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Made in Taiwan? How a Frenchman Fooled 18th-Century London

- April 18, 2018 in Books, Culture & History, Featured Articles, formosa, George Psalmanazar, greatest literary hoaxes, historical hoax, hoax, impostor, invented languages, taiwan

Benjamin Breen on the remarkable story of George Psalmanazar, the mysterious Frenchman who successfully posed as a native of Formosa (now modern Taiwan) and gave birth to a meticulously fabricated culture with exotic customs, social systems, and its own invented language.

Francis van Helmont and the Alphabet of Nature

- June 1, 2016 in alchemy, Featured Articles, francis van helmont, hebrew, invented languages, Jan Baptist van Helmont, language, occult, Philosophy, Religion, Myth & Legend, universal language

Largely forgotten today in the shadow of his more famous father, the 17th-century Flemish alchemist Francis van Helmont influenced and was friends with the likes of Locke, Boyle, and Leibniz. While imprisoned by the Inquisition, in between torture sessions, he wrote his Alphabet of Nature on the idea of a universal natural language. Je Wilson explores.

Trüth, Beaüty, and Volapük

- October 17, 2012 in Articles, Books, constructed languages, esperanto, History, ido, invented languages, language, Philosophy, universal language

Arika Okrent explores the rise and fall of Volapük – a universal language created in the late 19th century by a German priest called Johann Schleyer. Johann Schleyer was a German priest whose irrational passion for umlauts may have been his undoing. During one sleepless night in 1879, he felt a Divine presence telling him to create a universal language. The result was Volapük. It was designed to be easy to learn, with a system of simple roots derived from European languages, and regular affixes which attached to the roots to make new words. Volapük was the first invented language to gain widespread success. By the end of the 1880s there were more than 200 Volapük societies and clubs around the world and 25 Volapük journals. Over 1500 diplomas in Volapük had been awarded. In 1889, when the third international Volapük congress was held in Paris, the proceedings were entirely in Volapük. Everyone had at least heard of it. President Grover Cleveland’s wife even named her dog Volapük. Though Schleyer was German, a large part of the Volapük vocabulary was based on English. “Volapük” was a compound formed from two roots, vol (from “world”) and pük (from “speak”). However, it [...]