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Solresol: A Musical Language?
By Psychosassic | 14th December, 2013 | 2:16 am


Solresol: A Musical Language?

By: Psychosassic

If you've ever tried to learn a foreign language, then you already know that it is difficult as hell. And even though we all know that foreigners range from "a little suspect" to "just plain weird", there are times when we just have no choice but to talk to them. But there are just so many words, and verb tenses are so hard to memorize, and what about those weird sounds, like rolled r's or whatever it is Whales is doing?

In ancient times the British plundered the Welsh for their vowels. They retain a surplus of stolen u's to this day.

If only everyone could just speak the same language! Wait, why has nobody thought of that before?

The answer is, lots of people have. Many people over the years have attempted to create a universal language that could be learned and spoken by everyone. Some worked. Others...

While it's possible that you've heard of some of the more common universal languages, like Esperanto and Lojban, today we'll be going back to one of the oldest, and strangest, of them all.

In 1827, a French composer and music teacher by the name of Francois Sudre sat down and had a think on the whole problem of languages. The current methods of communicating with foreigners and the deaf, presumably shouting loudly and slowly at them in the hopes of being understood, were somewhat lacking in effectiveness.

And when all you've got is a violin, every problem starts to look like sheet music.

Enter Solresol. Its syllables are the seven notes in an octave, each of which corresponds to a number and color for the sake of the deaf and/or tone-deaf.


Solresol was meant to be played on an instrument or sung, although it could easily be written or hand-signed. In fact, Sudre would reportedly give his students lectures on the violin, making them take notes as he played.

Not only does Solresol have a very small number of (hypothetically) easily recognizable sounds and characters, but there are a few other tricks built into the language to make it simpler to learn.

First, the number of words is very small. Rather than making learners cram huge lists of vocabulary just to order some breakfast, Solresol uses general terms for broader concepts; for example, there are no words for specific types of vegetables, only a word for vegetables in general.

Second, every word can act as any part of speech. Tired of remembering that "die" is a verb and "death" is a noun? Well, in Solresol, they're the same word, just placed differently in the sentence!

Third, Solresol categorizes words for easy reference. You may not remember exactly what 'sol mi fa' means (sculpture, if you're curious), but since it starts with a single 'sol', you know it falls under the 'arts and sciences' category.

"Damn", you may be thinking, "this sounds great! Why are we not speaking to each other in sweet guitar riffs right now?"


Well, there are a few problems.

For one thing, the limited vocabulary kind of shoots it in the foot from the get-go. Languages have a lot of words for a reason; it's because there's a lot of stuff we need to say. And since Solresol words can only consist of a combination of seven distinct sounds and words tend to only be five notes long or less, the amount that can be conveyed is limited from the start.

This, combined with the fact that the language was compiled by a 19th century French guy… Well… There's no way to discuss modern technology.There are enough words to transcribe the Lord's Prayer with almost complete accuracy, but the only way to talk about Hinduism, Buddhism, Shinto, or almost any other religion is with the word 'Pagan'. Oh, and there's no way to say or write proper names.

That guy, dammit! That guy over there!

Besides that, as of late, efforts to create a universal language have seemed more or less moot. Why? English. English is the new international language, and, despite its… shall we say, quirks, it seems like for now it's here to stay. And why choose a clunky, outdated and severely limited language over a massive, living, constantly adapting one that is already spoken all over the world?

Well, other than the guitar thing.



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