Did you know that for a language to be considered a language, it must be used by people of all ages in a community and be a part of different areas of day-to-day transactions?1
A language called Solresol, entirely based on musical notes was created by Jean-François Sudre, a French violinist, composer, and music instructor, around the mid-19th century.2 When a few followers of the language attempted to get it registered in 2017, it did not pass the criteria set by SIL International, a non-profit organization that helps with the preservation and registration of languages worldwide, to qualify as a language. Despite this, the language has survived to this day and continues to fascinate language enthusiasts.
Early development of Solresol
Jean-Françoise Sudre started to experiment with the idea of developing a musical language using the 12 notes of the western musical scale around 1827. He created a basic format by assigning letters and hand signals to the scale. However, it was not sophisticated enough to serve a real purpose.
He further tried to improve this system by converting it into a coded language. He did this by reducing the 12 notes to just four and called this system Téléphonie. This new system still did not succeed in impressing academic institutions or the French government.
At the time, Sudre was working on another musical language which was based on the seven-note solfège scale that follows the do-re-mi system. These seven notes were used in various combinations to build the vocabulary of Solresol.
How Solresol Became a Language
Soresol was developed in a way that it could be used by musicians and laymen alike. It could be played or sung by people who were familiar with music and others could read or speak the musical language as letters that could be read or spoken. Simple tunes and melodies were used to communicate meaningful messages to listeners.
The seven notes of the musical language were used to create words that were limited to five syllables. This gave the language over 11,000 words. The name of the language Solresol, for example, combines the notes and syllables sol, re, and sol, and it literally means “language.”
Sudre received recognition for Solresol and promoted the language around the world. He even worked on refining it by including Arabic and other languages in his dictionaries until his death in 1862. However, the language was not learned by many.
How Solresol Survived
This musical language would be lost if Sudre’s widow hadn’t continued his work by improving it and publishing the guide Solresol Langue Musicale Universelle in 1866. Later, with the initiation of the Societie Pour la Propagation de la Langue Musicale Universelle, which translates to Society for the Propagation of the Universal Musical Language, the number of speakers began to grow from the mid-19th century.
The popularity of the language started to waver during the 20th century, but language enthusiasts and eccentric language lovers of the 21st century saved the language from being forgotten by using it to craft poetry, songs, and other creative purposes. The communication system and lexical rules of the language are also being improved to this day, making Solresol more advanced and useable for future generations.
We hope this BYJU’S FutureSchool article has enriched your knowledge of the fascinating world of music! If you want more music resources, you can sign up for a FREE trial class where you can learn the piano and guitar in a live 1:1 setting with knowledgeable instructors—or check out some more helpful articles.
1. A Reprise for a 19th-Century Language Based on Music – Atlas Obscura. (n.d.). Retrieved July 18, 2022, from https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/what-is-solresol
2. The History Of Solresol: A Musical Attempt At A Universal Language. (n.d.). Retrieved July 18, 2022, from https://www.babbel.com/en/magazine/what-is-solresol