Take a look at he following words: abbreviation, abdication, abduction, abjuration, abolition, abomination, aborigines, absolute, absorption, abstention, abstraction, acacia.
You understand them perfectly, because they are English words. They are also French, and with some minor variations in spelling, Italian and Spanish too. Because they are English, French, Italian, and Spanish they may be called international. Actually they were chosen at random from the first pages of the dictionary of Interlingua, where they take their place with over 25,000 similar words. Interlingua is the name given by a body called I.A.L.A. to its compilation, published in 1951, of the major part of the common element in the languages of the Western civilization.
The International Auxiliary Language Association of New York was founded in 1924 by Mrs. D. H. Morris on the suggestion of F. D. Cotterell of the International Research Council, after discussion of auxiliary language problems by committees of this and other influential academic bodies, including the British, French, Italian, and American Associations for the Advancement of Science.
The early years of I.A.L.A. were occupied in publicizing the question of an auxiliary language among scientists and linguists generally. At the Second International Congress of Linguists (Geneva, 1931) a testimonial expressing support for I.A.L.A.'s program bore the signature of no fewer than twenty-seven linguists of distinction, including those of Bally, Cohen, Debrunner, Mellet, Schrijnen, Sommerfelt, Trubetsky and Vendryes. Under I.A.L.A.'s auspices were issued a number of monographs on language questions, including Prog. Sapir's series: "Foundations of Language", Eaton's "Semantic Frequency List," E. L. Thorndike's "Language Learning" and Shenton's "Cosmopolitan Conversation".
The summit of these various tasks was the project of isolating and codifying the common elements in the western languages. Authorized in 1933, and supported by a grant from the Rockfeller Foundation, the work began in Liverpool in 1936, under the able direction of William Collinson, at the time professor of German and holder of the unique chair of Esperanto in the university of that city. War brought this research to an abrupt hal, but a new team was assembled in New York by Clark Stillman, under whose direction, and later that of Prof. Martinet, the work went on. More than to any other man, both the honor and the responsibility of the production of Interlingua must go to Dr. Alexander Gode, under whose direction the project was carried to completion in 1951.
The method involved the setting up of four control languages, against which the internationality of given words could be tested. Those chosen were English, French. Italian, and Spanish/Portuguese taken as one unit. Other major languages were excluded, since their use as "controls," while greatly complicating the procedure of extraction, would not have had noticeable effects on its results. For standardizing international words there were three general rules.
These rules determine (1) in how many of the four control units an international word must be found in order to be eligible for representation in the auxiliary language; (2) in what form an eligible international word is to be standardized; and (3) what meaning or meanings it is to convey.
1. For a word to be eligible for representation in Interlingua it should
be represented by variants with at least one common meaning in at least
three out of the four control units -English, French, Italian, Spanish/Portuguese.
2. The standardized form in which an eligible international word is represented is a common-denominator form of all its variants and may be called their "prototype". The prototype is arrived at by a through study of the etymology of the word-family in which the international word is found.
3. The meaning or meanings of a standardized international word are the meaning or meanings which the variants contributing to its eligibility have in common.
The grammar of Interlingua, in stark contrast to those of other "international languages", is also based on objective assessment of what is in fact international, rather than on what theorists thought ought to be so. As Gode and Blair put it: ". . . every grammatical feature which is encountered in all the sources languages shall be retained in the grammar of . . . [Interlingua]; or negatively, no grammatical feature shall be so retained if it is missing from as much of one of the source languages." An attractive and happy result of this method is that while the great internationality of European words has given Interlingua a vocabulary that needs no learning, the defective internationality of grammatical finals has provided it with a grammar of extreme simplicity.
Thus Interlingua nouns take a plural in -s (-es after a final consonant), but have neither grammatical gender nos case endings. The adjectives are invariable and may precede or follow the noun they qualify: e.g. le soldato, le brave soldato, le brave soldatos, le belle feminas admira le brave soldatos, un assertion incredibile. Adverbs are either original, e.g. semper ("always"), multo (much), or are derived from adjectives by the addition of -mente or (after a final -c) of -amente; e.g. confusemente, rapidemente, invartiabilemente, physicamente.
Verbs have an infinitive (used also as a substantive) terminating in -r preceded by: -a, -e, or -i. The removal of the final -r gives the form of the present tense and the imperative: e.g. consultar., nos consulta; resider, illes reside; repentir, le peccator se repenti. The endings -va, -ra, -rea provide the perfect and future tenses and the conditional. Nos consultava = "we consulted"; illas residera = "they (fem.) will reside"; le peccator repentirea se si... = "the sinner would repent if".
There are two participles only, present and past. The present ends in
-nte preceded by the final vowel of the corresponding infinitive, except
that -i- is changed to -ie-. The past ends in -te, preceded by the vowel
of the corresponding infinitive, except that -e- is changed to -i-, e.g.
consultar, consultante, consultate; vincer, vincente, vincite; punir, puniente,
punite. The conjugation is completed by compounding the participles with
the auxiliary verb esser ("to be"), and haber ("to have");
e.g. illo haberea essite create = "it would have been created".
The pronunciation of Interlingua is virtually that of ecclesiastical Latin, except that the soft c (before e, i, y) is pronounced either as s or ts, but not as tsh. The tonic accent falls normally on the vowel preceding the last consonant. There are no written accents or special letters.
Interlingua is not a project or an experiment. It is currently used in conventions, literature and magazines. You can read Interlingua if you had no more than one semester of high school French or Spanish or Latin and flunked it. You can read and understand a great deal of it, even if you have never had contact with any foreign language.
Here is a brief sample of Interlingua: Le unitate del civilisation occidental corresponde in grande mesura a un unitate linguistic. Le linguas que nos distingue como francese, anglese, espaniol, germano, italiano, etc., ha in commun un fundo si extensive de ideas e de principios, de formas e constructiones, que on se senti fortiate reguardar los como variantes del mesme standard. Iste standard es Interlingua, le "lingua general" que differe del linguas coordinate in illo solo como un typo differe del individuos que illo representa".
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