This country currently only has two languages in common use: Language A, spoken by 62% of the population, and language B, spoken by 38%. Both languages have official status in the country, so road signs, government documents, education, business, etc are conducted and printed in both languages. However, tensions have been increasing between the two groups that speak each language. Also, this is a developing country that does not have a large economy, as the global market is dominated by language C that is different from both of these.

To prevent a civil war between the two opposing sides AND modernize the country's economy, the government proposes a solution: it employs a team of highly specialized linguists to construct a hybrid language that incorporates vocabulary, spelling, grammar, and pronunciation from all three of these languages. This hybrid language, Language D, is acts as kind of a compromise between A and B, but is also close enough to C to be understood by a foreign speaker of C.

Language A and B were the same until 1000 years ago. Language C was the same as A and B until 1500 years ago. All three are written with the same alphabet.

With all of that in mind, I now ask you three questions:

  1. Could language D actually be created?
  2. How could the government enforce the use of language D? Through force (using the old language means death), semi-force (using the old languages in public, education, media, and business is banned; heavy fine if you disobey), or through passive force (official language is D, and it is used in government, business, and education, it is recommended that you learn language D)?
  3. Would language D actually have the capability to prevent a civil war and modernize the economy?

Edit: This a fourth question I just added after reading a lot of the answers:

  1. Would it just be better to use language C rather than create the hybrid language D? Cheers!
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ The answers may be very dependent on the type of government and culture of the country. My answer for this in China would be very different from my answer for this in the USA. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 20:49
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Also...What is even a language? $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 20:59
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Jack Vance wrote a story about forcing linguistic change: The Languages of Pao ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Languages_of_Pao ), although in that book the population of a planet that had previously spoken only one language was forced to break up into separate linguistic communities. The aim was to produce warriors from those taught a language constructed to emphasize action and forcefulness, scientists from those taught a language constructed to be objective, and so on. It was specified that the ruler who ordered this was a complete autocrat. Even so, it didn't go quite as planned. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 21:36
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Lostinfrance My first thought when reading the question was also that Vance novel. You beat me to it :-) Anyway, I would most definitely recommend it to fi12. $\endgroup$
    – Tonny
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 11:44
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ xkcd.com/927 Just teach language C $\endgroup$
    – bjb568
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 12:10

10 Answers 10


Yeah... it is possible

Those percentiles seems close to Norwegian bokmål and Norwegian nynorsk at the beginning of the 20th century. It was for a long time a goal to try to unify those into one language, samnorsk. That was eventually abandoned, and the two varieties are drifting apart. You could also consider Norwegian bokmål a hybrid language between Danish and Norwegian. That was more of a success, as it is the major language in Norway.

How much force that was used to try to merge the two languages is questionable, by Norwegian law they are treated equal. A different story is the attempt to force the native Sami people to use Norwegian instead of their own language, by the means of for example banning Sami from schools. That pretty much succeeded, as the numbers of people with one of the Sami languages as their mother tongue is very low today. (I speak Southern Sami, that has a totall of about 600 native speakers.)

  • $\begingroup$ awesome stats, which prove that it is actually possible to create some sort of hybrid/pidgin language. $\endgroup$
    – fi12
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 21:36
  • $\begingroup$ Possible but not always successful. e.g. Russians trying to make Russian the official language of Finland when they had political control there. Also see Belgium and Holland, where several languages persist. $\endgroup$
    – Dronz
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 22:23
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Dronz He eivät onnistuneet :) $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 22:25
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Also see how the British tried, and for the most part succeeded, to destroy Irish as the spoken language of Ireland. bitesize.irish/blog/why-do-the-irish-speak-english $\endgroup$
    – TomSelleck
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 22:56
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ (Also Norwegian) I would say that in the case of Norway, the development of Bokmål/Nynorsk wasn't something that was imposed from above but more or less just happened, and Samnorsk just failed, period. The terrible "Norwegification" of the Sami people was more like the request, but they were and are a very small minority. (Incidentally, the "Sam" in "Samnorsk" is NOT related to the Sami people) $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 10:52

1. Could a language D actually be created.

Yes. In fact it has already happened, as mentioned by Hohmannfan. You can also refer to the creation of modern Hebrew.

2. How could the government enforce the use of language D ?

It has already been done in many places. One notable example is France. When the French Revolution occurred approximately half of the population of France (not counting colonies) did not speak French.

The strategy to impose French went as follows:

  1. Make school free and mandatory for every child
  2. Only teach in French
  3. Invoke the nation : French is the language of France
  4. Invoke modernity : French is language of modernity, the others are mainly relics of a medieval past (that was an idea of the XIX century, I think it sounds stupid nowadays)
  5. Make the government only communicate in French
  6. Impose military conscription where orders are only given in French (better learn if you want to survive)
  7. Ban other languages for public use
  8. Ban other languages from being taught

However it will result in resistance from the population, particularly if they do not agree with the central government more generally. The resistance of Brittany and its language to the French process is a notable example. Clandestine school for Breton language was a thing at some point (it is no more since the ban on other languages has been cancelled now in France).

The results are here. More or less all French are French native speakers and lots of other, once common, languages are now referred to as "patois" (in the sense "not really a true language"). One example is the Occitan language. However, the Breton language is a counter example since Bretons (at least Breton speakers) do not consider it to be a patois, as a result of the quite long tradition of defending the Breton culture against the French one.

3. Would language D actually have the capability to (a) prevent a civil war and (b) modernize the economy?

(a) No. If there is already tension between two cultural groups, which may lead to a civil war, it is the worst time possible to introduce something with which everybody will be unhappy (change). Moreover if the government already considers the two languages A and B as equal, and it is what you describe in your exposition, but there is still major tensions between each cultural groups, then it is definitively not a problem of language.

For these reasons, a new language will not help. Moreover, it takes decades, at beast one generation, to implement a new language into a population. It will not be done in time to prevent anything for the next fifty years or so.

(b) No. Make everyone learn C will definitively help, and that is why you learn English in more or less any school around the world (or at less in Europe). It helps introducing you on the global market, it helps tourism, etc.

But a new language does not give you much, except for "compatibility" inside the country. Which is not much, and can be achieved by teaching C.

  • $\begingroup$ thank you, this is a great answer that fully answers every part of the question! $\endgroup$
    – fi12
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 22:26
  • $\begingroup$ You forgot to mention : send Briton teachers to Alsace and Alsacian teachers in Britany. This made for interesting problems in the 1950's, after WWII, with kids who couldn't understand their teacher and vis versa. $\endgroup$
    – MakorDal
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 6:28
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Re 3(a) the case of Hindi and Urdu which are essentially the same language but in different scripts, the first used by Hindus mostly in India, and the second used by Muslims mostly in Pakistan, is a good example of the limits of language in quelling civil war. $\endgroup$
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 5:28

This is almost what happened in Israel 70 years ago.

The Jewish migrants spoke either Arabic, which derived from ancient Hebrew and used a new writing system compared to Hebrew, or Yiddish, which was a Germano-Jewish language deriving from German and ancient Hebrew with the Hebrew writing system.

This initial Mizrahim (Arabic descendants) and Ashkenazim (European descendants) division caused a fair bit of tension considering Arabic was recognized as an official language because of the locals and Yiddish was not.

Therefore a man called Eliezer Ben-Yehuda reconstructed the ancient Hebrew language and modernized it, for it to be used in both of the peoples' daily lives, while Arabic was kept official for the locals.

Note this pretty much happened before the creation of the Israeli state so the government wasn't very involved. But these days Israeli youth don't speak any Yiddish or Arabic (outside of school) so it's a successful experiment.


I recommend that you take a look into Esperanto. It is a language that was an actual real-life attempt to create almost exactly what you are describing. It uses the Latin/Roman script popular to most of the Western European languages as well as English and utilizes a vocabulary similar to that of the Romantic and Germanic languages. It is said to be easier to learn than English and has actually been growing in popularity and usage for the past few decades. This answers the first part of your question.


For the second part, I think the best way for the government to try and institute a change would be through passive action. By simply making all communication with them use the new language, they are basically forcing you to learn it to some degree.

Unfortunately, in answer to your third question, as you will discover, it is very difficult to get people to give up their language as that is a very core and defining part of who we are. Even if the government demands it, you still end up with people simply adopting the new language as a secondary to their own. Short of taking a very aggressive approach and simply squashing all resistance, it is unlikely that real change will happen. History says that you will more likely experience revolution and resistance from the nation's citizens.

  • $\begingroup$ I am fully aware of the existence of Esperanto, and great answer as well! $\endgroup$
    – fi12
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 21:33

The best way to do it would be option D, without force. In the 19th and 20th centuries the US took in nations worth of immigrants most of which spoke other languages. There was no official support, or opposition to this - and immigrants often had their own newspapers in cities where they were living. However, the children tended to learn English readily, and were bilingual. Grandchildren sometimes knew a smattering of the original tongue to speak to their grandparents, but in all other respects were English speakers.

This was the result of no edict or law, just the working out of the fact that being able to talk to everyone is easier than keeping your own language once you start mixing populations rather than living in isolated communities.

In fact, in your case you would be better off adopting C and not bother with langauge D. That way nobody can argue one side gets a better deal.

  • $\begingroup$ Yes. Furthermore, to you last point, Language C could accomplish everything you'd be hoping for with Language D, anyway. $\endgroup$
    – Dan
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 2:16

Each of the answers above provides lots of helpful information about the question. However, no single answer answers the question completely. Therefore, I am collecting fragments of answers from everything above to provide a complete answer in one post.

  1. Language D could actually be created; examples of this include samnorsk, a combination of Norwegian bokmål and Norwegian nynorsk. Another, more widespread example includes Esperanto, which is structurally similar to Eastern European languages. Esperanto is a constructed language that is completely artificial, and it has been growing in popularity in the last few decades.
  2. Almost all of the answers above agree that passive action is the way to go. By simply using the new language in government, education, business, and every other aspect of our daily lives, people will be inclined to learn the new language.
  3. Language D would actually rip the country apart. Most people would not solely learn language D, so language A and B would still be used in homes. Eventually, tensions will continue to escalate causing some sort of a civil war.

The entirety of this answer was taken from the information from the 5 (at time of writing) answers above. All I have done is assembled an answer with what I think is the most relevant information to the question. Overall, to solve all of these problems in an easier way,

"...you would be better off adopting C and not bother with langauge D. That way nobody can argue one side gets a better deal." - Oldcat

  • $\begingroup$ Be gradual in your implementation, otherwise the two groups are likely to combine against the current government. Or, if it's a republic or democracy, they'll replace the leadership. +1 $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 23:03


People's language correlates quite heavily with their cultural identity.

It might be possible for the majority speakers to force the minority to convert, but for everyone to put aside their own cultural identity and adopt a new, third option? Never. Especially since, as you've said, tensions between the two groups are mounting.

It Doesn't Work Well

Look at countries such as Canada, where there are 2 official languages, however most people only speak one of the other.

I had a high school teacher ask me why I'm taking French classes. I replied that I wanted to know French, because it's our national language. She thought it was a complete waste of time.

Furthermore, while in Ontario you'll find signs in both English & French, in Quebec you'll be hard pressed to see English signage. Discrimination is alive and well.

Forcing One Language Over The Other

What the government would have to do is make sure that only people from a certain cultural background get into key positions. Then they can ban the second, less popular, language from schools, remove the signs, etc.

The people who are currently adults will never forget their language, but fewer and fewer children would be learning it, and even if they speak it at home, they won't speak it as much / learn it as well.

In a generation or two that second language will have been extinguished.

  • $\begingroup$ In other cases, a language switch is well received. The current written Korean language was introduced a few hundred years ago by the emporer at the time, to widespread adoption, because previously they'd been trying to represent their spoken language with Chinese which had a completely different language structure. youtube.com/watch?v=K53oCDZPPiw $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 21:10
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Draco18s - yes, however that is completely different. #1 The literate people were mostly government officials, so they are going to take any order from on high very seriously (especially in their society). #2 They were using the written script of their despised enemies. Changing to a written script of their own would have been seen as a victory over foreign oppression. Instead, try getting them to change from Korean to Chinese, or Japaneses. See how that idea is greeted. $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 21:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Draco18s, I take your point, but getting people to accept a new way to write their existing spoken language is a much lesser task than to get them to speak a new language. This is particularly so in situations where only a minority are literate. Interestingly, I have read that in Korea at the time of the adoption of hangul there was some resistance to this new and easier system by those, including the official class, who had invested much time in learning Chinese characters. They did not like to see their once-rare ability to read and write become commonplace. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 21:45
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Lostinfrance Indeed, I've read that the initial reaction to Hangul was to dismiss it as "women's writing", as the women who previously hadn't studied the Chinese system were quickly able to learn Hangul. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 23:03
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Draco18s One more thing to keep in mind is that the change affected the writing system, not the language itself (spoken language was unaffected). Switching alphabets is a much smaller change, unless the new alphabet is particularly despised by the culture in question. It's also somewhat common historically, compared to switching languages (not talking about suppression of minority languages, but the whole country switching over). $\endgroup$
    – Chieron
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 12:04

Short answer - Yes.

First, look at America. The government is always trying to make people convert to the metric system, but it never happens. Because people are resistant to change, especially when it doesn't provide much benefit to their daily lives. Scientists use metric, because of the base 10 system, but people don't want to go from two feet to three quarters of a meter or 75 centimeters. So you have two classes of people, one larger, that use different measuring systems.

Now look at Spain. They have their different dialects, such as Catalan, and then they have regular Spanish as the national language. So you would have their different languages, and then one national language that is similar.

Note - Not sure how accurate I was with the Spain part, because I don't know what their languages are like.

It would probably be feasible for some linguists who know what they are doing to create language D. Government enforcement, however, would be very difficult. They can't go into people's homes and make them stop, and likely a large amount of people would protest. However, publicly, these other languages could be made minimal. That is, if the government enforced it.

  • $\begingroup$ would it be possible to create a hybrid language and also how would the government enforce it? $\endgroup$
    – fi12
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 20:58
  • $\begingroup$ @fi12 Yes, it would be possible to createit. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 21:52

At much lower stakes, look at the German language. There are German speakers in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and a couple of surrounding nations.

  • The German education departments decided to standardize on one dictionary with occasional updates for purposes of teaching and grading exams. Using non-standard spelling or grammar looks like a mistake, and nobody wants to look stupid.
  • Decades later, the education departments of Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein agreed on a reform. There was an outcry by traditionalists, but people who stuck to the old rules were mocked as backward.

There is no law which prohibits the use of old or non-standard spelling. It simply isn't done unless one wants to make a point.

  • $\begingroup$ Orthography reforms and regulations are very different fro what the question is about. $\endgroup$
    – Crissov
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 21:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Crissov, my very first sentence mentioned the difference, but the mechanisms could be similar -- make using the old language seem backward and uneducated. $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 6:08

Here in Belarus we have kinda situation.

Belarusian - dying B language. On my personal estimate around 1% speaks belarusian. Around 10% knows it rather good, maybe 20% could speak it. Russian - growing A language, 99% speaks it.

So setting dominating language works - make all laws, education, work, communication in russian and, no doubt, people will start learn the language, and it will gradually shift.

Language D can be created, something like Interslavic language, but no one will benefit from this monster of a language.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .