Interlingua is an international auxiliary language developed by the International Auxiliary Language Association with financing from the Rockfeller Foundation, The Carnegie Corporation, the Research Corporation and principally the family of the heiress Alice Vanderbilt Morris and her husband and children, who were deeply interested in the problem of international communication.
The idea of Interlingua is that its vocabulary is not an invention but an objective extraction and standardization of the international vocabulary in the major European languages. English, French, Italian, and Spanish/Portugese were initially chosen as sources for international words because these languages are major centers of radiation and absorption of words to and from other languages and are extensively involved in economic, scientific and cultural exchange between nations in the world. German and Russian were later added as alternative sources.
Words were deemed international if they occurred in similar forms and with the same meanings in at least three of these languages. The form by which a word was standardized in the international vocabulary was the nearest etymological prototype. This was the theoretical or historical ancestor common to all its variants as well as the stems of its derivatives in the contributing languages, from which the variants deviate as monolingual transformations characteristic of their respective languages. The resultant form also could not be conditioned by a trait restricted to one contributing variant.
The work of compiling the international vocabulary was begun under the direction of the English Esperantist and German philologist, William E. Collinson, at the University of Liverpool between 1936 and 1939. E. Clark Stillman assumed direction of the project when it was moved to New York in 1939 at the outbreak of World War II. There Stillman assembled a team of linguists who had no prior involvement with any constructed language to perform the work. Together they worked out an objective methodology for compiling and standardizing the vocabulary. Dr. Alexander Gode of the linguistic staff succeeded Stillman in 1942 as acting director during the war. In 1946 the French linguist André Martinet was brought in to direct completion of the dictionary, but he left to join the faculty of Columbia University in 1948. Dr. Gode was brought back as Director of Research and in 1951 completed the Interlingua-English Dictionary (IED), which contains over 27,000 words. The dictionary was accompanied by publication of the Interlingua Grammar by Alexander Gode and Hugh E. Blair.
The grammar of Interlingua is a minimum grammar for use of the international vocabulary of the dictionary as a language. The idea of the grammar was that no grammatical feature of its contributing languages would be suppressed if it were found in all of the grammars of the contributing languages and was reflected in the forms of the international vocabulary. Conversely, no grammatical feature was retained if it were missing from at least one of the contributing languages. Hence Interlingua has no grammatical gender, no agreement between nouns and adjectives in gender and number, no personal inflections of verbs. Verb tenses are similar to those in English. Grammatical particles are essentially Romance. Affixes are prototypic forms of affixes in the contributing languages, and are often, by reason of the history of these languages, of Latin or Greek form. Word derivations with roots and affixes follow closely the natural forms in the contributing languages.
The result is a language that is easy for speakers of European languages to learn and even understand, sometimes at first-sight. Interlingua can also serve as a bridge to the Romance languages, or from these and other languages to English. Considerable transfer of training occurs from Interlingua to the contributing languages. Swedish children who were taught Interlingua were able, after a year, to translate Spanish, Italian and Portuguese newspaper texts at sight with excellent comprehension, without dictionaries, although they never had a course in these languages. Dr. Gode often described Interlingua as "Standard Average European".
Since 1951 continuing work of various individuals has expanded the standardized international vocabulary to over 60,000 words, and the number continues to grow. Dictionaries are now available in all the contributing languages and in other languages as well. Several books, essays, and poetical works are now available in Interlingua. Interlingua represents the common lexical heritage of the European languages and is immediately comprehensible to millions, and is easily learned. Many now use it on the internet to exchange messages with speakers of Romance languages.
The orthography of Interlingua is based on the 26 letters of the Roman alphabet with no diacritical or accent marks. There are several digraphs, mostly in words of French, English, Spanish and Greek origin. Their occurrence helps in reading to maintain recognition and distinguish words of different meanings but with the same sounds, owing to their different etymological origins. The pronunciation of letters is 'fluid' within type limits.
A recording of the Interlingua alphabet by Jan Jurčík
Tote le esseres human nasce libere e equal in dignitate e in derectos. Illes es dotate de ration e de conscientia e debe ager le unes verso le alteres in un spirito de fraternitate.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
Source: Most of the information on this page was provided by Stanley Mulaik, President of the American Society for interlingua.
Online Interlingua dictionary
Page last modified: 20.01.24
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