"Secondo BAUSANI (1970 [1974]), la prima lingua artificiale vera e propria potrebbe essere considerata il balaibalan, un idioma sacro sviluppato nell'ambito della setta hurufi attorno al XVI secolo: se ne sa molto poco, ma è stato tramandato un testo religioso in balaibalan dal quale emerge un vocabolario originale, innestato su una sintassi analoga all'arabo (DE SACY, 1813)."

Date: Tue, 26 Sep 2000 19:20:15 EDT

Reply-To: Constructed Languages List <[log in to unmask]>

Sender: Constructed Languages List <[log in to unmask]>

From: Leo Caesius <[log in to unmask]>

Subject: Balaibalan

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After having consulted a few bibliographies and run a few searches on HOLLIS, I have accumulated a significant chunk of Western scholarship on Balaibalan. Nevertheless I will not have access to the full lexicon of the language without going to Paris and consulting the Bibliotheque Nationale, wherein lies the only known copy of the so-called "Dictionary of Balaibalan." For starters, I discovered that the name is actually pronounced bal-a-i-bal-an

Which breaks down into:

bal, language (with a long a) a, "of" (equivalent to the Persian ezafe) i "the" (the definite article) bal "to revive, give life, create" an (a particle to mark participles)

hence, "the language of the Reviver," in Arabic, lisan al-muhyi.

With the material that I have collected on Balaibalan, I have a basic understanding of grammar and word-formation, but an abysmal acquaintance with the vocabulary. Fortunately for us, the name of the language itself gives us most of the necessary ingredients for rendering czHANg's sentence into Balaibalan.

"Invent a language!"

yablam rabal!

Which breaks down into

y-a-bal-am ra-bal

y "the" (form of the definite article found before vowels) a "may" (used to imply a compulsion) bal "revive, give life, create" (loses vowel after hamza of compulsion) am (particle used to create verbal nouns and infinitives) ra "to" (particle used to indicate possession or cause) bal "language"

I modeled this phrase on the exhortation "Praise God!" (al-hamdu li-lati) which is a stock phrase found at the beginning of Islamic texts (aka the "al-hamdulilah"). In Balaibalan, this same exhortation is given as y-asnam ra-y-An, literally "may the praising be to God."

So, a painfully literal rendering of the phrase above would be "may the creating be to a language." Admittedly, this is a long way from "Invent a language!" but it is all that I have to work with at the moment. If Balaibalan's syntax is equivalent to that of Arabic (and de Sacy and Bausani assure me that it is) the above sentence should be a perfectly admissable Balaibalan shibboleth.

I'd like to conclude my submission with a few words from Alessandro Bausani, Baha'i, Esperantist, Orientalist [his CV includes numerous works on every culture from Ethiopia to Indonesia], and all around good guy:

"The inventor of Bal-a i-Balan was no doubt ... a mystic pir who boldly defended the idea that the pure artist (we must not forget that bal-a i-Balan was also used for poetry) imitating the Absolute Artist, can and must freely invent even his linguistic means i.e. language itself. We have thus seen that this strange artificial language, to construct which treasures of ingenuity were expended, far from being a useless tool of a morbid mind, can tell something of interest even to us modern men... in this form of art the invention of an artificial language to veil the moon-faced bride of Meaning, is nothing more than a logical, if extreme, consequence of the thought that Art is the skilful magical connection of two planes of reality. [The Balaibalanists] understood, prehaps more fully than some moderns, that real revolution means the interior revolution against the psychological chains linking our minds with the traditional rocky and unsurpassable patterns of the morphology of the given natural languages; aided in this by the typically Muslim feeling of the non-indispensability of Nature and its laws, they initiated an experiment which in my opinion has a far richer meaning than it may seem at first sight."


  • BAUSANI, A., 1970. Geheim- und Universalsprachen: Entwicklung und Typologie. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer. [Ed. italian ampliata: Le lingue inventate: linguaggi artificiali, linguaggi segreti, linguaggi universali. Roma: Ubaldini, 1974.]
  • On BalaiBalan, pp. 86-97 in Bausani, Alessandro (1974), Le lingue inventate. Roma: Ubaldini. idem, pp. 234-238 in East and West 4:4 (1954). Rome.
  • DE SACY, Silvestre, 1813. Kitab asl al-maqasid wa fasl al marasid, Le capital des objets recherchés et le chapitre des choses attendues, ou Dictionnaire de l'idiome Balaïbalan. Notices et extraits des manuscrits de la Bibliothèque Impériale [Paris], 9: 365-396. Note: By tracking the de Sacy book, it should be possible to find a better citation of the book in Persian. Some de Stacy material is bilingual (French and Persian). I have seen some xeroxes of pages.