Are There Constructed Languages in Asian Countries?

This article is in partnership with Day Translations.

We have explored a couple of constructed languages that were heavily influenced by European languages, but what about Asian languages? Is there a common language that people can use in different Asian countries?

Southeastern Asian Languages

There have been several attempts at categorising Southeastern Asian languages, but putting these languages into categories presents many issues. There are very few commonalities in Asian languages as they developed into different linguistic groups.

According to Wikipedia there are 5 major categories for Southeast Asian languages:

  • Austroasiatic
  • Austronesian
  • Hmong–Mien
  • Kra–Dai
  • Sino-Tibetan

Classifications started in the early 1900s but there has been no clear agreement and new proposals keep being put forward. There are so many languages that are almost impossible to put neatly into one category and which represent their own language family. There have also been some attempts to create macrofamilies to link various languages together, but these are still proposals that are being discussed among the linguistic community. Language families have very different geographical representation with minimal overlap. This creates a very segmented picture of language distribution.

When it comes to Asian languages over-simplification really does not apply.

The question is: can people across Asian countries use a language that they can understand even though it’s not their mother tongue?

Esperanto Wants To Sneak In As a Common Language, But Mandarin Wins

Some researchers have been arguing that Esperanto has a strong foundation in Asian languages when it comes to its structure. Historically, the spreading of Esperanto among language learners was not confined exclusively to Europe but it reached Asia, too.

In the early 1900s Esperanto was translated from Japanese and Chinese and was used by political prisoners in Russia and China as a way to communicate. It was in 1906 that the first Esperanto course started in Shanghai, China. In 1945 Esperanto was the language chosen by the Vietnamese to announce their country’s independence via radio.

Currently you can find Esperanto speakers as far as Mongolia and the Philippines, with regular conferences bringing together learners of the language.

Across Asia the real winning language is in fact Mandarin Chinese, as 1 billion people speak it making it the most spoken idiom in the continent, followed by Hindi with 600 million people. For context, Japanese is the fifth most spoken language with 128 million people and Korean is 8th with 77 million people.

Mandarin is one of the oldest languages in the world and is part of the Sino-Tibetan family of languages. Sanskit is even older, originating 5,000 years ago in India and still being spoken today.

If we are to look at something similar to a constructed language in Asia, Filipino is one example where the language has been created from Tagalog spoken in Manila in the Philippines.

A very recent creation, although is more global as a concept, is Lingwa de planeta, which originated in 2010 from Dmitri Ivanov and that includes elements of Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Hindi, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

In conclusion, while there are some elements in common across Mandarin, Japanese and Korean, Asian countries do not share a common language, either as a natural language or as a constructed language.