Berendt (Alfred Berendt) 1977


To: Auxlang List
From: Paul O. Bartlett
Organization: SmartNet Private Account
Subject: Berendt: Why Did He Go To the Trouble?

From time to time you come across something so stupefyingly daft that you can only shake your head in bewilderment that someone could expend so much time and labor to produce such a sorry result. Yesterday I was poking around the Library of Congress and came across such a creation, a would-be international auxiliary language called Berendt.

Alfred Berendt Berendt: the Instant World Language Tompkins Cove (wherever that is), 1977 No ISBN; LoC Call Number PM8095.B4

The book was obviously a hand-made production. It was about 11x10cm., although I did not have a ruler to measure it. There were about 400 pages, but no continuous pagination. It had clearly been typed out by hand and then pasted up into a master for crude reproduction. Several typographical errors jumped out at me, and in places there were letter strikeovers, as if the original work had been done on an old manual typewriter without correction fluid. The overall reproduction job was poor. There seemed to be some hand coloring on the title page. It looked as if someone had hacked off the pages with a knife or saw to make them of a sort of uniform size. As it turns out, the Library had had their copy bound, but I doubt that there were very many copies made. I would judge that Berendt (the author) expended at a minimum several hundred man-hours, and maybe many more producing this oddity.

Berendt reminded me most of the old pasigraphies. There was no grammar discussion at all. I am guessing that it was a relexified English, but I could not decipher the one sample that I tried, so it is just that, a guess. In sum, it was merely a numerical listing of words and phrases, with 5 000 basic entries in the Berendt-English section. There was also an English-Berendt section, and, perversely, those pages were numbered beginning with '1'. At times the numbered list seemed almost reminiscent of Ro, with sets of succeeding entries from the same semantic subspaces, but then it would peculiarly shoot off on another tangent.

Supposedly each number code was speakable. There was a mapping between the ten decimal digits and letters of the Latin alphabet, thusly:

a 1 (I think the series began with '1'; I forgot to mark it carefully.)

e 2
f 3
i 4
k 5
o 6
p 7
u 8
s 9
x 0

There was some sort of scheme for handling consonant clusters, but I did not get that quite straight. Strangely, for actual numbers, rather than the numeric codes for words and phrases, there was a reverse mapping from digits into letters, in order to avoid collisions with the word list, if one were to write it out numerically rather than alphabetically (and to provide allegedly speakable numeric forms):

q 1
b 2
c 3
d 4
l 5
m 6
r 7
t 8
y 9
w 0

Not all letters had their usual English-language values, and the whole phonology seemed a little obscure.

Berendt provided several short samples of text, but without renderings into any known language. One specimen:

eap apo iu iif exi, auu uu iu ekp pk ia fpu aoa d fak asu pos pk iu fip pka sp iu oiefa aefa ap ia fpu. fu exi apo iik aoe fpk, ia uke fii ake iip kxxu aa kx apo iif, aoe ai exo uka, ei fii kx iip pk uii. iu fip exu epeo apo fip ko af.

Perversely, some of the words in the samples (such as 'oiefa' above) had five letters, which would correspond to number codes from 10 000 up, but the list stopped at 5 000. I attempted to figure out the above specimen and gave up at the first full stop. Merely looking up words in the list did not produce entirely intelligible results. As nearly as I could tell, the first sentence had something to do with driving in the mountains and a coffee restaurant, but I would not bet the rent on that.

Make of this chimera what you will.

-- Paul O. Bartlett

To: Auxlang List
From: Michael Farris <maf@AMU.EDU.PL>
Subject: Re: Berendt: Why Did He Go To the Trouble?

> From: "Paul O. BARTLETT"

> Yesterday I was poking around the Library of Congress and came across such a > creation, a would-be international auxiliary language called Berendt. > > (interesing analysis cut)

Not to be sarcastic or nasty, but this book reminds me a little of "outsider art" in general and artwork by schizophrenics in particular.

I think an interesting characteristic of things like this is that at some level they probably represent the world as experienced by such people. Imagine this book is how you perceive reality, not the poor binding or typos, but the number/code language lettercode/number system. Or of that's too restrictive , which is probably the case, since the person knew enough English to write and publish (after a fashion) this work, let's say this is a part of reality as this person perceives it (or a separate reality the author perceives, which the rest of us aren't privy to).

In a similar vein, the library in the institute I work in received a similar book a few years ago (more professional looking, though I'm sure self-published). I was asked to write a review for a journal published by the institute, but in the end I had to decline since I wasn't able to understand a single point the author was trying to make or a single part of the language system he was proposing.

amicalmen -michael farris