary, copies of which are to be found in the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris and in the Princeton University Library.

Balaibalan is an a priori language, written with the Ottoman variant of the Arabic alphabet. The grammar follows the lead of Persian, Turkish and Arabic; like Turkish, it is agglutinating. Much of the lexis appears wholly invented, but some words are borrowed from Arabic and the other source languages, and others can be traced back to words of the source languages in an indirect manner, via Sufi metaphor. For example:

  • -gab-, the stem of the verb 'deliberate', is explained by the dictionary as being built out of the letters b, which indicates shared action between multiple people, and g, which indicates publicizing.
  • ḏāt 'origin' appears to be borrowed from Arabic ḏāt, which means 'essence.'
  • mim 'mouth' may reflect the Arabic name mim of the letter م, whose shape is often compared in poetry to that of a mouth.

Balaibalan is the only well-documented early constructed language that is not of European origin, and it is independent of the fashion for language construction that occurred in the Renaissance. In contrast to the philosophical languages which prevailed then, and the languages designed for facilitating worldwide communication or for use in literature or film most prominent today, Balaibalan was probably designed as a holy or poetic language for religious reasons, like Lingua Ignota and perhaps Damin. Balaibalan may also have been a secret language which was only known by an inner circle.

It was speculated[by whom?] that each time God gave humans a new revelation, a new language was used. Abraham received his revelation in Hebrew, Jesus his in Aramaic and Muhammad his in Arabic. Consequently, Balaibalan might have been considered a sign that a new religious revelation was imminent.

The existence of Balaibalan shows that constructed languages are neither a modern nor an exclusively western phenomenon. Constructed languages for religious purposes or use by secret societies have probably arisen many times all over the world, since the earliest times. Research in non-European historical archives, analyses of shamanistic languages and other languages used for religious purposes, might lead to finding many more specimens than are known today.[neutrality is disputed]

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References[edit]

  • A. Bausani, Geheim- und Universalsprachen: Entwicklung und Typologie. Stuttgart, 1970: Kohlhammer.
  • A. Bausani, Le lingue inventate : linguaggi artificiali, linguaggi segreti, linguaggi universali - Roma : Ubaldini, 1974.
  • F. Bergmann, Résumé d'études d'odontologie générale et du linguistique générale, Paris, 1875
  • Silvestre DeSacy, Kitab asl al-maqasid wa fasl al marasid, Le capital des objets recherchés et le chapitre des choses attendues, ou Dictionnaire de l'idiome Balaïbalan. Notices et extraits des manuscrits de la Bibliothèque Impériale [Paris], 9: 365-396.
  • E. Drezen, Historio de la Mondolingvo, Moskvo 1991: Progreso.
  • Charles Häberl, Bālaybalan, in Encyclopædia Iranica, to appear. [1]
  • M. Koç, Bâleybelen: İlk Yapma Dil. Istanbul, 2005.

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