Kotava : The universal language of communication / Tamefa golerava

KOTAVA The universal language


 KOTAVA : a humanistic project and universal, utopian and realistic / ayevaf ik tamef is rietunaf ik geltrevaf abdumimaks


Searchable dict.


Kotava falls under a long reflection as for the need for a universal alternative language of communication, allowing, beside the whole of the natural languages, all the human beings of our planet to be able to communicate easily between them.
Staren Fetcey, her creator, explains the principal reasons which guided her approach and which brought to the creation of Kotava.


Kotava, the universal language of communication

I : Why Kotava ?

Kotava was born from a deep need. Already very young I wanted to communicate with the whole world. I learned and am interested to me in many languages to this aim. And more I discovered some, more my universe widened and more I tested a painful impression of it. A life would not be enough for me with all to know them and even less to practice them. Never I could return in direct communication with any of the humans which carry and are our Earth.

With travelling much one learns how to go to simplest and most effective immediately. With the English one manages from now on about everywhere; the French sometimes; the Spanish also a little. For the remainder, one returns in the anecdotic one. Marvellous T one will conclude from it. And then the tendency is stronger and stronger and seems to be binding on us all. One can thus from now on travel everywhere in the world and find there to communicate with many people.

Sorry not! All that is actually very factitious. Indeed, one quickly realizes that each one, the majority of the individuals at least, does not have and includes/understands really only bits of these languages, reducing them to the state pidgin, of lowest common denominator. Who was frustrated to be able to express another thing only utility sentences such as “how much this object costs?” or “thank you, I am very happy”? Who couldn't continue a conversation with a foreign interlocutor because obviously the words employed on both sides did not mean similar? Who didn't smell confusedly that these controls and these vocabularies impoverished and crushed with low did not enable him to be able to express with tact, nuance and richness his thought?

A Westerner will be able to always say that for him there is no problem. Finally, with a few efforts he manages always more or less. In any case is with different to adapt to realities of the world globalized company. If they want to speak their idiom, free on their premises with them, but when they communicate with the world which counts, in other times one would have spoken about civilized world, which they use like all one each one the dominant language.

Beyond are the easy caricature, how much many those which wonder sincerely and without a priori about the difficulty that many meets while having to adapt to a linguistic and cultural system sometimes very distant as of theirs?

But the movements of globalisation are with work in all the fields, in particular that of the communication, and one unfortunately attends a dramatic retreat of much of natural languages, which are found rolled by such a road roller.

However the need for an international language of communication supporting and simplifying the exchanges between the human beings is not any more to show. This need is almost as old as the man himself.

Which solution thus? A new language.

II : Existing alternatives

A new language. This obviousness was essential on me with more and more insistence with the passing of years. And how to answer this formidable challenge and this adventure?

Compared to many projects of international language, of interlingua in the jargon of the specialists in the question, were proposed since more than one century. The great majority were only relatively summary outlines which quickly fell through. Only four or five really had a certain impact, sometimes very temporary like Volapük. At the day of today the only attempt which truly reached part of its goals is Esperanto. This is currently quite alive and would count can be a million speakers, primarily in Europe. Then why not to adhere to this one to help to make it emerge like true language of universal communication?

Without returning in “technical” considerations too much or Byzantine discussions, and it is not to make insult to say it, the problem with Esperanto, and it is irreversible, is that it was built, in a way very assumed by its originator L. Zamenhof, like a synthesis of Latin and principal Indo-European languages (and especially Western). Thus all its basic lexicon is built on this substrate. It is one of the aspects. But in addition to that it developed a great part of its grammatical system and expression, roughly speaking by simplifying and harmonizing the architecture and the mechanisms of these languages. What does not prevent it besides from having also developed original and productive morphological principles, the such system of the affixes or modularity of the lexemes.

The defenders of Esperanto affirm, in a sincere way for the majority, that this reproach “of occidentality” is a false lawsuit. That its lexicon has indeed a Western origin – to make simple would be in oneself only one secondary aspect and that it would be all the remainder and in particular its original faculties which it would mainly be necessary to consider. It is all this remainder which would give it quality and legitimacy to be essential as international language of communication, while remaining neutral with respect to the natural languages.

This argument must obviously be considered with attention. The lexicon does not make the language with it all alone. The examination must be done on two plans, of which second is far from being the least important.

First of all, from a “technical” point of view strictly, the use of a Western gasoline lexicon induced, that it or not is wanted, an obvious filiation. The basic terms of Esperanto have for the majority a semantic field copied exactly on the Western languages. Simple example, colors of the rainbow: same seven colors in Esperanto as in “Westerner”, where certain languages inuit differentiate from them only two and on the other hand any African languages more than twenty. Without speaking about many concessions made with the plurality of the languages substrates on the level of a number of affixes for example (e.g. -ist, -an, -estr, -ul).

But in addition to the lexicon, the Western origin of Esperanto is also undoubtable and deeply subjacent in most of the grammatical system. Among the most known features, let us quote construction and the use of the passive mode, the concept of direct object, the expression of plural, the vous system, the principle of the articles, the subjunctive, etc. That is far from being secondary and is very foreign being, from a linguistic point of view, with a number of individuals whose mother tongue is not Western. Part of the structuring and expression of the thought depend on the structuring on his own mother tongue.

The second plan of examination is that of perception. This one nourishes characteristics and analyzes objectify such those shown above, but also of more subjective elements which, that one admits them or that one is afflicted, are with the final good more important than the first. And there, it si obvious. Esperanto is perceived very mainly like a Western language moreover, one submarine of civilization and Western culture. Seen from Asia or Africa that is general, but even also in Europe or America.

The Esperanto speakers will be grained and say that is unfair and reflects only imperfectly the reality of the things. Can be, but the contingency of the facts is strongest. And despite everything the efforts which could be made to erase this negative perception, from the roots and same foundations of Esperanto, those will prove always vain.

I spent years to arrive at such conclusions. Afterwards many gropings, of the successive outlines, the returns behind, the difficult questionings, I threw myself to water and Kotava was born.

III : Kotava was born

So that Kotava reaches and plays, one day, the role of language of alternative universal communication, I built it and developed starting from the principles following founders, his basic postulates all in all :

  • Neutrality : that one cannot, contrary to what I evoked above, to reproach him for being a submarine of the Western languages (or others besides).
  • Originality : counterpoint of neutrality; that it is an original system drawing its qualities from its own and basically self-sufficing genius.
  • Universality : that its logic, its mechanisms and its possibilities are based on principles existing or who meet universally (or almost).
  • Simplicity : only a system of easy training is likely to function. To make simple is quintessence, it is finally most difficult.
  • Regularity : complement of simplicity. An “own” language banishing the various exceptions, ambiguities and complications.
  • Richness : a rich language of potentialities and variety. Each one must be able to be expressed with its logic and to develop its expression without restriction.
  • Evolutionarity : that it can evolve/move in the future in order to adapt to the evolutions of the world and the thought. That it is equipped with « genetic »mechanisms and resources.

These principles are truly fundamental and constitute the imprescriptible base of Kotava. Some are rather easy to respect, the such Universality, the Regularity or Simplicity. Others are more subjective, like the Originality or the Richness. Some finally will probably always cause impassioned debates, Neutrality initially.

It is the total respect of the whole of these principles that it will be advisable always to keep in mind, of preserving and of developing more in addition to.

If one approaches the effective contents of Kotava, I will quote like major variations of these principles the following elements: :

  • A sound system simple and reduced to the fundamental sounds present and pronounceable immediately by the whole of the human beings. From where only 5 fundamental vowels and a simplified consonant system.
  • A grammatical system simple, rigorous, deprived of exceptions. A unit built around mechanisms and of modes of expression which are found in the greatest part of the languages of our planet. In particular with regard to the verbal system, pivot of the language.
  • A particularly limpid and powerful morphological system. The form makes the bottom could one say while simplifying. With each element a function or a well defined and exclusive role. From where an extraordinary freedom as for the site of the words in the sentence for example.
  • An innovative lexicological base, completely invented and absolutely independent of any existing language or having existed. It is a party taken absolute.
  • Clearly identified and significant basic radicals. No homonym. A word = an object or an idea.
  • Mechanisms of extraordinarily broad and productive derivation and composition, allowing the language to develop in an quasi-infinite way and authorizing a varied expression and a expressivity, being able to go from most general to most precise and the most extreme nuances.

Many other characteristics are attached to these structuring principles. Kotava comprises moreover considerable clean mechanisms which make of it a system linguistically deeply original and which attach it to no one other. The grammar supplements which is published describes them in a detailed way.

Paradoxically, one of the most difficult problems that I had to slice will have been that of the alphabet. Currently Kotava uses, with its simplified and regular way, a written form based on the Latin alphabet.

It will be objected to me that it is a mark one cannot more explicit of occidentality. They are not completely false, but I answer it as follows: The alphabet is actually only one visual normative system intended to transcribe sounds (and in the case of absolutely regular Kotava) and does not have an intrinsic clean direction. The alphabet is dissociated easily from the language which it expresses, the best proof while being than languages as distant as are the Turk, the Vietnamese, Quechua, Afar or Lingala use without problem an alphabet of the Latin type. The example of the Serbo-Croatian, who can be written as much by means of a Cyrillic alphabet that Latin, is also very convincing. I thus decided to also choose such a diagram, rather than to propose a new alphabet made up of absolutely unknown signs. The principle of realism should not never miss reflection.

IV : Kotava, today and tomorrow

I created and developed Kotava since now more than 25 years. A long time I thought that to want to make it reach the row of alternative universal language of communication was, taking into account the power of the daily facts, pure Utopia.

But many people, some very enthusiastic and others simply peacefully trustful, convinced me that it was finally time to really believe in the idea and to do everything to give it body, ambition and reality.

Today, Kotava escapes to me from now on as creator. It belongs henceforth to its speakers, va kotavusikeem, the kotava speaking community. That those are the ambassadors, the vectors and the leavens. That they spread it around them, everywhere where the men need to communicate without disavowing themselves.

Kotava is a project humanistic and universal, utopian and realistic. Each one can take part and contribute its share in it.

To paraphrase somebody of famous, and it will be my last word as founder: « I made a dream, that which one day, in Paris, Istanbul, Beijing, Kinshasa, Mexico City or Sydney I can request my way in Kotava from somebody in the street ».

Kloká ! Kotava, tamefa golerava !

Verintuva, August 15, 2005

Staren Fetcey 


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