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Reedeeming the Panlingua

Last week, as if by some sort of divine intervention, I had the privilege of visiting the private home of Xul Solar, one the most significant Argentine artists of our era.

“I am a painter, a writer, not an inventor but a re-creator. Father to a panlingua who strives for perfection and which almost no one speaks. Godfather to a common tongue with no common folk to speak it. World champion of my own version of chess and many other very serious games of my own making.”

With this playful and pristine degree of self awareness, Xul Solar, mostly known through his paintings, described himself in a nutshell.

In a way, he was very much like Nikola Tesla: He had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and was almost an anonymous hero. His productions were meant to be a selfless gift for mankind. There was no vanity involved in his creation process nor did he truly care what people thought of it. Xul Solar just hoped for a better world and humbly tried to give his part to make it happen.

Among many of his diverse intellectual interests (art, architecture, astrology, literature, magic and occultism), Xul had a fascination for philology and language as a communication phenomenon itself. He was proficient in about 10 languages and created 2 languages of his own. So, we could say he mastered 12 languages; which, interestingly enough, he also considered to be a magical number.

The first language created by Xul Solar (pseudonym which in Latin and Spanish is but an anagram of “Solar Light,” as well as a play on words based on his original name) was “Neo Criollo.”

Neo Criollo was supposed to be a local blend of Spanish and Portuguese, constituted to be a unified Latin American language, ideated to preserve a regional cultural identity, strictly from a linguistic point of view. The idea behind it was noble, but the trend of using it never caught on beyond his closest circle of friends, among which were famous writers and poets such as Adolfo Bioy Casares and Jorge Luis Borges, who included Xul as a character in one of his fictional works. To be fair, the idea itself was rather ambitious. How could you challenge merging two languages that had remained separated for centuries and even within the more circumscribed geographical borders of the Iberian Peninsula? How could you reach such a goal with millions of square miles from Amazonia to Patagonia? But Xul was as passionate about his ideas as he was persistent.

Xul’s other invented language was called Pan-Lingua, an even more ambitious and complex form of communication which aspired to become a universal language inspired by the visual arts, mathematics, music and astrology, somewhat reminiscent of his contemporary Hermann Hesse’s “glass bead game.”

Many other literary prodigies like J.R.R.Tolkien or Lewis Carroll created languages of their own, if only to expand the lexicon and boundaries of their own imaginary worlds, but only Xul strived to create and develop them for the greater good of humanity.

Both languages created by Xul were very intuitive in terms of the way they appeared on paper, and if you knew any of the languages they were based on, you could mostly understand them with relative ease.

For years, Xul spoke these languages to both friends and strangers, sometimes to a very comedic end. He later founded the Pan-Klub, a salon where several intellectuals from his generation gathered to share mutual interests and exchange and expand their knowledge of all quintessential things.

So, why should we try to redeem or pay homage to this proto-languages? Solely as they exist, they are works of art to be reckoned with; but above all, the ideas behind them are noble and mind-expanding, such as official worldwide languages succeed to function as standardized forms of communication. Languages mutate, expand or sometimes even die premature deaths. Nonetheless, we should try to remember them and keep them in our hearts, for the emotional and intellectual brand they left in their passing.

We may not be able to localize your content into Pan-Lingua or Neo Criollo, but all other languages are within our reach as Trusted Translations is within yours.