Spelling reformers and artificial language advocates A shifting relation Articles uri icon

publication date

  • January 2017

start page

  • 287

end page

  • 303


  • 41

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0272-2690

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1569-9889


  • This article explores the shifting relations that took place from the last decades of the 19th to the first years of the 20th century between two of the most innovative language movements of the time: the spelling reform and the artificial language movements. The article focuses on the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and France. Although both movements shared a similar language ideology which run counter to the organicist perception of language and emphasized its democratic function, the article shows how the shifting political environment in which they operated affected their relation. The article identifies three stages. In a first stage, and convinced that the reform of the spelling and the promotion of an artificial, neutral language were not mutually exclusive projects, the spelling reformers were favorably inclined towards artificial language projects. In a second stage relations began to skew when some reformers advocated for the "natural Esperanto" solution, which implied the promotion of a small language to the status of the international lingua franca. In the last stage, when nationalist sentiments and international rivalries mounted, the spelling reformers broke ties with the artificial language movement and worked to improve as much as possible the international standing of their own languages.


  • spelling reform; linguistic democracy; international language; esperanto