1 Aralık 2014 Pazartesi

From Balaibalan to Esperanto*

While talking about artificial languages, Esperanto comes to our mind first. But 300 years ago before the construction of Esperanto, Balaibalan, which had its own grammar and lexicon, was used to produce many texts. Why did people attempt to construct a new language while there were languages which people could acquire naturally? Major reasons for constructing a language are: to transmit information within a specific group and to expedite the communication between people from different nations through a language which is easy to be learned.


Mustafa Koç did thorough research on Balaibalan and published a voluminous book titled 'Baleybelen - İlk yapma dil (the first artificial language)' in 2005 [1]. This book explains the grammar and provides the dictionary for this language. I will share what I summarized from the book.

Muyhi-i Gulseni (1528-1604), born in Edirne, completed his education there at Ucserefeli and Bayezit madrasahs. After that, he came to Istanbul in order to continue his education in Sahn-i Saman (the highest level of university education). He participated in the lectures of the most famous scholars of his time, such as Ebussuud Efendi and Sururi of Gelibolu [2]. He formed a strong relationship with Ebussuud Efendi. Muhyi, speaking in praise of Ebussuud Efendi, said about him, "He mentioned such exceptional information on either tafsir (Quranic exegesis) or tawil (ratinal exegesis) or ilm-i sofiyya that if I wrote and explained it, it would take my entire life". Ebussuud Efendi called Muhyi as "sahib-i tarih (owner of date)" due to Muhyi's skill of composing a chronogram to commemorate the date of an event ("tarih düşmek" in Turkish) [3].

Among his works are Rashahat Tercumesi (translation of Rashahat), Ahlak-i Kiram (Tremendous Moral/Ethics), Sharh-i Hadis-i Cibril (Commenraty of Hadith/Tradition of Gabriel), Sharh-i Hadis-i Erbain (Commentary of Fourty Hadiths), some Diwans (Collection of Poems) and the book on Balaibalan [4].

Muhyi described himself as "zaban-zada-i abkaman ( one who gives a language to mutes)" [5]. He stated on the language he constructed, "I have constructed a very self-contained language which mankind has not constructed yet. While integrating Turkish and Persian into this language, I further fortified it by using Arabic syntax" [6].

In Balaibalan, which was constructed to be as easy to use as possible, tasniya (dual) and muannas (feminine gender) and exceptional plural were not allowed, contrary to Arabic. Hence Balaibalan were constructed through selecting some properties of Ural-Altaic, Indo-European and Semitic languages. The number of borrowed words in Balaibalan constitutes the low percentage when compared to the total of words in this language [7].

While constructing Balaibalan, Muhyi took oral and written usage of a language into account. Therefore, he described the language's phonetic system in his book. He wrote the grammar books in Ottoman Turkish including example sentences with their Turkish, Persian and Arabic translations [8].


 * Makalenin Türkçesine buradan ulaşılabilir.

[1] Mustafa Koç, Bâleybelen- ilk yapma dil, Klasik:İstanbul, 2005.

[2] Ibid., p. 12.

[3] Ibid., p. 26.

[4] Ibid., p. 44-52

[5] Ibid., p. 54.

[6] Ibid., p. 59.

[7] Ibid., p. 67-68.

[8] Ibid., p. 79.

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