Written by Jan Henrik Schimkus
The 19th and 20th century saw a spike in the development of the so-called constructed languages. Especially “Auxiliary Languages” were created, as the different colonial powers aimed to erect empires and the western conquerors felt the need to turn their respective language into a “lingua franca”, particularly among their colonial subjects. Auxiliary Languages were meant to enable the communication of people from different countries, not speaking the same mother tongue. English and Spanish are basically the most used Auxiliary Languages in Europe and the Americas today, while Greek and Latin would count as ancient Auxiliary Languages.
The Origin of Weltdeutsch
Even though a late bloomer in the colonial game, the German Empire, of course, had to have its own global language. Thus, in 1915, when World War I was still viewed with optimism and the outlook of an Empire spanning across vast regions of the world, Weltdeutsch (World German) was invented. You see that the creation of auxiliary languages was heavily influenced by contemporary politics. Linguists quarreled about the best language to base their product on and the German ones were eager to argue, that the early German successes in the Great War meant that the German language was the obvious choice, as e.g. English would be somewhat obsolete as the Empire was in decline.
The Development of Wede
In fact, Weltdeutsch was not one specific language, but the name for a number of different projects for the development of an auxiliary language based on German. A simplified version of German, created as “the language of all peoples”, had already been published in 1913. After the Nobel Prize Winner Wilhelm Oswald first proposed Weltdeutsch, a man named Adalbert Baumann published “Wede”, an auxiliary language solely based on German. It was widely simplified and drew from several German dialects. In 1916, he already published an even simpler version of the Wede. His basic idea was that language users should write exactly as they spoke. The conjugation was limited to the use of “tun” (do) and the new article “de” replaced the former German articles “der”, “die” and “das”. Wede had its foundation in the deeply nationalistic beliefs of Adalbert Bauman, who was convinced of German superiority. Thus, it is not surprising, that his work stepped into the spotlight once more in the Third Reich. In 1928, Baumann had reworked his Wede into the more internationally labeled “Oiropa Pitshn”.
Colonial German and Kitchen German
Also in 1916, another variant of Weltdeutsch was published. Colonial officer Emil Schwörer had developed Kolonialdeutsch (Colonial German) as a Pidgin language (even though a designed Pidgin is an oxymoron) particularly designed to be used in the German colonies, more specifically in German South-West Africa, a colony on the territory today belonging to Namibia. Schwörer incorporated his knowledge of African contact languages of the region and proposed a specific vocabulary. He thought, that it was necessary to “organize” the German language in order for it to be used in the bright German future (meaning, that he was quite sure there would be more colonies and more international exchange that would call for a German Auxiliary Language). He wrote that German was simply too hard for other people and despite its untouchable status should be simplified. His Pidgin language was never more than a proposal and was thus never implemented in the German colonies. Nevertheless, there are still about 15.000 Namibians who speak a kind of pidgin German. The so-called “Küchendeutsch” (Kitchen German) was developed in the relationships of the African servants and their German masters. But as most of the speakers of Küchendeutsch are past the age of 50, the language will most likely perish.