Linguistic recycling and the open community
When an international community uses a WDL (widely distributed language) such as English or French, words in this WDL globally perform a recycling function that bridges the gaps between the spatially restricted versions of such a WDL. At one level of access, we can study this recycling particularly clearly in a language such as Esperanto, whose speech community has a strong global norm and much weaker local norms, unlike English or French. The present note empirically examines the issue in the strategically convenient context of domestic Esperanto use, working from a recent compilation by Lindstedt et al. But a deeper version of the problem of recycling merits analysis in general linguistics, a point developed in the conceptual parts of this note. The author argues that word-meaning recycling reflects the same fundamental principles as sentential recursion, and that a linguistics theoretically sensitive to these principles strengthens practical efforts towards the social goal of an open speech community.
Published online: 25 March 2002