Saturday, November 14, 2009

Interlingua

Interlingua is a naturalistic, constructed, international auxiliary language. As far as such languages go, Interlingua is nearly the opposite of Esperanto, and the two demonstrate the difference between naturalistic and schematic languages.

The international auxiliary languages are a quixotic group, since they are so inherently riven by contention. Esperanto is a language with a strong utopian and ideological tradition; many of the international auxiliary languages see themselves as a means to an end (world peace, human unity, hope for progress), and this trait may be most highly developed in Esperantism. L.L. Zamenhof was a proponent of religious humanism, and the idea of international auxiliary languages (or Esperanto) as a means for human unity was embraced by Bahá'í and Oomoto (大本), practiced by the founder of aikido. Some Esperantists aim for the "Final Victory", in which Esperanto has become the world's predominant second language.

Esperanto is a quirky language; though its creator, its phonology and orthography were heavily influenced by the Slavic languages, and so isn't as easily written in ASCII. It's reminiscent of the risk of conlanging, to merely relexify one's native language, although Esperanto is clearly more interesting and sophisticated than that. And it's greatest strength (its agglutinative structure, easy formation of new compounds, and reliance on few roots) can be a weakness. I've heard that while Esperanto has a word for "right" (dekstra), the word for left is the similar-sounding maldekstra ("un-right").

Interlingua takes a very different direction, attempting to resolve the differences between its control languages. It does seem in some ways like le latino moderne, if only because it has a very Romantic phonology like Spanish or Italian, and re-borrows many grammatical words and phrases directly from Latin. They're very different philosophies on language creation, which create two different, interesting conlangs.

The purpose of an international auxiliary language doesn't interest me, aside from the novelty of a conlang that it might be possible to communicate to other people with. I think I am more interested in Interlingua, even just as an artistic language, as an easy-to-learn Romance language that remains similar to, but still different from, some of the existing languages of Europe. Like the language of a Mediterranean country that exists only in the imagination. Or the fictional settings of Miyazaki Hayao's films...although Esperanto may actually be used for often for a purpose like that. "Incubus" was a very entertaining movie, in its way.

The UMI has a page to search the Interlingua-English Dictionary, as well as an Interlingua course for English-speakers, Curso de interlingua pro comenciantes anglophone. I also like the Italian version, which has readings of the text in MP3. It's also useful to know Enough Interlingua to Fake It. & it's always interesting to look at the Wikipedia of a language.

4 comments:

  1. The greatest merit of Esperanto, in my experience, is not linguistic, but lies in its immediate usefulness today. Indeed, the language has remarkable practical benefits. Personally, I’ve made friends around the world through Esperanto that I would never have been able to communicate with otherwise. And then there’s the Pasporta Servo, which provides free lodging and local information to Esperanto-speaking travellers in over 90 countries.

    In the past few years I have had guided tours of Berlin and Milan and Douala in Cameroon in this planned language. I have discussed philosophy with a Slovene poet, humour on television with a Bulgarian TV producer. I’ve discussed what life was like in East Berlin before the wall came down, how to cook perfect spaghetti, the advantages and disadvantages of monarchy, and so on.

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  2. Thank you for the link to my (somewhat-tongue-in-cheek) lesson!

    It's ironic: Interlingua was originally designed by and for the scientific community as a language that was to be sight-readable by untrained scientists the world over; the first Interlingua publications were not some Interlingua body's own newsletter, but a journal on molecular spectrography. However, in its "second renaissance" on the Internet, it's becoming seen more as a beautiful-sounding, easily-learnt language (almost an "art language"), and is also being learned as a key to English and the Romantic languages.

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  3. I think the choice of a future global language must be between English and Esperanto, rather than an untried project.

    It's unfortunate however that only a few people know that Esperanto has become a living language.

    After a short period of 122 years Esperanto is now in the top 100 languages, out of 6,800 worldwide, according to the World CIA factbook. It is the 22nd most used language in Wikipedia, and is a language choice of Google, Skype, Firefox and Facebook.

    Native Esperanto speakers,(people who have used the language from birth), include George Soros, World Chess Champion Susan Polger, Ulrich Brandenberg the new German Ambassador to NATO and Nobel Laureate Daniel Bovet.

    Your readers may be interested in seeing http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=_YHALnLV9XU . Professor Piron was a translator with the United Nations in Geneva.

    A glimpse of this planned language can be seen at http://www.lernu.net

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  4. I don't mean to pit Esperanto against Interlingua, but just point out some of the similarities and differences to people who are aware of neither.

    I was most curious about Esperanto when I started becoming interested in constructed languages. But as I learned more about these languages, my interest slowly shifted from Esperanto to Ido and gradually to Interlingua.

    @Shanya
    Yes, thanks for that page. Stuff like that is useful!

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