ANATOMY OF A FAILURE
Page 1 of 127
2. The Essentials of an International Language
3. The Origins of Esperanto
5. Esperanto and the League of Nations
7. UN and UNESCO
8. An Interlinguaist Looks at Esperanto
9. Pronunciation and Orthography
10. Nouns and Pronouns
11. Adjectives and Adverbs
12. The Definite and Indefinite Articles
13. Numbers and Numerals
17. The Role of the Computer
18. The International Language as an Aid to Language Study
19. International Literature
20. Dr, Gopsill’s New “Language”
21. Dr. Gopsill versus Interlingua
Page 2 of 127
The concept of an international auxiliary language has been
around for centuries and most of those who have examined the
subject would appear to agree that the problems of the creation
of such a language have been demonstratively solved by
Today we have reached a situation with international and
supranational authorities, multi-national corporations and
transnational trade where the worldwide acceptance of such a
language is being seen, not as an idealist’s dream but as an
economic necessity. As Esperanto was initiated by the work of
one man, it was inevitable that others should have been
convinced that they too could create a language and, no doubt,
do it better. One such project is Interlingua by one Alexander
Gode. Although Interlingua is now in a state of terminal
decline, it is worthy of consideration because it was claimed to
be based on the principle of immediate comprehensibility, that is
to say, its adherents claimed that a civilised person could read
Interlingua instantly without learning it, (although we shall see
that the Interlingua idea of civilisation excludes most of the
As this concept of immediate comprehensibility is for many
people such a tempting concept, it keeps cropping up (often
illustrated by carefully selected texts) when the question of the
world language problem is mentioned. It is worthwhile
therefore spending a little time in seeing why it does not work.
Note that for the sake of conciseness the name Interlingua
except where otherwise mentioned is used in this work to refer
to Alexander Gode’s project and not to any other project of the
same name (see Chapter 6)
In order to avoid prejudice this particular study will be based
mainly (but not entirely) on some of the works of one Dr. F. P.
Page 3 of 127
Dr. Gopsill is a teacher of languages and says he has studied
Esperanto (although, as we shall see, his failure in translating
simple texts in Esperanto suggests that he has largely forgotten
anything he may have learned). As the Chairman of the British
Interlingua Society and the author of most of its publications, he
is the leader (or one of the leaders) of what remains of the
Interlingua movement and can, therefore, be taken as
representing the views of the faithful few who still support
I will therefore base these notes, not on the writings of
opponents of Interlingua, but mainly on Dr. Gopsill’s
“International Language – A Matter for Interlingua” which for
brevity I will call “ILMI” and on Dr. Gopsill’s four volume
“Interlingua - A Course for Beginners”, which I will call “ICB”.
This study is by no means intended a complete reply to ILMI – a
much larger tome would be a needed to correct a work with such
a high average of errors of fact (as distinct from statements of
opinion) per page but it is assumed that Dr. Gopsill’s defence of
the indefensible is a definitive statement of the Interlingua case
although some of the elements of the project may have been
changed in revised versions such as Latino Moderne.
SIMILARLY THIS STUDY IS NOT INTENDED TO
PRESENT THE CASE FOR ESPERANTO.
Esperanto and its functions are referred to only as a
background against which Interlingua can be measured but, as
the case for Interlingua is generally presented by means of an
attack on Esperanto, it is necessary to see to what extent this
attack is justified.
Whilst the condition of the Interlingua movement may make it
appear cruel to attack such a moribund monstrosity, the fact that
the neo-Latinist argument has kept arising for well over a
century suggests that an examination may be desirable.
ILMI purports to be a brief history of the international language
movement and a critical examination of Esperanto. The
multitude of factual errors and the arguments based on
misconceptions make the book of no value to anyone wanting an
Page 4 of 127
introduction to the study of Interlinguistics. Nevertheless it is
useful as an expression of a viewpoint typical of those who
support those interlanguage projects which claim to be non-
autonomous, i.e., understandable without prior study.
Page 5 of 127
THE ESSENTIALS OF AN INTERNATIONAL
Practical experience has proved that for any system to function
as a viable international language it should possess certain
features not all of which may be present in individual ethnic
It must be highly flexible, that is, it should be possible to use the
international language for every purpose for which a national
language can be used. In the days of Volapük (see Chapter 3) it
was said that this system while useful for commerce could not
be used, for example, for verse. This is clearly a condemnation
of the system. A language which does not have the flexibility to
translate world literature or to evolve a literary culture of its
own may well be suspected of being insufficiently flexible for
the purposes of science, law, commerce, international
conferences, conversations, and all the other uses to which the
international language must be put. Esperanto is unique among
international language projects in having evolved into a
language proper, having its own culture and literature of an
enormously wide range including translations from both major
and minor languages and works of original literary value
including poetry, prose, drama and song.
Secondly, whatever may have been the case at earlier stages in
history, the international language must be capable of being a
second language for the whole of mankind. It must be a world
language. It must not be culturally imperialist.
In 1954, Dr. Alexander Gode said of his creation, Interlingua,
Page 6 of 127
“Super su fundo de multiple culturas le humanitate de vintesime
seculo possede un civilisation commun. Iste civilisation
corresponde a “formas de pensar” originalmente disveloppate
in le occidente. Quando nos cerca le lingua del civilisation
moderne nos trova su fundamento in li occidente. Sed isto es
importante: nos cerca le lingua del civilisation non-national e
nos le trova in le vivente tradition linguistic del occidente que es
normalmente e historicamente associate con le potentia que
He is expressing the view that all modern civilisation comes
from Rome and therefore any non-Roman culture is uncivilised.
No doubt Mussolini would have agreed with this but Gode was
writing in l954 and the Interlingua newsletter published in The
Netherlands repeated it in 1991.
Clearly this dictum appears to represent a form of cultural
imperialism verging on racism by stating that cultures other than
Page 7 of 127
those based on Rome are not civilised
Such a concept in itself makes a system based on Gode’s views
totally worthless as a world language and even Dr. Gopsill
confesses that: -
“It is unwise for Interlingua supporters to suggest that
Interlingua should be the second language for all men, because
one has to admit the limitations of its use” (ILMI p. 250).
Thirdly, the world auxiliary language must possess a degree of
regularity which does not exist in national languages.
National languages have evolved to suit the purposes of people
who are using them all day and every day and such languages
have frequently picked up irregularities as a result of historical
Page 8 of 127
accidents or incidents. These irregularities do nothing to aid
comprehension or expression but merely impede the learning
process and make the language more difficult to use. The world
language must be such that once having learned a rule, the
student does not have to learn a mass of artificially inserted
Few speakers of English who have spoken the language since
childhood are much disturbed by the fact that some of the most
common verbs and nouns have forms which are exceptions to
the basic grammatical rules of the language but a speaker of a
language which he only uses, say, only at international
conferences, must be able to rely on every rule without having
to stop before each individual word to consider whether there is
Clearly, the international language must not be a language
aimed only at expert linguists with a knowledge of several
ethnic languages. They are the very people who have the least
need of an interlanguage.
As we shall see the artificial complexities of Interlingua
pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar make it totally
worthless on every one of the above counts.
Page 9 of 127
THE ORIGINS OF ESPERANTO
The history of the world auxiliary language movement can best
be thought of as starting with the invention of Volapük in the
year l879. Of course, for hundreds of years before that there had
been attempts at language creation, but Volapük was the first
system to gain any substantial body of adherents. Its inventor
was a parish priest (sneeringly and misleadingly referred to in
ILMI as “a defrocked monk”) named Johan Martin Schleyer.
ILMI (P.73) lists some of the good points of Volapük as
“complete regularity of grammar;.... a phonetic alphabet and
uncomplicated pronunciation” making it therefore a better
project than Interlingua by Dr. Gopsill’s own standards on all
The extent to which the need for a world language was coming
into public consciousness towards the end of the Nineteenth
Century may be realized from the fact that, according to a book
written in Volapük in l962 (Jenoten Volapüka), by the end of the
year l888 there were 257 Volapük clubs in 23 countries. Many
books had been published in and about Volapük and numerous
magazines and journals were appearing.
It has been claimed that Volapük had over a million supporters,
although ILMI, on reasoning which its author admits to be
mathematically unsound, (p. 240), estimates that, nine years
after the introduction of Volapük, its supporters were only about
one hundred and fifty times the number of supporters estimated
for Interlingua after it had been around for thirty four years (p.
24l). However, the success of Volapük was short lived. Many
of its supporters felt that the language could be improved but
there was no common agreement on which improvements were
desirable and the once powerful movement began to split up into
squabbling sects. By 1890 it was clearly dying.
However, in 1887 Dr. L.L. Zamenhof, realising the deficiencies
of Volapük, published the first booklet introducing a project on
which he had been working for many years which later became
Page 10 of 127
known as Esperanto. This project, unlike most of its
predecessors, was aimed not at some theoretical undefined or
undefinable perfection but was designed to be quickly learned
and to be usable. It was not at first called Esperanto but merely
“The International Language”, the name Esperanto being the
author’s nome de plume which others affixed to the language as
it began to spread. The original name “The International
Language” being more descriptive is still sometimes used
The project had been almost complete before Volapük appeared
(in spite of Dr. Gopsill’s mistaken belief that Esperanto was
partly based on Volapük) but Dr. Zamenhof held back
publication until he had submitted his work to rigorous testing
and until he was quite sure that Volapük was not destined for
success.Just prior to the appearance of Esperanto, when Volapük
was at the height of its popularity, the American Philosophical
Society set up a Committee to consider the language problem.
This Committee, whilst deciding that an international language
was necessary and feasible, found Volapük wanting and
suggested its own desiderata for an international language.
This rejection of Volapük is distorted in ILMI into a rejection of
Esperanto on the basis that Esperanto did not exactly fit in with
conditions in the discarded outline produced by the l887
Committee of the APS which had appeared before it had seen
Esperanto, so it is perhaps worth looking at these conditions as
set out in ILMI. These are:-
“phonetic orthography, no diphthongs or digraphs, no
apostrophes, Latin letters without diacritic signs or accents,
with no dots on the letter “i” and “j” and without a cross on the
letter “t”: words reduced to as short as possible, and, finally
vocabulary based on the common vocabulary of the six main
These conditions are not entirely in line with Esperanto, for
example there are supersigns, including dots on the letters “i”
and “j” and a cross on the letter “t”. However Esperanto does
have a phonetic orthography and in the normal writing of
Esperanto there are no digraphs, nor are there diphthongs in the
Page 11 of 127
sense of the coming together of two vowels to make a sound
which is different from that created by a mere juxtaposition of
the sounds of those vowels.
These conditions were published before the APS had seen
Esperanto and Dr. Gopsill who tells us that APS rejected
Esperanto fails to tell us that in 1888, the Society became one of
the first major organisations to support Esperanto (see “The
Language Problem” by E.D. Durrant 1943)
In view of the Interlinguaist attitude it is worthwhile noting the
extent to which Interlingua failed to meet the Committee’s
Interlingua does not have a phonetic orthography, it has, as we
shall see, complicated dipthongs and digraphs and (although this
is unimportant) it does dot the letters “i” and “j” and cross the
letter “t” and occasionally, as we shall see uses both an acute
accent and the German umlaut as diacritic signs. The main
principle to look at is that vocabulary should be based on the
common vocabulary of six main languages. Of course,
Interlingua purports to be based on six languages but rather
carelessly (or perhaps very carefully) Dr. Gopsill does not tell us
which were the six main languages which he says were referred
to by the APS.
One Ric Berger who was Dr. Gopsill’s predecessor as the
leading propagandist for Interlingua and on whose fanatical
writings much of the “historical” part of ILMI appears to be
based tells us more, saying that the committee believed that the
international language should be created by a committee from
the six or seven principal aryan nations. He then goes on to rant:
“You have read it: aryans: and exactly in that year was born
Esperanto the most successful project known [and] which was
created by a non aryan. It was by a Jew!”(“Interlingua the
International Language” Editiones Interlingua 1972).
In 1887 the APS committee was using the word “aryan” in its
correct sense as referring to nations whose languages were Indo-
Page 12 of 127
European. Berger, writing in 1972, was using the term “non-
aryan” in the way popularised by Adolf Hitler - a misuse of
terminology long repudiated by linguists but not apparently by a
disciple of Doctor Gode.
Berger seemed obsessed by the idea that Zamenhof’s Judaism
made Esperanto undesirable even going so far as to push it into
his highly inaccurate work on Japan
Obviously, writing in the l9th Century, the APS were thinking
only in terms of European languages, nevertheless what is clear
is that they were aiming at a wide spread of linguistic bases,
whereas the six languages on which Interlingua were based
were, apart from a nod in the direction of English, all from a
narrow Latinoid group. Clearly then, if the APS conditions are
of any value today, they are a complete rejection in advance of
the principle on which neo-Latin projects like Interlingua are
based. If both the propagandists of Interlingua find the opinions
of the APS worth recording, it is rather a pity that they choose
not to tell the whole story.
Zamenhof felt that the views of the APS were broadly in line
with his own and submitted Esperanto for the consideration of
the Society. The Society received Esperanto enthusiastically
and its Secretary, Henry Phillips, translated the first book of
Esperanto into English and published it and an Esperanto
dictionary in l899. The Society abandoned its earlier proposals
and decided to sponsor Esperanto before an international
meeting of scientists but unfortunately, owing to the death of its
secretary and the feeling of some of those invited that the
problem of an international language had already been solved,
the proposed meeting never took place.
Esperanto soon attracted many adherents in various parts of the
world but, as had been the case with Volapük, many of its
supporters felt that the system could be improved and various
contradictory proposals were made to this end.
Unlike Schleyer, Dr. Zamenhof claimed no proprietary rights
over the system which he had introduced. In one of the early
Esperanto periodicals, he published, in response to requests, a
Page 13 of 127
project for reform and asked the Esperantists for their views on
them. These reforms were decisively rejected by Esperantists
but the danger of the fate which had befallen Volapük required a
further step to be taken.
At the first of what was to become a series of annual congresses
of the Esperanto movement, in l905, Esperantists decided to
adopt Esperanto as it then existed, as a basis (Fundamento) for
the language upon which it could then evolve in the same way
as all languages do.
There was no suggestion that this Fundamento should freeze the
language in the form which then existed: the decision was
merely that the language could not be changed by the decree of
any one individual or group of individuals but should continue
on a natural path of normal linguistic evolution.
This was a vital decision. Esperanto is not perfect, does not
pretend to be, and cannot be. Many early attempts at language
planning were based on the idea of a philosophically perfect
language but Dr. Zamenhof aimed initiating a language which
was usable. No living language can claim perfection: firstly
because the criteria of perfection in this context are undefined
and undefinable and also because every living language is
always changing and developing.
A Language Committee (Lingva Komitato), later renamed the
Academy (Akademio) of Esperanto, was therefore appointed as
a continuing body which could express an informed opinion and
give expert guidance on the usage of the language.
The Academy (contrary to Dr. Gopsill’s fantasies) has no power
over the users of Esperanto. The language, like all living
languages, is in the state of continuous creation by its users. As
in English, neologisms may be introduced by anyone who feels
the need for them; if they are useless they will be ignored but if
enough other people use them they will become part of the
language. The hundred members of the Academy merely
express from time to time opinions on new usages but the idea
that neologisms have to be sanctioned before they can be used is
a self-evident absurdity. Even though the major dictionaries
Page 14 of 127
show which words have been officially recommended, it should
be evident that words must be used before they can be approved,
and what counts (and the basis for recommendation) is whether
neologisms are used and whether alleged archaisms have really
dropped into desuetude.
In the words of Professor Andre Martinet, the former director of
the International Auxiliary Language Association (see Chapter
“As the German Idist Auerbach told me at the time of my
departure to the States and my job at IALA in l947:
“Esperanto, it works!”. I have been repeating for years
that a language changes because it functions since it has to
adapt itself to the needs of its users. As shown by Francois
lo Jacomo (198l) Esperanto has, in the course of its
hundred years of existence, undergone a number of
changes and this is how it should be. This will continue
without entailing the appearance of dialects or a loss of
fluency. A language never splits nor loses it
communicative power as long as it remains in use among
all who need it”. [”The Proof of the Pudding” in
“Interlinguistics: Aspects of the Science of Language
Individual Esperantists can therefore cheerfully admit that
Esperanto is imperfect according to the hypotheses of somebody
or other. They can admit, deny or ignore the theoretical
criticisms of Gode, Berger or Gopsill. So long as people
throughout the world continue to use Esperanto it will continue
to change, perhaps dropping some forms, perhaps acquiring
others - but it will continue to live and continue to spread as
more and more people realise the need for a useable world
Page 15 of 127
There were still supporters of Volapük in the twentieth century
and various offshoots of Volapük still existed and, spurred on by
the success of Esperanto, new interlanguage
projects began to appear.
One of these bore the name Ido, and although it is now almost
forgotten except by interlinguistic historians, its influence was
great enough for it to deserve special consideration.
The main inventor of Ido was one Louis Couturat, who believed
that Esperanto should adopt his views of a rigid mathematical
approach to word formation. Together with his collaborator,
Leopold Leau, he had written two widely respected works on
universal language and the two of them appointed themselves
joint secretaries of an organisation (apparently consisting of the
two of them) which they called The Delegation for the Adoption
of an International Auxiliary Language.
The expressed purpose of this Delegation was to approach the
International Association of Academies to make a choice of the
auxiliary language to be adopted.
Esperantists worked hard to acquire support for the Delegation
and, in 1907, the secretaries declared that 3l0 Societies and l250
individuals had expressed such support. However, the
International Association of Academies declined the request to
consider the subject and two days later Couturat said that the
Delegation had now elected a committee which would choose
among the competing projects. How the election had taken
place was never clarified. It would be difficult enough today to
consult a worldwide body of supporters in two days; in l907 it
was clearly impossible. However the Committee was formed,
the two secretaries evidently felt that there was a danger of their
purpose not being achieved and selected others to join in the
discussions. Dr. Zamenhof was denied permission to speak for
Esperanto and was tricked into appointing as representative of
Esperanto a Frenchman named Louis Chevreux , a self-styled
Page 16 of 127
marquis who had previously achieved a degree of unpopularity
among French Esperantists by a failed attempt to acquire control
over all approved Esperanto publications. Dr. Zamenhof,
however, felt that he could be trusted to put forward the views
of the Esperantists.
The committee held a number of meetings at which they
purported to examine all the interlinguistic projects then
existing. Suddenly, to the surprise of some of the members of
the Committee, at a meeting at which only three of the original
Committee members were present announced its findings. They
were to the effect that they had chosen Esperanto but with a
condition that the language should be altered in accordance with
the views of a person calling himself “Ido”. Interestingly
enough, the Committee of the Delegation had considered and
rejected neo-Latin projects similar to Interlingua and the
secretaries’ report saying that such projects were elitist, irregular
and lacking in flexibility. If, therefore, the Delegation
Committee had any validity at all, one could say that it too had
rejected Interlingua in advance.
The publication of the decision caused a good deal of confusion.
Esperantists pointed out that the terms of reference of the
Committee had been to determine which of the then existing
interlanguage projects was the most suitable, not to impose
conditions. Some members of the Committee stated that
although the decision was said to be unanimous, many of them
were not aware that the last meeting of the Committee was
taking place. There was speculation about the identity of the
anonymous “Ido”. Chevreux (a.k.a. de Beaufont), who was
supposed to have been the Esperanto representative before the
Committee, at first denied, then later proclaimed that he was
In 1937, Ric Berger,who had been a supporter of the Ido project
but who had by then defected to a project known as
“Occidental” (later at this same Ric Berger’s insistence, re-
named “Interlingue” in order, apparently, to facilitate its take-
over by Gode’s Interlingua) revealed that the real author of the
Page 17 of 127
project was Couturat himself and that the whole of the
delegation stunt had been, as Esperantists had pointed out,
nothing more than a trick. In fact, not only had Couturat
announced the decision of the Committee before it had even
been set up, he had also stated that they were to be selected to
give that decision.
The secretaries of the Delegation Committee followed up the
resolution by sending an ultimatum to the Esperanto Language
Committee demanding that this Committee should accept the
resolution and the Ido project. There was no way in which the
Language Committee could accept the ultimatum; not only was
the time given too short for the hundred members to meet and
discuss the resolution, but the majority of the committee had no
way of knowing the contents of the Ido project. Ido was then
promoted as a rival form of Esperanto and thanks to a generous
donation from the president of the Delegation Committee, was
able to produce a number of dictionaries and other books. The
failure of the attempt to force the Language Committee to accept
his proposal threw Couturat into a frenzy. As Bertrand Russell
“According to his conversation, no human beings in the whole
previous history of the human race had ever been quite so
depraved as the Esperantists.”
His spleen was directed not only against Esperanto movement
but also against any supporter of Ido who would not accept his
absolute rule. “he flung excommunications broadside, on
conservatives who refused to follow him, on progressives who
went one step ahead of him.” (A.L.Guerard: A Short History of
the International Language Movement)
One result of the disputes between the Esperantists and the
supporters of Ido (or “idiots” as Bertrand Russell suggested they
might be called) was the firmer establishment of two forms of
study, namely Interlinguistics and Esperantology.
Interlinguistics is the study of the language problem and
proposed solutions and Esperantology is the study of Esperanto
Page 18 of 127
Interlinguists, then, are persons concerned with the study of the
language problem and its proposed solutions and
esperantologists are persons concerned, not with polemics for or
against Esperanto, but with the study of how Esperanto is
actually used in practice.
At first the Ido movement appeared to achieve a modicum of
success and it has been said that as many as 3 to 4 per cent of
the Esperantists adopted it, but its heyday, such as it was, did
not last long. Before very long many of its leading members
had left either to support proposals for reforms of Ido or to
propose their own pet projects. Nevertheless, the Ido movement
lived on long after all hope of achieving success had died, its
followers (with some honourable exceptions) devoting their
energies to carrying on Couturat’s campaign of attacking the
Esperanto movement and striving to impede its progress.
In the l950’s one of the remaining Idists published a duplicated
periodical entitled “International Language Review” which
served as a clearing house for anti-Esperantist projects and
views. It was in this periodical that some of Alexander Gode’s
early writings on Interlingua appeared. However, the real
importance of the Ido movement in interlinguistics is that it set a
Prior to l907 discussions about the merits of rival interlanguage
projects were carried on as scientific discussions. Since the rise
and fall of Ido, the situation has been different. Each
interlanguage project is usually presented as the definitive
solution to the language problem. In the face of public
indifference, the inventor of each system then turns on
Esperanto, often claiming in some way that the Esperantists are
to blame for his failure, and often making a paranoid claim that
by some mysterious means the Academy of Esperanto has
suppressed his wonderful invention. Since the days of Ido,
whenever an interlinguistic project fails, the inventor and any
supporters he may have seem to have to consider it a point of
honour, out of wounded pride, to spend time attacking
Esperanto and trying to impede its progress rather than
Page 19 of 127
attempting to salvage the lost cause of Bolak, Spokil, Interglossa
or any of the projects called Interlingua.
Page 20 of 127
ESPERANTO AND THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS
By the beginning of l9l4 the Esperanto movement had
weathered the storm caused by the Delegation trick but the
decline of Ido was clear. In practice, that who tried Ido were
finding out that what de Saussure and other linguists had pointed
out was true. The logic of mathematics behind the Ido word-
formation system was not in accordance with the logic of
linguistics. The abolition of the “correlative” words and the
introduction of a large number of affixes made learning more
difficult and the more complicated verb forms with three
infinitives (past, present and future) were difficult to apply in
practice. Numerous projects were designed either to attempt to
compromise with the Idists or to remedy the defects of Ido, one
of the most ingenious being a system called “Idido” by the
pseudonymous O.Schulerz, a system which showed that by
replacing each of the defects of Ido with a more useful form one
arrived at ... Esperanto. In an attempt to mitigate the confusion
caused by the constant changes in the system, Couturat decreed
a “period of stability” but even this did not stop the decline.
In l9l4 the Esperantists arranged what was intended to be the
biggest convention ever held by the International Language
movement. Nearly four thousand Esperantists booked to take
part. Unfortunately the opening of the convention coincided
with the outbreak of the First World War and attendees had to
get home by any possible means.
The movement kept alive during the War years and regrouped at
the end of the War. One of the hopeful results of the peace was
the setting up of the League of Nations and the International
Language was brought to the attention of this body which, in
l920, passed a resolution acclaiming the work of the Esperantists
and recognising the value of Esperanto. Further negotiations
with the League of Nations were made difficult by the attitude
of the French government who believed that French should be
Page 21 of 127
the language of international intercourse and the expected
intervention of Idists managed to confuse the issue still further.
However, a change of government in France altered the situation
and the League of Nations persuaded the International Postal
Union to accept Esperanto as a clear language and the
International Labour Organization of the League started to use
Esperanto in its work.
According to ILMI this endorsement of Esperanto by some
strange logic amounted to a rejection because a nationalist
extremist published in Geneva an article rejecting the concept of
a constructed language and calling for a return to medieval
As this constituted a rejection of the very concept of language
planning, it was another case of a so-called rejection of
Esperanto being, if valid, also a rejection in advance of the idea
of Interlingua, although the writer Gonzague de Reynold, who
later welcomed the idea of Hitler’s new order in Europe, would
no doubt have approved of Gode’s “Roman” imperialistic
outlook (see Chapter 2).
The Interlingua-like views of de Reynold were ignored by the
League and the only official pronouncements on the subject of
Esperanto by the Permanent Commission of the League
recognised the value of Esperanto.
Page 22 of 127
By the year l923, the Esperanto movement was showing signs of
getting over the difficulties caused by the War and financial
difficulties. However, the Ido movement was still about so were
several other projects such as those promulgated by former
Idists. There were also systems proposed by Esperantists in a
vain endeavour to bridge the gap between the International
Language and Ido.
In an endeavour to unite the interlinguistic movement and bring
it back onto a proper scientific plane rather than a quasi-political
one, a wealthy Esperantist founded and financed a movement
called the International Auxiliary Language Association
(IALA). Further support came from the Rockerfeller
Foundation so that IALA, like its predecessor the Delegation
Committee, but unlike the Esperanto movement was able to
work with substantial financial backing. In some ways the
development of this Association was not unlike that of the
earlier Delegation Committee, but unlike that committee it did
not begin as a fraud. Like the committee, however, its terms of
reference were not to develop a new auxiliary but to investigate
existing projects. At first, under the directorship of Professor
Collinson, it did useful work, much of which confirmed the
value of Esperanto. One example related to the “correlatives”.
Esperanto has a table of words corresponding to similar
incomplete tables in several ethnic languages linking the
Idists had objected to this table as being artificial but the
researchers of IALA admitted that although they had started
Page 23 of 127
with a prejudice against these words, experimental evidence
showed that they could be learned more quickly, remembered
better, and used more easily than the Ido (and therefore the
Interlingua) equivalents. Experiments by IALA also gave
further proof that the learning of Esperanto assisted the learning
of other languages.
Not all the work of IALA was on this level. For example, they
“The principle, according to which, only one concept must
correspond to each word, and only one word must correspond
to each concept, must be followed as much as possible”.
As we shall see, Dr. Gopsill is obsessed by this concept. A
similar suggestion was made in the report of the American
Philosophical Society in l887. However, that had been before
the modern linguistic development of the science of semantics
and the researchers of IALA should have been aware that the
principle which they enunciated was an impossibility because of
the difficulty of defining the term “concept”. By this time the
writings of Korzybski and others had appeared and Ogden’s
“Meaning of Meaning” was well known.
Even stranger is the fact that much of ILMI is devoted to
castigating Esperanto either for adopting or for not adopting this
outmoded and impossible concept. The concept, which we can
call “mono-significance” looks reasonable at first sight until we
try to think what is the significance of the word “significance”
or what is meant by “meaning” or how do we conceive the word
For instance, it has frequently been said that one of the Inuit
languages has about one hundred different words for “snow”,
none of them meaning quite the same thing (e.g. aput, qana,
piqsirpoq, qimuqsiq). The actual number may be disputable but
the principle is correct. In the words of Benjamin Lee Whorf :
“We have the same word for falling snow , snow on the ground,
snow packed hard like ice, wind-driven snow – whatever the
Page 24 of 127
situation may be . To an Eskimo this all-inclusive word would
Japanese has several words each of which can be translated in
English into English as “water”. For that matter, the substance
with the chemical symbol H2O has three different names in
English depending whether it is below 0 degrees Celsius,
between 0 degrees Celsius and 100 degrees Celsius or whether it
is above 100 degrees Celsius. An oak, a birch or a beech are all
different concepts, yet they all can be described as “trees”.
Similarly, a concept may need to have different words for
different usages. For instance, a chemist will call a substance
“sodium chloride” whilst a cook will refer to the same substance
as “salt”, but for the chemist the word “salt” has much wider
meaning. The word “energy” does not have the same meaning
to a physicist that it does to a physiologist. The most that can
logically be said is that unnecessary synonyms such as the
Interlingua “casa” and “domo” are best avoided. (Incidentally
ILMI declares that the root of the Esperanto word “domo” is
misleading but does not apply this epithet to the identical
Interlingua word “domo”).
Amusingly enough, we shall see that as a result of his own
mistranslations, Dr. Gopsill believes the IALA principle of
monosignificance to be an Esperanto rule.
With the outbreak of the Second World War Professor
Collinson, who held the lectureship in Esperanto at Liverpool
University, was unable to continue his work with IALA and the
body moved to America, at first under the directorship of Dr.
Clark Stillman who was then succeeded by Dr. Gode. Dr. Gode
rejected the advice of many brilliant linguists, as he was
concerned to produce his own project. This was when IALA
began to fall apart. Members dispersed and died and Gode felt
the field to be free for him. Professor Martinet joined IALA and
became its new director but there were bitter quarrels between
him and Gode, who was determined to have his own way.
Professor Martinet describes the situation as follows: -
Page 25 of 127
“Never did I have a free hand in the guidance of affairs. When
I arrived at IALA, I found there a detachment of six Romance
linguists, unconditionally subservient to Gode who did not
mind openly admitting that he did not believe in international
language.... Dr. Gode for his part had the attitude of a man
who without thinking had thrown himself into a strange
adventure (Cosmoglotta No. 199)”.
So bitter were the quarrels that Professor Martinet left out
leaving Gode in charge.
Dr. Gode finally wrapped up the IALA researches by publishing
the project Interlingua in defiance of the original terms of
reference of IALA, these terms being not to add to the plethora
of projects which had attempted to take the place of Esperanto
but merely to conduct objective research.
IALA had referred to all interlinguistic projects as interlinguas
and some confusion was caused by the fact that, for his project
Dr. Gode did not provide a new name but merely appropriated
the name Interlingua which was not only the same as, or similar
to, other earlier projects, but also the name of the successor to
the old Volapük academy.
Dr. Gode went even further. In further defiance of the original
terms of reference of IALA he declared his opinion that an
international language for the world was an impossibility and
that Interlingua was to be used purely for the purpose of
producing abstracts of scientific articles. He attacked those of
his followers who believed that his Interlingua could be used as
a world auxiliary language , calling them “Esperantists” (for him
a pejorative term).
It is not surprising that the financial backing of IALA ceased,
although sufficient money was still in the funds to enable the
first Interlingua publications to be brought out. However,
before looking at the contents of the Interlingua project, it is
worth looking at the methodology behind the breach with the
founding principles of IALA.
Page 26 of 127
Dr. Gopsill explains how four variants (known as C, K, M and
P) of a project were sent out to what he calls “three thousand
appropriate people” as an opinion poll. We are not told who
these “appropriate people” were, nor are we told the full story of
the result of the poll. We are not told that these three thousand
were people outside the interlinguistic movement, that is to say,
people who had no experience of the subject on which they were
asked to vote. Surely the number of people replying to a poll is
more important than the number who were asked to do so but
we are not told that only ll.9 per cent replied, and that only 26.6
per cent of that 11.9 per cent (i.e.less than 0.03 of those polled -
Dr. Gopsill calls this a majority!) voted for variant P (the
prototype Interlingua) - a somewhat underwhelming result
which Gopsillian reasoning and terminology would call a
rejection of Interlingua by the world’s linguists. It should also
be noted that the poll did not give a free choice, but merely
asked which of four variants was preferable, thus leaving no
room for anyone to vote for “none of the above”.
It would seem therefore that the methodology of Dr. Gode was
no better than that of his predecessor, Couturat. Obviously, he
had hoped that by, submitting his four schemes only to linguists
familiar with romance languages but unfamiliar with
interlinguistics, he would get a response in favour of the project
presenting the passage which appeared to be easiest for such an
unrepresentative group to read.
Dr. Gode was not deterred by this abject failure and the
remaining funds of IALA were used to produce a grammar and
an Interlingua-English dictionary (although why one was
thought to be necessary in view of the claim that everyone who
counts can understand Interlingua anyway is not very clear).
The formerly almost unlimited funding for IALA having been
discontinued, Gode wrapped up that body and he and his few
Page 27 of 127
followers adopted the high-sounding sobriquet “Interlingua
Division of Science and Service” in the hope of fooling the
public into thinking that there was genuine backing by a
reputable organisation for Gode’s system.
There was nothing new about Interlingua except for its
publicity. There had been many neo-latin or so-called
“naturalistic” (more properly “non-autonomous”) interlinguistic
projects published before (and some since).
As we have seen, even the name was not new. There have been
several projects with the same or similar names and in particular
there has been confusion between the Gode project and the
mathematician Peano’s Interlingua which preceded it. Gode
disingenuously tried to excuse this by saying that he had not
invented the name; he had discovered it!
Dr. Gopsill tries to confuse the issue by stating that interlingua
(with a small “i”) is a term used for all international language
projects but does not tell us by whom (other than IALA it has
been so used. On the other hand, instead of Gode’s term
Interlinguaists, he uses the word “Interlinguists” to mean
supporters of Gode’s Interlingua instead of persons concerned
with the subject of interlinguistics (see, for example, the Oxford
However, it is fair to say that Gode did not pretend that he was
presenting a project for a world language, and confessed that his
project could not function as a world language. As we have
seen he saw it, not as what IALA called an interlingua nor as a
language in the normal sense of the term, but only as a system
for the presentation of summaries of scientific papers.
(Indeed we have a clear admission by Dr. Gode in an article in
“International Medical Digest” that “there are areas where it is
useless and other areas where it can play but a minor role”).
If we think of Interlingua as the only result of all the work and
money sunk into IALA we can only say “montes parturient, mus
Page 28 of 127
For a short time, as a result of the prestige and wealth of IALA,
Interlingua did appear to be making some little headway in the
very limited sphere of abstracts of scientific articles rather than
for the articles themselves. The first publication which included
Interlingua abstracts was the “Quarterly Bulletin of Sea View
Hospital”, an obscure scientific publication. ILMI gives a list
(Page l05) of such uses of Interlingua in ten long years after its
appearance, but admits that by the end of the first decade after
the publishing of Interlingua only about thirty journals had ever
ILMI also gives some slight details of a use in those years at the
second world congress of cardiology held in Washington in
“where the official congress programme was in English and
Interlingua. The English summaries were understood by
approximately 55% of the world’s cardiologists, whereas nearly
all understood the summaries written in Interlingua”.
We notice, of course, reference to “the world’s cardiologists”
(not just those at the meeting) and the precise figure of 55%,
preceded by the word “approximately” and that we are only told
that the programme was in English and Interlingua, so
presumably Interlingua was not used for any discussion or
debate. In contrast in numerous congresses and conferences
held throughout the year Esperanto is used as the sole or main
language of the proceedings and the annual congresses of the
Universal Esperanto Association (one of the leading
organisations of the Esperanto movement) are the world’s
largest international meetings where no interpreters are needed.
Any good impression given by the report is soon dissipated
when a few questions are asked:-
1. How many of “the world’s cardiologists” were present at
2. What number of cardiologists do you get when you
subtract “approximately 55%” from “nearly all”?
3. Who did the counting?
Page 29 of 127
4. What objective tests were given of comprehension, (a) of
English, (b) of Interlingua?
5. By whom were these tests administered?
This vagueness contrasts strongly with the precise tests carried
out on the use, understanding and teaching of Esperanto such as
those carried out by IALA, or the field experiment carried out at
the University of British Columbia in l984 reported in Jonathan
Pool and Bernard Grofman’s “Linguistic Artificially and
Cognitive Competence” l989.
Clearly Dr. Gopsill doesn’t believe the implication of his
pseudo-statistics at all. If he did he would have written his book
in Interlingua rather than in English in order to reach a greater
number of people.
However the only quoted uses of Interlingua at scientific
meetings occurred many years ago, so the days when Interlingua
was used in this way are long gone and the decline of
Interlingua in this field indicates that even these experiments
showed Interlingua to be a failure. As Dr. B. Golden commented
in the journal of the Esperanto Teachers’ Association (the
British affiliate of the International League of Esperantist
“Today Interlingua can by no means be considered a rival of
Esperanto. Ever since its inception in l95l, the Interlingua
movement has suffered constant retrenchment. The inability
of Interlingua to acquire a mass following is evidenced by a
comparison of the development of the two movements during
the same length of time. The forty-year period of the
Interlingua movement from l95l to l99l corresponds to the
first four decades of the Esperanto movement from l887 to
l927. The first directory of Esperantists, which was published
in l890, listed 1,000 members in 266 cities in l2 countries.
Directories have also been published listing users of
Interlingua: in l964 there were 394 in 29 countries, in l975,
Page 30 of 127
202 in 24 countries and in l985 only 6l in 2l countries. There
has thus been a constant loss of membership. By
extrapolating, it is likely that in l99l the movement consists of
less than 20 members and these will have disappeared before
the year l995” (“Another Desperate Attack Against
Esperanto”, Dr. Bernard Golden, Esperanto Teacher, March
We now have a situation where Interlingua has been:-Rejected
in advance by the American Philosophical Society.
Rejected in principle by the Ido Delegation of l907.
Abandoned by those who had financed IALA.
Rejected by all but 3% (to give Interlingua the benefit of the
doubt) of the linguists polled by IALA.
Rejected by leading directors of IALA (Professor Collinson
and Professor Martinet, although this did not prevent the
British Interlingua Society from using their names on an
Abandoned after a short trial at New York University.
Abandoned after an experiment by “the world’s cardiologists
Ignored by the United Nations.
Rebuffed by all the Euro-M.P.s.
Abandoned by the majority of its former supporters.
In spite of Dr. Golden’s view, it may continue to have a few
supporters for some time. It survived 1995 in the sense that it
still has proponents. After all, Volapük ceased to have any
importance in the l890’s but still nevertheless has one or two
In any event, the magical idea of a language, which can be
understood without learning it, has kept appearing for many
years now and an examination of Interlingua (even if it is a post-
mortem) may be worthwhile.
Page 31 of 127
UN AND UNESCO
The rise of nationalist dictatorships in the l930’s was a calamity
also for the Esperanto movement. In many countries where
Esperanto had been strong, the movement was first restricted
then banned and its supporters persecuted. Ulrich Lins in his
book on this subject (“La Dangera Lingvo”) tells us that some
300,000 Esperantists were killed and imprisoned simply for
being Esperantists. Indeed it was not until l990 that Esperantists
in some countries could associate freely and that Esperanto
publications could once again circulate freely throughout the
world, except where hampered by currency difficulties and
Just as the Second World War gave rise to an impetus at the
League of Nations, Esperanto was, after the Second World War,
brought to the attention of the young United Nations. A petition
was organised by some of the leading Esperantist bodies, such
as the Universal League, the Universal Esperanto Association,
the International Esperanto League, and those national
Esperanto Associations which were allowed to function openly.
This petition on behalf of well over seventeen million supporters
was presented to the U.N. and the distinguished international
lawyer, Professor Ivo Lappenna was invited to address the
United Nations on behalf of the Esperanto movement. The UN
passed a resolution recognising the work of the Esperanto
movement and passed the topic on to the United Nations
Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation, which has
since worked enthusiastically with the Esperanto movement.
This endorsement by the United Nations and UNESCO, by
some strange Gopsillian reasoning, is considered in ILMI to be a
rejection of Esperanto.
Clearly for use by a body like the United Nations which needs
a fully functioning language which can be spoken as well as
written, and which, (no doubt to the horror of any follower of
Page 32 of 127
Gode) not only accepts member nations from outside the
domain of the romance languages but also encourages cultures
from outside this domain, Interlingua is useless as even its
“(Interlingua is offered) not as a world auxiliary language
but purely for use among Western cultures, a separate
auxiliary language being used to accommodate non-Western
conceptions”(ILMI P. 253)
Nevertheless in an orgy of spite against the Esperantists, the
Interlinguaists wrote to the United Nations in the hope of
causing enough confusion to prevent the recognition of
Esperanto. Naturally they were ignored, thus resulting in yet
another rejection of Interlingua.
Page 33 of 127
AN INTERLINGUAIST LOOK AT ESPERANTO
Before looking into the difficulties of Interlingua it may well be
worth digressing to inspect the generality of Dr. Gopsill’s
animadversions on Esperanto. In order to attack the
International Language, he pretends to base his analyses, not on
any modern description of Esperanto, but on the description of
the grammar in the first booklet about Esperanto published in
1878. It is quite obvious that the author of that book, writing for
his contemporaries had no alternative but to describe the project
(as it then was) in the terminology current at that time when
European linguists tended to base their descriptions of all
languages on the terminology of Latin Grammar. The “Sixteen
Rules” contained in that booklet have been retained by
Esperantists for their normative value as a basis for natural
evolution in order to ensure continuity but nobody would
normally use a one hundred year old description of any language
on a basis on which to analyse it. Dr. Gopsill however shows no
sign of having any experience of Esperanto as it functions in
actual use and chooses to ignore the whole linguistic discipline
of esperantology. He ignores such works as Plena Gramatiko de
Esperanto, Plena Vortaro de Esperanto, Plena Analiza
Gramatiko and Plena Ilustrita Gramatiko.
Dr. Gopsill has clearly taken the text of the Sixteen Rules from
the 17th edition of Fundamenta Krestomatio, a work originally
published in 1903 which reprinted the rules and to show off his
erudition (but hoping that the reader will not look up the
reference) he points out a misprint on page 108 of that work (see
chapter 11). Of more importance is the fact that some of the
translations in ILMI seem to bear little relation to reality.
A typical attack on Esperanto for apparently having IALA’s
theory of one-word-one meaning and one meaning-one word,
we find on page l74 of ILMI where there is a reference to page
235 of Fundamenta Krestomatio, which says, according to Dr.
Gopsill, that a word “always keeps an unvarying meaning”.
Page 34 of 127
Now let’s look at that page 235 and read the quotation in full. It
translates word for word as follows: -
“In such manner the analysis of the language in no measure
embarrasses the reader: he does not even suspect that that
which he calls an ending or prefix or suffix is a totally
independent word, which always keeps the same significance
regardless of whether it will be used at the end or at the
beginning of another word, or independently, or that every word
can with equal right be used as a root word or as a grammatical
Obviously what Zamenhof is saying is that a word does not
change its meaning merely because of its position in a
compound word. The English word “book” has the same
meaning when used on its own, in the word “bookcase” or in
“notebook”; nevertheless it can refer to a slim volume of poetry
or the Oxford English Dictionary. This is totally different from
the interpretation given by the out-of-context quotation given by
Dr. Gopsill, nor by any stretch of imagination can it be said that
“unequivocally states that an Esperanto word always and only
has one meaning”.
His second distortion is even more blatant. He quotes page 237
as saying that every meaning has one word. Again let us look at
a word for word translation: -
“and if you even imagine to yourself a language with the most
ideally simplified grammar, with a constant defined meaning for
Again we see not only a complete distortion by taking a few
words out of a context, but we see that nowhere does it say or
suggest that, in Esperanto, every meaning is represented by a
single word. One can only wonder how Dr. Gopsill could have
this so totally wrong. If one were not sure of his honesty one
might think he was trying to cheat his readers.
Perhaps he is thinking of the following: -
Page 35 of 127
“The principle, according to which, only one concept must
correspond to each word, and only one word must correspond
to each concept, must be followed as much as possible”.
On the other hand he can’t be thinking of that because as we
have seen the principle which he condemns was so enunciated
by IALA, even though Interlingua, in conformity with Dr.
Gode’s principle of ignoring the researches of IALA, has failed
to implement it. (See Chapter 6 above)
If Dr. Gopsill had not made so many elementary errors, his book
would have been much shorter. He would not have had to go on
and on, repetitively and monotonously devoting page after page
and example after example to showing alleged deviations from
and to denouncing a non-existent principle while still pretending
that Gode based his work on the findings of IALA.
When it comes to the comparison between Esperanto grammar
and that of Interlingua, a whole book longer than Dr. Gopsill’s
282 pages would have to be written to deal in detail with all the
egregious errors of fact and all the points of opinion which are
presented as if they were facts but which can easily be
With all this in mind, we can now take a look at Interlingua
PRONUNCIATION AND ORTHOGRAPHY
Nowhere is the necessity for a high degree of regularity in a
world auxiliary language more necessary than in the method of
Page 36 of 127
writing the language and pronouncing it when written. Even
today, the user of the international language often comes across
a word in writing before he has heard it pronounced. Clearly
there should be no doubt in his mind about the correct way to
speak the word. Here in particular it is instructive to compare
Interlingua with Esperanto.
At first sight, the orthography of Esperanto seems strange to
some beginners; although based on the Latin alphabet, the
language has twenty-eight letters including ĉ, ĝ, ĥ, ĵ, ŝ and ŭ.
However each of these twenty-eight letters have a single sound
so that there is no doubt that, the pronunciation being regular, all
twenty-eight letters can be learnt in an extremely short time and
very little practice is needed to dispose of the unfamiliarity.
After all, there is no European language which manages to use
the Latin alphabet consistently without having to bring in
supersigns, modified letters or (worst of all in the era of
Digrams are particularly unhelpful, not only because they can
cause doubts about pronunciation (to take a simple example,
consider the "ph" in the English words "telephone" and
"haphazard") but also because they prevent proper sorting of
computerised text. Further they prevent something which is
already of some importance but which is going to be very
important in the future; that is the creation of synthesised speech
fed into a computer by a normal keyboard or by optical
character reading as well as making it more difficult to convert
sound into text.
This is one of the reasons why Esperanto is the basis for some
of the best forms of computer-assisted translation, another of the
fields in which Interlingua is, to use Dr. Gode's expression,
"completely useless" (see Chapter l6).
The alphabet of Interlingua may seem, to the reader of English,
familiar at first sight. It only uses the twenty-six letters of the
Page 37 of 127
Latin alphabet used in English, but the more one studies the
Interlingua pronunciation system (as described in ICB) the more
difficult and inconsistent it turns out to be. To start with, the
written vowels are five (ignoring for the moment those with
accents over them), but Dr. Gopsill, after telling us that the
vowels are never long but sometimes semi-long and sometimes
short, contradicts himself by giving five examples based on
English received pronunciation all of which show the vowels to
be long. (Incidentally, one cannot wonder which dialect of
English the author is thinking of when he speaks of "father" as
having three syllables and "yule" two.)
In addition, the letters "y" and "w" each have at least two
different pronunciations in that each of them is sometimes a
vowel and sometimes a consonant, the vowel forms clashing
with other vowels to create spelling difficulties. In a vain
attempt to suggest that the Esperanto vowels have just a little of
the complexity of those proposed for Interlingua, Dr. Gopsill
opines (wrongly as usual) that North American speakers would
have difficulty in differentiating between "a" and "o" in
Esperanto" (ILMI p. l33). Apart from the fact that Dr. Gopsill
does not explain why they would not have this difficulty in
Interlingua, he merely shows that, unlike the present writer, he
has never spoken to any North American Esperantists and is, as
usual, substituting imagination for research. On the other hand
you do not have to seek out an Interlinguaite (where could you
find one?) to realise that many (perhaps most) people would find
it difficult to detect such subtle differences as that between the
short unstressed "i" and the vocalic "y", or between "e" as in
"hey" and "ei" as in "reign". Just try it for yourself.
Indeed the position starts to get more difficult when one looks
at diphthongs. "Ai" is pronounced like the "i" in "fine", thus
presumably clashing with "ay". "Au" is pronounced like "ow"
in "cow" in spite of the rule that there are supposed to be no
reduced or suppressed vowels. Perhaps the most confusing of
the set of diphthongs are those representing the sound "oi" as in
Page 38 of 127
"choice". Interlingua rules mean that hearing this sound, one
would not be able to infer from the given rule whether it should
be written "eu" (!) or "oi" or "oy", not forgetting that according
to Dr. Gopsill (ILMA p.115) an "oy" sound ends up by some
strange ventriloquial contortion as a closing of the mouth. To
complicate matters further it was decreed that words such as
"kümmel" taken from Dr. Gode's native German could retain
the umlaut as well as the original pronunciation (Interlingua
English Dictionary), thus giving extra vowels to the hapless
student and, of course, having gone this far the Interlinguaists
cannot refuse entry to the accents of all the source language.
Confusion has now turned to utter chaos!
All this would be ridiculous enough, but the consonants make
the position even worse. The letter "c" (apart from the cases
where it is a part of a digram) is sometimes pronounced as "ts",
sometimes "k", so that it may vary even in one short word.
"Ecce", the very first word in each of the first two chapters of
ICB Vol. l would appear to be pronounced "eyktsey", but
sometimes the sound "ts" has to be written "t" (as well,
presumably, as "ts")and the sound "t" while usually represented
by "t" is sometimes represented by "th", presumably to make
sure that you don't type too fast.
The sound of "j" as in "John" sometimes has to be shown as "j"
and at other times as "g". You must move your tongue carefully
to vibrate the letter"r", making sure you don't curl or roll it up
(try that one!). The "z" sound must sometimes be represented
by "z" and sometimes by "s". The rules given about "s" are
contradictory, viz. “ "s" is pronounced as in English, that is, as
a "z" sound between vowels and as an "ss" sound elsewhere".
Although this is stated to be the English rule, it clearly is not,
e.g., "bases" (the plural of "basis") has the "s" sound between
two vowels and the "z" sound elsewhere. The "k" sound in
some words is written like the English "k", in others as "c" and
in others as "ch". The "ch" digram represents the sound of "k"
Page 39 of 127
.... except when it doesn't, e.g., when it represents "sh" or, at
other times, "tsh". We find for instance that "China" is
pronounced "Sheena" whereas the "Ch-" at the beginning of
"Checoslovakie" is pronounced as it is in English.
The names of the Interlingua letters highlight more difficulties.
Three of these letters have two different names, just to make life
harder, and some are not explained at all. For instance, the letter
"x" is called "eeks" but whether it is pronounced "kz" "ks" "gz"
or "gs" is kept from us.
"V" and "w" are both pronounced "v" but there is an exception
for words of English origin (as well as the exception for the
pronunciation of "w" as a semi-vowel), where it is pronounced
as "w" (query - how is the Interlinguaist to know which words
are of English origin unless he first studies English and
etymology?). As with other Interlingua rules, there is an
exception to the exception in that "w.c." (although clearly of
English origin) has to be pronounced "vay tsay" (i.e.,
presumably vie tsie) and not "way tsey". To compound this
absurdity the name of the letter "w" is given as "doopla (!) vay"
(what language gives the peculiar "doopla" and how it is
pronounced is not made clear).
The "f" sound is sometimes written "f" and sometimes "ph" (see
above), presumably to make sure that the student has to learn
which words come from Greek and which do not.
"Qu" is pronounced as "kw" with the exception of words where
it "can also(!)" be pronounced as "k", giving us a fourth way of
writing this sound.
By this time any student with even the slightest understanding of
the phonetic necessities of a viable international language will
have been tempted to throw away his Interlingua textbooks into
the nearest rubbish bin, but, believe it or not, worse is to come.
Page 40 of 127
Having learned all the above unnecessary absurdities and
complexities the student is told:-
"Foreign words retain the spelling and approximate
pronunciation of the original language and words from non-
Roman alphabets are transliterated; beige, bridge (i.e., the card
game), bureau, kimono, Koran and sputnik."
No guidance is given as to what the term "foreign" means in that
sentence. The examples given do not help. If it means a word
which originally came from a real language then every word in
Interlingua is foreign and we have complete chaos.
Again when it comes to the question of transliteration we are not
told what system of transliteration Interlingua adopts in each
case. Presumably they are not transliterated according to the
confusing system given above. Dr. Gopsill attacks Esperanto
for using its own system of transliteration but does not tell us
what system would have been used if Interlingua had ever
become a language. For instance "Koran" is spelt in that way
and not as "Quran", and his use of the Japanese word "kimono"
points out another difficulty.
There are two main systems of transliteration of the Japanese
language into Roman letters (romaji) but neither of these will fit
into international usage. To take one of the most common of the
Japanese-derived words which have now become international,
we can look at the word which is rendered in English as "judo".
The Interlingua alphabet has no way of expressing the Japanese
pronunciation of the first consonant and the two Japanese forms
of romanized spelling would give us "zyuudoo" and "juudoo",
both of which deviate from international usage.
Of course, the very existence of such words as Koran, kimono
and judo contradict the very foundation of Interlingua, namely
Gode's dogma that there is no civilisation worth considering
outside that derived from ancient Rome. The apparent lack of
Page 41 of 127
any method of transliteration, of course, means that many proper
names can't be written in Interlingua at all. For the Cyrillic
alphabet there is more confusion. We know for instance that it
is usual in French to transliterate Russian words using a
different system from that used when these words or names are
taken into English The French write Lenine and the English
Should the Interliguaite write Tschaikowsky or Chaykofsky? Is
it Chernobyl or Tschernobile. Dr. Gopsill thinks it important
enough to tell us twice (incorrectly, of course) that Zamenhof
changed his name to Zamenhof to suit the Esperanto
orthography. Obviously he had not bothered to look for copies
of the birth certificate of Zamenhof in the International
Esperanto Museum in Vienna or in the Esperantist Centre for
Research and Documentation in the International Language at
La Chaux-des-Fonds but as a teacher of Russian, he might have
been expected to realise how the Cyrillic letter in question is
Clearly what a system needs in order to make it suitable to
function as an international language is an orthography
sufficiently phonetic to be able to pronounce any word after
seeing it written and without a prior knowledge of its
etymology. This does not mean, as Dr. Gopsill seems
pedantically to think (ILMI p.146), an orthography which has a
special form for each alophone of every phoneme. That of
course would be an absurdity. All one needs is for writing to be
a reliable guide to pronunciation.
Even the question of which vowels are stressed and which are
unstressed is the subject of many complicated and contradictory
First we are told that the vowel before the last consonant is
stressed but we then find that if a verb has only two vowels, the
first vowel is stressed, so that the verb "eder" ("to eat") stresses
Page 42 of 127
the first syllable rather than the second and, as the plural has to
have the stress of the singular, so that the word "sorores" (for
example) has to be stressed on the vowel before the penultimate
But worse is to come!
That's just the start of it!
In fact a whole page has to be given up to listing some of the
complex exceptions to the basic rules and some of the
exceptions to those exceptions, some of which are extremely
vague and require one to remember silly rules such as that "the
ending "-ria" often" (and therefore presumably not always)
"stresses the "-i" if the word refers to a condition, status, art,
science, profession or shop". Other exceptions require
knowledge of etymology but at the end of it all Dr. Gopsill
capitulates and has to say:- "these rules for irregular
stresses are not exhaustive but they are the most frequent to be
In short, there is no reliable rule even for the stress accent in
Interlingua. Compare this to the simple Esperanto rule that the
accent is on the penultimate vowel and note the fact that the
whole of the grammar of Esperanto as summarised in ILMI
(p.109) takes up less space than is given to setting out just some
of the exceptions to just one minor aspect of the basic rules of
Dr. Gopsill complains that the simple stress rule of Esperanto
means that his wife's maiden name and provenance suffer a
stress shift of one syllable if pronounced according to the
Esperanto rule. He omits to mention that each of the three
words suffers a stress shift of two syllables if pronounced in the
manner prescribed for Interlingua (unless of course there is a
further special exception for the names of the wives of eminent
Page 43 of 127
The Esperanto rule is contained in one sentence, the Interlingua
rules are so chaotic that a speaker would have to hesitate before
every single word to think out its etymology and its semantic
content. (What language does the word come from? Does it
describe a condition, status, art, science, profession or shop?
How many vowels has it got? If it is plural, how do you stress
the singular?, etc., etc.). We may wonder why Dr. Gode found
it necessary to submit prospective students to such absurdities.
The only reason would appear to be that he followed his
predecessor de Wahl (the inventor of the language project which
came to be called Interlingue) who expressed the dogma that
words retain their stress when taken from one language to
another, or when different languages adopt them from the same
source. This is patently wrong as the examples given by Dr.
Gopsill show. One merely needs to look at the French word
"téléphone", the English word "telephone" and the German word
"telefon". All these have different stresses. Even in the same
language the stress can shift in derived words. Consider, for
example, the English word "telephone" which has the stress on
the first syllable, the word "telephony", which has the stress on
the second syllable, and "telephonic", which has the stress on
the third syllable. All these Dr. Gopsill would call "natural
stresses", but would only consider a stress to be unnatural if it
appears in Esperanto. Clearly he is wrong as usual.
In his first lesson of Esperanto the student will learn the
Esperanto stress which, being straightforward and consistent,
will then be perfectly natural to him, as is clear not only to
anybody who has taught or learned Esperanto, but also to
anybody who simply takes the trouble any day to switch his
radio on to an Esperanto broadcast.
In ILMI, after admitting the difficulty in learning the stress of
some words in Interlingua (Page l49), Dr. Gopsill says that :-
"when teaching Interlingua there is usually no need to mention
anything about stress,) except pointing out that the future tense
Page 44 of 127
has a stressed "-a" and the conditional tense adds "-ea" (with
One can only remark that it is therefore strange that in ICB Dr.
Gopsill has to devote paragraph after paragraph to just this one
In fact, Dr. Gopsill, after doing his best to rationalise the
irrational, gives up and in his dictionaries has to use a supersign
to indicate the position of irregular stress accent, proving yet
again that the claim that Interlingua has no supersigns is a false
one. Dr. Gopsill rightly remarks that: -
Page 45 of 127
"(an) often unpredictable stress system puts a great demand
on the learner" (ILMI p.33).
He is speaking of English but the same comment would apply to
Interlingua and this, on top of a ridiculously archaic and chaotic
system of spelling, in itself destroys the pretensions of
But worse is to come....!
Page 46 of 127
NOUNS AND PRONOUNS
One of the features of Esperanto which has proved invaluable in
practice is that the language is so structured that the main parts
of speech are readily identifiable. This means that it is clear
from a text whether a particular word is a verb, a noun, or an
adjective, so that often, as the function of a word is known, its
meaning may be inferable from the context even if the word is
new to the reader or listener.
This useful feature was copied by many of the various imitators
of Esperanto which appeared later, and its usefulness was noted
by IALA. The fact that Gode chose to ignore this and the results
of other researches by IALA when formulating his own half-
baked theories, belies the claim that Interlingua was the product
of IALA. A good example of the confusion caused by the
difficulty in identifying parts of speech was one which the
present writer came across in an Interlingua publication where a
translator used the word "placer". As this word ended with one
of the several infinitive endings of the Interlingua verb, he
guessed it to mean "to place". Dr. Gopsill in private
correspondence patronisingly admitted that this was a natural
mistake which might be made by an English speaker unfamiliar
with romance languages.
He forbore to mention that an English speaker familiar with
French, or a francophone, might have thought the word looked
not unlike the French word "placer" which also means "to
place", an Italian speaker might have thought that it looked
rather like the word "placare" which means "to appease", a
Portugese speaker might have taken it for the Portugese verb
"placar", meaning "to soothe or appease". A Spanish speaker
would be led astray by its verbal ending (confusingly enough it
is a verb sometimes, but not in this case) and only if he avoided
this natural error would he be able to guess that the word had the
Page 47 of 127
same meaning as the Spanish word "placer" which is noun
meaning "pleasure". On the other hand, unless it forms another
exception to the pronunciation rules, its pronunciation would
deceive a Spanish speaker and if it follows the exception which
says that foreign words are pronounced as in the original
language the student will then have to find out whether he has to
use the Castilian or the South American pronunciation.
Clearly in order to understand Interlingua without the chore of
learning its ridiculous rules (and the exceptions to those rules
and the exceptions to those exceptions) and its extensive and
complicated vocabulary, one has to know all the main romance
languages and to be able to guess correctly which of them has
been used for each Interlingua word.
Quite apart from the fact that there is no means of differentiating
between a noun and other parts of speech, is the problem of the
plurals. In Esperanto, there is one simple rule for forming the
plural of any noun. In order to form the plural of any noun in
Esperanto one simply adds the letter "-j". Naturally, in order to
form the singular from the plural one simply removes the "-j"
(pronounced like the English letter "y" or like the letter "j" in
German and in the international phonetic alphabet). The plural
is clear from the singular and the singular is clear from the
This is all one needs to learn, but in a feeble endeavour to make
the Esperanto plural appear to have some of the complexities of
the Interlingua plural which we are going to examine, Dr.
Gopsill has invented the idea that there are exceptions to this
rule. In the first place he suggests that the word for "we" should
be the plural of the word for "I" and formed in the above
Obviously he is being led astray by misunderstanding the
grammatical term "first person plural" which does not, of
Page 48 of 127
course, represent the plural of the first person singular. "We"
does not mean "I + I" (in spite of Rastafarian usage). There is
only one of "me", as anyone but a schizophrenic will
acknowledge. "We" means "I and others".
The same error appears in the Concise Interlingua Dictionary
(F.P. Gopsill & B. Sexton) where we read (on p.vii) that the
word "vos" is the plural of "tu" - in which case it should, of
course, be "*tus".
Dr. Gopsill then invents the idea that the word "gepatroj" is
another exception to the normal rule because, according to him,
its singular has to be either "patro" or "patrino". This is exactly
like saying that the English word "parents" is irregular having
for its singular either "father" or "mother" (ILMI. Page l26).
In the words of Lady Bracknell:-
"To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune ... to lose
both seems like carelessness" (Wilde: The Importance of Being
As the Esperanto translation, published as a video film and as a
book in l987 has it:-
"Perdon de unu gepatro oni taksus misfortuno ... sed
perdo de ambaý aspektas kiel malzorgemo".
One can wonder what Lady Bracknell would say about losing
the very word from one's vocabulary in order to make a foolish
point. She might even think the carelessness deliberate.
However, we must now nerve ourselves to take a look at the
Interlingua methods of forming the plural.
At first sight the rules may seem deceptively easy. We are told
to add an "s" to words ending in a vowel and "es" to words
ending in a consonant. This in itself is an unnecessary
complication. Why have two rules when one would do? This is
only the tip of the iceberg. Worse is to come!
Page 49 of 127
As we have noted, if one comes across a word for the first time,
one may come across it in the plural rather than in the singular,
so it is important to be able to backform the singular from the
plural. In Esperanto, as we have seen, this is easy; one just
removes the "j" of the plural and one has the singular. An
Esperanto teacher would not set examination questions by
giving a list of plurals and asking his pupils to find the singular.
The task would be too easy.
However, in ICB Dr. Gopsill has to set just this sort of question
and the very first example he gives (ICB Volume l, Page 2l)
highlights the problem. "What is the singular of "homines"?
The answer is given as "homine", but the boy who hadn't done
his homework might just as well think it was "*homin".
However this is just the start of the difficulties. Worse is to
If a word ends in the letter "-c" its plural has to end in "-ches"
which means that anyone coming across the plural adjective
"blanches" will not know whether the singular adjective is
"blanc", "blanche" or "blanch" let alone know how to pronounce
Sometimes a singular form is used where the meaning is
intended to be plural (ICB Pt 2, p.l38) creating another source of
confusion. These aren't the only problems. What would you
take to be the plural of the Interlingua word "biscuit" or "test".
Obviously the rules would tell us that the plurals are "biscuites"
and "testes". However we would be wrong, the plurals are
"biscuits" and "tests" on the grounds that these words are
derived from English. It would appear that all words which are
classed as "loan" words or "foreign" words are to be given the
plurals as well as the pronunciations that they have in the
language from which they are taken. Accordingly the plural of
"kimono" has to be "kimono" (we are not told whether this word
is to be given its English or its Japanese meaning) but the plural
Page 50 of 127
of "concerto" has to be "concerti", while for some
unaccountable reason the plural of "casa" has to be "casa" (ICB
Pt. 2 P.l85).
The situation is not made any easier by the fact that where the
plural adds a syllable, we find that the stress has to be the same
as the singular of the word, thus making yet another exception to
the highly complicated rules of pronunciation.
We can sum this up by saying that when learning an Interlingua
word, the student has to learn which language the word is
derived from and how the plural is formed in that language.
After all, every word in Interlingua is a loan word or a foreign
word. In short, Interlingua's claim to being natural is patently
false. There is nothing natural about artificially importing into a
system which should be planned to be easy, unnatural
difficulties just in order to imitate the fact that irregularities
appear in ethnic languages. Indeed the natural tendency in
ethnic languages to become more regular, not less, in actual use.
Every language must have an accusative! That is to say, every
language must have some way of signifying the object of a
transitive verb. This is illustrated by the old journalistic cliche
which differentiates between "dog bites man" and "man bites
There are a number of way of indicating these accusatives, a
flexional language often changes the endings of the noun.
Another alternative is to use a preposition, as in Hebrew, or a
post-position as in Japanese. Sometimes the accusative noun is
totally different from the noun used to show the subject, as in
"She loves me" and "I love her".
Page 51 of 127
The journal Esperantologio published the results of a survey by
Professor Gaston Waringhien, covering the use of the accusative
in practice in several ethnic languages and also in whatever
publications could be found of a few interlanguage projects.
This survey showed that the positional accusative such as that
used in Interlingua repeatedly led to errors and ambiguities, an
example being a six word sentence in Interlingue which could
be interpreted in six different ways.
As the romance languages, like English, usually use a positional
accusative, it appears "natural" to a person having little
linguistic experience outside those languages to use a positional
accusative. However, there are a number of serious drawbacks
to this sort of accusative arising out of the fact that it forces the
user to use a fixed word order which makes sentence
construction much less flexible. It is easy to make an error, so
that even those West European languages which use the word
order form of accusative have to have other ways of expressing
the accusative for some words.
Further the fixed word order accusative is a serious hindrance to
simultaneous translation, where translations have to be made
between languages which do not use the same word order. It
also means that more than one way has to be adopted for
forming questions in a language which sometimes uses a change
of word order to form the question.
The Interlingua student has therefore to learn two, three or four
different ways of forming questions (Dr. Gode's Grammar is
ambiguous about the use of "an" and its synonym "esque").
In addition Esperantists sometimes use the accusative to show
an omitted preposition. You do not have the problem that you
have in Interlingua of remembering whether the verb is
transitive or intransitive, e.g., "reply to (or answer) a question"
can be "respondi al demando" or "respondi demandon".
Page 52 of 127
This is a particularly useful device where the word "al" (to) is
La hundo saltis sur la tablo. The dog jumps on the table.
(i.e., The dog which is on the table jumps)
"La hundo saltis sur la tablon" (instead of "al sur la tablo").
The dog jumps onto the table.
This technique would save any Interlingua student the chore of
learning lists of idiomatic usages such as those in ICB.
Dr. Gopsill claims on Page 129 of ILMI to be able to quote ad
nauseam cases where an experienced Esperantist gets the
accusative wrong but quotes only one alleged case where it is he
who is wrong.
To show his misunderstanding of the concept he attempts
(ILMI, p.121) somewhat arrogantly to show himself better at
understanding Esperanto than the committee who translated the
New Testament. He quotes:-
"Tiun, kiu ne konis pekon, Li faris peko pro ni" 2 Corinthians
5:2l saying that the word "peko" should be "pekon" (i.e.,
Dr. Gopsill, in spite of his theological qualifications, is as wrong
about New Testament translation as we shall see he is with the
Old (see Chapter l2). Presumably he is claiming to know more
than King James' translators who gave the English version as
"He made him to be sin .....".
Similarly he is contradicted by the Bible Societies' "New
International Bible" has "to be a sin" or "to be a sin offering" -
nominative in both alternatives. Even an Interlinguaite should
be expected to know that "to be" (expressed in the English
translation and understood in the Esperanto) is not transitive, so
that the word in question is nominative both in English and
Page 53 of 127
Esperanto. The omission of the verb/copula "to be" would
change the meaning of the sentence in a way which many
Christians might well find offensive ("He made him sin").
Dr. Gopsill also considers that the rule that this form of
accusative cannot be used after the preposition ĉe" (at) to be
illogical (ILMI P. l20). He is probably right that such a rule
would be illogical but it isn't an Esperanto rule. It is one which
he appears to have invented for himself. Plena Analiza
Gramatiko gives "la kato saltis ĉe la muron" as an example of
the correct use of this form of the accusative.
It is a pity that Dr. Gopsill did not bother to learn some
Esperanto before criticising it.
Naturally, in order to impress Western Europeans, Gode opted
for the fixed word order accusative for Interlingua, but of course
it can't be quite as simple as that. Although many pages of ILMI
are devoted to attacking the simple and consistent system
Esperanto has for showing the direct object of a verb, and
arguing for the more difficult method of a rigid word order, the
author has to give up and admit that some words in Interlingua
do have separate accusative forms.
More confusingly, there is, in fact, a sort of prepositive form,
because prepositions are followed by the accusative case for the
first and second person pronouns, but by the nominative case for
third person pronouns. As usual there is an exception, in that
the impersonal third person is treated like the first person for
this purpose. The accusative (or, in some cases, the nominative)
of personal pronouns sometimes function as a dative. What
happens when an adjective has to be treated as a pronoun (see
chapter 10) is not clear but don't forget that the object pronoun
goes before the verb, but follows imperatives and infinitives.
If you don't find these comical tricks with word order easy to
understand and artificial irregularities easy to understand, then
Page 54 of 127
stay in after school and write out a hundred times: "The
infinitive follows the verbs cessar, deber, poter, preferer, vader
and voler and the words vamos and pro". ("Why these and no
others?" "Don't ask impertinent questions boy!")
Page 55 of 127
ADJECTIVES AND ADVERBS
In Esperanto the adjective agrees with the noun, that is to say, if
a noun is plural then the adjective governing it is also plural, if a
noun is accusative then the adjective is also accusative. Persons
without experience in Esperanto, such as Dr. Gopsill, often feel
that this is a disadvantage but prejudice, as usual, is a poor
The erroneous belief is based on a confusion with the situation
in some ethnic languages where the adjective has to agree with
the noun in grammatical gender so that additional information
about the noun has to be available before the adjective can be
properly used. In Esperanto on the other hand, the form of the
adjective simply follows that of the noun which it governs.
There is nothing extra for the student to learn: the rule which
applies to nouns also applies to adjectives and the quasi-rhyme
between noun and adjective makes the sentence-flow so natural
that errors do not occur. The noun-adjective accord makes it
clear which adjective in a clause govern which noun so that the
beginner can normally cast his sentences in the word order of
his native language and there is therefore no need for the
complex regulations which have to be committed to memory in
In practice, then, what is attacked as a complication turns out to
be a simplification which makes the language easier to speak.
The basic rule of Interlingua is that the adjective is invariable so
that a plural adjective (i.e. one describing more than one item) is
not formed in the same way as a plural noun but by now we
know that one thing we can rely upon about Interlingua rules is
that they are unreliable.
Page 56 of 127
First we have to learn the rule that the adjective follows the
noun which it governs then we have to learn a list of adjectives
which are exceptions to that rule. If that unnecessary labour is
not enough, the Interlingua teacher then goes on to say that the
invariant adjective does vary.
If we turn to Page 148 of ICB we find that the plural variant of
the invariable adjective "white" is "blanches". From this, if you
haven't already learned the singular, you have to guess whether
the singular is "blanche" or "blanch" (pronounced "blank" or
"blansh" or perhaps "blantsh"; who can guess?) or "blanc" or
whether it is one of those words where the plural is the same as
Of course, the dyed-in-the-wool Interlingua fanatic will tell us
that you should first have learned which language this adjective
comes from and how it is declined in the original language. Of
course, all this depends on recognising the plural in the first
place - not all Interlingua words ending in "-s" are plurals just as
not all plurals are words ending in "-s". Dr. Gopsill's
explanation for this new exception is that an adjective can be a
pronoun! He gives as an example:-
"in the sentence 'the red ones are dad's', the word "red" is
a pronoun because it stands in the place of a noun which has
just been mentioned".
The word "just" is unexplained, so we don't know how recently
a noun has to be mentioned in order to make an adjective into a
pronoun, but the real puzzle is to most English speakers who
would have assumed that in the example given, the word "red"
is an adjective governing the noun "ones". Even stretching
meaning a little to refer to "ones" as a pronoun still leaves "red"
as an adjective. We are then told that the most common
adjective pronouns are to do with counting "un, omne, ambe,
itere, nulle, multe, alicuno". Apart from the unusual accentation
on " itere" (which is indicated by a supposedly non-existent
Page 57 of 127
acute accent), we find that "nulle" is a synonym for "nemo".
We are then told that:- "As in English", (!) "any adjective
can also be a noun" and in this case if it is masculine or neuter
it ends in "-o" and if feminine it ends in "-a"
Apart, of course, from those in the list of irregular forms!
In addition, of course, they also have plural forms some regular,
The result of the above mish-mash is that the so-called
invariable adjective varies according to whether it is masculine
singular, masculine plural, feminine singular, feminine plural,
neuter singular or neuter plural. The singular, except when it is
irregular, sometimes ends in an "o" and sometimes in "a"
according to gender and the plurals suffer the anticipated plural
irregularities. Even that is not the whole story because yet more
exceptions to these ridiculous rules follow. Adjectives ending in
"-e, -ow, and -r, -el, and -or" are exceptions to these exceptions
because they stay the same when they are used as nouns.
However, there are exceptions to the exceptions to the
exceptions because past participles in "-ate" and "-ite"
apparently do not stay the same although they end in "e" and the
word "car" (which breaks the IALA rule about mono-
significance by meaning either "expensive" or "beloved"
depending on whether it is before or after its noun), although
ending in "r", adds an "a" or an "o" except, of course, when it
doesn't, thus becoming an exception to the exception to the
exception to the exceptions.
We also find that there is a rule about word-order with regard to
the adjective in that once again a sentence or clause must be
frozen into a pattern in that the rule is that the adjective must
follow the noun, except, once again, in those cases where it
doesn't (such as "tote" which precedes the noun and "car" which
Page 58 of 127
as we have seen changes its meaning depending on whether it
precedes or follows the noun).
As if all these artificial irregularities were not confusing enough,
we also find that words which we first learn as pronouns
suddenly turn into adjectives so that the word for "he", for
example, can sometimes mean "that". One of the things which
assist Esperanto simultaneous translation, is the fact that you can
put the adjective wherever it makes sense, thus normally the
interpreter can usually follow the sentence pattern of the original
speaker. In Interlingua this just wouldn't work. You would have
to keep thinking of the rules but, as we now come to expect,
there are exceptions to the word-order rules so that in every
sentence you have to think out whether the adjective you are
using is one of those on the list of exceptions.
To make the matter even more difficult, we have seen that there
are special rules regarding the order of words in sentences which
have pronouns. This leads us to ask whether the adjective
pronoun has to be remembered as an exception to the rule of the
complex pronoun word-order or whether it is just an exception
to the complicated rules of the adjective word-order. It is now
clear why even Gode thought of Interlingua as a system for
written rather than oral communication (Large: The Artificial
Language Movement p.153)
A useful device in Esperanto is that nouns can turn into
adjectives by using the adjective ending "-a" instead of the noun
ending "-o", e.g.:-
sun = sun-o sunny = sun-a
brother = frat-o fraternal = frat-a
east = orient-o oriental = orient-a etc., etc.
However you can't have anything as straightforward as that in
Interlingua! With his usual disdain for natural simplicity, Gode
Page 59 of 127
abitrarily decreed that in Interlingua you have to guess the
correct suffix out of a long list containing "-al", "-il", "-ile", "-
ose", "-ic", "-in", "-ian", “-iante”, “-ante", "-ual", "-estre", "-
erne", etc., etc. Only one of them will be correct in any one case
and there are about thirty of them, following no discernible
pattern, most deforming the root but some leaving it intact, as if
Gode could not make up his mind whether he was aiming at an
inflected or agglutinative system.
To try and justify this confusing plethora, ILMI claims
(incorrectly, as usual) that Esperanto uses some of them. Of
course some of these groups of letters may appear in Esperanto
words but not functioning as suffixes to turn nouns, etc., into
A typical example given in ILMI (on p.124 and with customary
repetitiousness on p.159) is the word "universala" meaning
"universal". This word, however, does not contain a suffix!
There is also an adjective "univers-a" (from the noun "univers-
o") which can also be translated by the English word "universal"
but this is a totally different word not, as Dr. Gopsill would have
us believe, a subtle nuance, the two English homonyms being
related etymologically not semantically. ILMI itself has an
example which proves this!
On page 129 we are told that the Interlingua suffix “-esime" is
universal. Are we to infer from this, that throughout the universe
in every planet of every star system of every galaxy there are
beings using Interlingua? Even the most fanatical devotee of
Gode is not likely to go quite so far as to expect this. Clearly the
word is being used in the sense of "universala" but not of
"universa" and English no more holds to the IALA/Gopsill
principle of monosignificance than does Esperanto or any other
Page 60 of 127
Just as an Esperanto noun can be turned into an adjective by
adding an "-a" to the stem instead of the "-o", a noun or an
adjective can be turned into an adverb (where sense permits) by
simply adding an invariant "-e" to the stem. This is
approximately like adding "-ly" to many English adjectives in
order to form an adverb but in Esperanto it is used more
consistently and is a simple way of cutting down the amount of
vocabulary which needs to be learned because only one root
needs to be learned from which one can form nouns, adjectives
or adverbs. Although this device can be used for turning nouns
or adjectives into adverbs, the so-called rule that every adverb
must end in "-e" exists only in Dr. Gopsill's imagination. There
are a few adverbs which, not being formed from nouns or
adjectives, do not end in the letter "-e".
Interlingua has a similar device but, as usual, it is used badly.
There are two adverbial suffixes "-amente" used after words
ending in "-c" and "-mente" to be used on other occasions. As
we have seen in Chapter 9 it is not always possible to know
when a word ends in "-c" but in addition we have the
circumstance that if an adverb ends in "-camente" there is no
way of telling from the adverb whether the original adjective
ended in "-c" or "-ca".
In a desperate endeavour to turn readers attention away from the
difficulties of the Interlingua adjectives and adverbs, Dr.Gopsill
tries to attack the straightforward Esperanto system by saying
(ILMI p.108) Dr. Zamenhof used the adjective "tuta" on p. 274
of "Fundamenta Krestomatio" where the adjective "tute" might
be preferable. Oh calamity! Interlingua, he implies is proof
against typographical errors.
Any reader who is impressed by Dr. Gopsills amazing assiduity
in reading through a 446 page book to find this error would be
less impressed if he looked at the work in question! The page
number quoted shows that the 17th edition (the latest at the time
ILMI appeared) is the one used. If Dr. Gopsill had asked a
Page 61 of 127
competent person to translate the preface to that edition for him,
he would have that found errors and stylistic archaisms in the
original editions had been deliberately copied from the first
edition. The article in which the misprint (for such it clearly it
was) appears is a transcript of a report read by Louis de
Beaufront in 1900 to the French Association for the
Advancement of Science and the trivial error is corrected in a
footnote. Had Dr. Gopsill been able to read beyond the second
word of that footnote, he would have found that the correct
phrase occurred in the text of the report just a few pages later.
We know that Dr. Gopsill had not read the whole of the footnote
because he surely would not be deliberately trying to mislead his
readers, would he? Perhaps he was again relying on information
given by Ric Berger.
COMPARITIVES AND SUPERLATIVES
Returning to the curious Interlingua adjective and adverb
system we find that, in reality it is far from error-proof. In fact
there is, as usual, the usual crop of misleading exceptions to be
learned when we go on to comparatives and superlatives.
In Esperanto, the comparative and the superlative of the
adjective and those of the superlative are formed in the same
way. Just two words to learn and you have the lot.
Of course, this would not do for Gode! We start with two
words "plus" for "more" and "minus" (which itself is an
exception to the pronunciation rules) for "less. We are then told
that the "le" (which sometimes means "he" and sometimes is
one of the definite articles) turns the comparative into a
superlative; so that "le plus bon libro" means "the best book"
rather than "the better book" which is not necessarily the same
thing. To make up for this confusion, or to complicate it still
further, Interlingua had to have an absolute superlative in order
to go one better. "Bonisime" presumably means "the most
Page 62 of 127
bestest" and to add to the chaos, the suffix "-isime" (or "-
issime") is yet another irregular pronunciation. This might also
be "meliorissime" or "meliorisime" as some of the comparatives
have alternative forms to be learned.
After all this, nobody would expect the comparison of adverbs
to be free of complications. You may have thought that the
comparative of the adverbial form of "bon" would have to be
either "plus bonamente " or "plus melior" or "melioramente",
but one artificial complication is never enough for Interlingua
and you must now learn two more: "plus ben" and "melior"
Page 63 of 127
THE DEFINITE AND INDEFINITE ARTICLES
The definite article in Esperanto is "la", the equivalent of the
word "the". For euphony it can (although it never has to be)
abbreviated to " l’ ” after a preposition which ends in a vowel.
The elision is occasionally used in poetry but there is never any
compulsion to use it, so that when Dr. Gopsill invents such
foolish forms a "l' radi' " and "l' lingvi" on their own (ILMI
p.159) he is unable to cite any Esperanto text in which they have
appeared or give any reason why anyone should want to use the
phrases which he has made up. They are not forbidden by any
esoteric rule of Esperanto but simply by ordinary common
One could of course say "de l' " for "de la" but Dr. Gopsill
cannot criticise this as Interlingua does the same thing.
Dr. Gopsill who likes to have things both ways attacks
Esperanto for having a definite article and also attacks it for not
having an indefinite article. He also suggests (ILMI p.110) that
"one" (which one?) "would expect " to find a plural definite
article "*Laj" on the grounds of his apparent belief that the
definite article is an adjective.
Clearly it is not. In fact, semantically speaking the definite
article is not really a word at all. "Word" may be defined as "the
minimum free form" and the article is not a free form in that it is
never found on its own; an adjective or noun always follows it,
unless, of course, it is the referent rather than the afferent.
Accordingly the article can best be thought of analytically as a
sort of prefix, as it is, for example, in Hebrew. In his fanatical
Interlinguaist zeal for unnecessary complications Dr. Gopsill
Page 64 of 127
"it seems” (to whom?) “ incompatible" (with what?) " to
distinguish between males and females in nouns and between
males, females and things in the pronouns in case and number,
but to make no differentiation at all in the article (ILMI P 111)."
Presumably Dr. Gopsill thinks that Esperanto should have as
many forms of the definite articles as Interlingua has, but his
book is written in that incompatible language, English!!
The definite article did not appear in the earliest drafts of
Esperanto, but was added when it appeared to be useful. Indeed,
for the benefit of persons to whom the article is a novel concept,
the rules of Esperanto permit it to be omitted altogether. Oddly
enough this cautious permission does not appear to be used in
practice, even by those whose native language does not include
any article; so that it is obvious that it is useful and easy to learn.
In fact, languages, which do not have a definite article often, use
words to take its place. For example, in Japanese the words
"ano", "kono" and "sono" are frequently used where English
would use a definite article and when Latin is employed, as in
Papal Encyclicals, "hic" etc., can fulfil the same function.
In his futile attempt to defend the idea of plurality for a definite
article, Dr. Gopsill cites Hebrew saying that the vowel pointing
changes in some cases where the plural of a word using a
definite article appears (ILMI, p.111). Apart from contradicting
his assertion that Semitic languages do not have a definite article
(ILMI p.110) this is sheer obfuscation. The change in the vowel
pointing is nothing to do with the definite article as the vowel
pointing in these words changes whether or not the definite
article is present. The pointing under the consonant representing
the definite articles varies for reasons of euphony not
However, alas, we can't put it off any longer. We must now
have a look at the Interlingua form of the definite article.
Page 65 of 127
At first sight the definite article looks normal enough as "le".
We then find after "de" it becomes simply the letter "l",
although Dr. Gopsill finds this usage illogical when it appears in
Esperanto (ILMI p.159 )
On other occasions the definite article becomes called "an
articular pronoun", where it may be "lo, la, le, las, les or los" and
"lo" has to be used with certain verbs "to complete the sense"
(which is complete nonsense). Just to complicate things a little
bit more, the word "la" also means "there" or "her" and when we
find that one form of the definite article can sometimes mean
"he", we begin to wonder whether Gode was just playing a
practical joke on would-be translators!
When it comes to the indefinite article there is no difficulty in
Esperanto. Esperanto hasn't got an indefinite article. Although
attacking Esperanto for having a definite article, Dr. Gopsill also
attacks it for not having an indefinite article (ILMA Page 110).
He states incorrectly that Zamenhof, at times found it necessary
to use a substitute for an indefinite article and quotes the
sentence from an early set of exercises (the "Exercaro)" which
reads "Unu virino havis du filinojn". For some reason Dr.
Gopsill seems to think that the word "unu" here is an indefinite
article, which merely shows that he has misunderstood the
sentence, which can be quite literally translated into English as
"One woman had two sons".
In the same way, Dr. Gopsill then refers to two passages which
appear in the Esperanto Bible. Dr. Gopsill says :- "Also in
Zamenhof's translation of the Bible he translates the Hebrew
'ish of Genesis 37:l5 as iu viro (a certain man) but in l Kings
22:34 translates it as unu viro (one man). In neither text is
there a need for the idea of one, so Zamenhof must be be
unwittingly using the indefinite article." Now one doesn't have
to have Dr. Gopsill's degree in theology to realize that he has
carefully cited only one word of the original Hebrew and cited it
out of context. The original passages read as follows:-
Page 66 of 127
"Vajimat soehu iŝ v'hine toe basode vajisolehu ha'iŝ leemor: Ma
tvahas" (Genesis 37:15) and:-
"v'iĥ mosaĥ bakeset l'tumo vajake es hameleĥ jisrael" (1
I have transliterated using an approximate phonetic
transliteration based on the Esperanto letters rather than the one
conventionally used for Biblical Hebrew. The passages also
show the use of the definite article and the accusative prefix.
The context of the sentences in both cases make it quite clear
that more than the indefinite article is needed to translate these
passages, as is clear both from the King James' version and the
more accurate Soncino translation. The King James' translation
translates the first passage as "And a certain man found
him......" and the second passage as:- "And a certain man
drew a bow at a venture and smote the king of Israel" . The
Soncino version goes even further and has marginal notes which
explain the reason for particularising each of the two men.
Zamenhof's doctorate was not theological but medical but the
score appears to be:-
Dr. Zamenhof 2
Dr. Gopsill 0
On the other hand one must be impressed by Dr. Gopsill's
erudition in studying the "Ekzercaro" so thoroughly and reading
the Esperanto Bible so carefully to find these alleged errors. A
less scrupulous researcher might just have looked at page 441 of
the 17th edition of Fundamenta Krestomatio (see Chapter 11)
where, by a very strange series of coincidences, just those three
particular examples of the alleged use of an indefinite article are
Dr. Gopsill has not read the page in question. If he had read it he
would have known that what he believes to be errors were not
errors at all but deliberate stylistic points. He would certainly
not deliberately mislead his readers, would he? Would he?
Page 67 of 127
However, having dealt with Dr. Gopsill's self-contradictory
prejudices against Esperanto, we must unfortunately look at the
Interlingua version of the indefinite article which mirrors the
definite by having several forms "un, une, uno, una, unes, unos.
unas". Just to add to the confusion, Dr. Gode then arbitrarily
decided that the indefinite article had to be the same word as the
name for the first cardinal number, which is not the same thing
at all. As always, Dr. Gode has preferred unnecessary
complexities to natural simplicity. .
Page 68 of 127
NUMBERS AND NUMERALS
In Esperanto the numbers are reduced to simplicity. The first
ten numbers are "unu, du, tri, kvar, kvin, ses, sep, nau, dek". As
in several other languages all other whole numbers up to 99 can
be formed from these ten by simple juxtaposition, just as is done
in writing down the arabic numerals. For example, eleven is
"dek unu", sixteen is "dek ses" and so on. Multiples of ten are
"dudek, tridek, and so on.
This means that only ten words have to be learned in order to
enable you to count up to 99.
One more word and you can count up to 999 if you like.
Another, and you can go as far as 999,999.
As one would expect, such a straightforward system, although
just like that which is used in most ethnic languages, is too easy
to be permitted by the Interlingua fans.
They have to have separate words for the multiples of ten. This
means that although, as we have seen, the Esperanto student
needs only to learn twelve words in order to be able to identify
any number up to 999,999 anyone condemned to learn
Interlingua would have to learn twenty-one words just in order
to count up to 99 (there being two different words for "nine").
The only justification which Dr. Gopsill can give for this
unnecessary complication is that someone might be confused if
they heard a list of Esperanto words read out carelessly (as if
that didn't apply to any language system whatsoever, including
Interlingua, as the examples given show (ILMI p.128)). Also
that a German speaker might be confused between the
translation for "dreizehn" and "dreisig"!
Page 69 of 127
One wonders what a maths teacher would think of someone
who suggested that we should use Roman numerals for
arithmetic rather than the "barbaric" indo-arabic ones on the
grounds that someone might mistake 25 for 52. Apparently the
Interlinguaites have not spotted the fact that the Esperanto
words for any number follow exactly the arabic numeral system.
This is particularly useful in the computing world, especially
where speech chips are involved.
One more complication is that numbers below a hundred can
have the word "e" instead of a hyphen (ICB, Part 2, page l83).
The difficulties and anomalies do not just end with the cardinal
numerals. Once again we can contrast Esperanto with
Interlingua. Cardinal numbers do not use the adjectival ending.
In spite of Dr. Gopsill's erroneous belief (ILMI p.128), they are
not true adjectives as any mathematician will point out. They
are a sort of hybrid between an adjective and a noun often (but
not always) used in apposition. One can only wonder where Dr.
Gopsill thinks the nouns are in the English sentence "Two and
two are four".
Ordinal numbers are, however, adjectives and to form an ordinal
numeral in Esperanto one simply adds the adjectival ending "-a"
to the cardinal. In other words, thirty-five is "tridek kvin" and
thirty-fifth is "tridek kvina". That is all the beginner has to
learn, but the poor Interlingua pupil couldn't expect to get off so
To learn the first ten ordinals he has to start by learning ten new
words and to distinguish confusing near-homonyms
(e.g."quatro" means four but quatre means a quarter or fourth).
For multiples of ten, he has to use what Dr. Gopsill calls the
Page 70 of 127
Again one can only wonder what he means by the word
"universal". Even Interlingua only uses this suffix for multiples
of ten. In a weird attempt to justify this idiosyncratic use of the
word "universal", IlMI tells us that that Esperanto uses the same
suffix in the word "infinitezima" (p.129) which would appear to
suggest that Interlinguaites believe "infinitesimal" (we are not
told the Interlingua for this word) to be an ordinal!
Of course even these unnecessary complications were not
enough for Dr. Gode. Perhaps one should expect royalty to be
an exception to normal rules and here the exception is that
royalty are to be named not by the ordinal numerals but by the
cardinal ones, so that Louis XIV is not Louis Dece-quarte but
The expected unnecessary exception to this exception is that
ordinals not cardinals are to be used by the first bearer of each
name, with a further rule (an exception to the exception to the
exception, no less!) that in this case the word "first" is translated
not by "Prime" but by "Primo" or "Prima".
This highlights yet another exception. In accordance with the
basic principles of Interlingua, one should expect the dyed-in-
the-wool Interlingua fanatic to use Roman numerals at all times
rather than the unGodely barbarian Indo-Arabic numerals which
should be anathema to them, just like the non-Roman sciences
such as algebra. However, once again there is an exception and,
judging by the page numbers in Interlingua publications, they
were permitted to use the more modern type of number.
Naturally there is one more exception to the exception in that
royalty are named in Roman numerals, so that the Louis XIV
becomes "Ludovico XIV. It is noteworthy here that in spite of
Dr. Gopsill's view that translation of a personal name is for
some reason impolite "The Interlingua version of the names of
kings and queens can replace the form of the original language"
(ICB Page 178).
Page 71 of 127
An additional difficulty is caused here also by the fact that
numbers below one hundred can have the letter "e" instead of
the hyphen so that "fourteenth" can be "deceequatro" (watch that
pronunciation!) while "one hundred and fourteenth" must be
"cento dece-quatro" or "centena dece-quatro" or "cento
deceequatro" or "centena deceequatro".
Adverbial ordinals, are formed from ordinals (although again
we have to learn two different forms for these - ICB vol. 2
So are fractions, which in Interlingua are confused with
ordinals. No wonder Dr. Gopsill thinks "infinitesimal" is an
ordinal! Even here the work is doubled as there are two
different forms for each fraction even before we start on
decimals. Why on earth didn't Gode ask a mathematician - or
even a schoolchild?
In addition to the fact that some numbers, as we have seen, have
at least two different forms, there is another anomaly to be
learned in that the word "half" also has two different forms both
of which form further exceptions to the general rules.
As for quarters don't forget to differentiate between quatro,
quatra and quatre when the accent is on the first syllable.
Time causes more confusion because cardinal numbers are used
with the plural noun so that "sex horas" means "six o'clock" as
well as "six hours". (Incidentally there was once an Interlingua
newsletter which appeared bi-monthly. Just as well it failed.
English speakers today might be embarrassed to be seen reading
a publication bearing the legend "Sex vices per ano". (So much
for immediate comprehensibility!). Try differentiating between
Page 72 of 127
"I'll see you in (i.e. after) six hours" and "I'll see you after six
But, on second thoughts, perhaps that should wait until we have
looked at perhaps the worst grammatical monstrosity of all, the
Interlingua verb "system".
Page 73 of 127
In many, perhaps most, languages, the student's real problems
begin when he has to tackle the verbs. Having seen how Dr.
Gode and his followers managed to complicate other parts of
speech, the wary student will approach the Interlingua verb with
a trepidation which will not prove groundless.
Just to see how the learning of the verb can be simplified we can
take a look at the Esperanto verb. The Esperanto common noun,
(like the adjective) consists of two parts, the stem, which
contains the semantic content, and the termination showing
grammatical function, e.g., the word "help" is "help-o" and the
adjective is help-a (helpful). The verb follows a similar pattern
so that the verb "to help" is "help-i", the "help-" showing the
meaning and the "-i" showing that we are dealing with the
infinitive of a verb.
Of course, it is no co-incidence that in the Esperanto words
shown above the root is the same, so that wherever the sense
permits a verb can be turned into a noun (or for that matter an
adjective - see Chapter 11) and a noun can be "verbed".
Of course, common sense must prevail. There is no rule that the
Esperantist must invent Gopsillian grotesqueries in defiance of
common sense. However, the method does help considerably to
cut down the amount of vocabulary that the beginner has to
learn. From the infinitive it is easy to form the present tense, as
Page 74 of 127
mi help-as I help
vi help-as you help
li help-as he helps etc.
There is no need for the verb to vary (like the English "help",
"helps") and that's all there is to it. There is only one
conjugation and no irregular verbs. From the above you can
now form the simple present tense from the infinitive of any
Esperanto verb. There are no irregular verbs, not even the verb
The simple past tense is just as easy. This time you add the
syllable "-is" to the root so that you have:-
mi help-is I helped
vi help-is you helped
li help-is he helped
and so on
The future tense is no more difficult.
This time the syllable to be added to the root is "-os".
So far so good! One conjugation only, so that from the above
you have now learned, if you didn't already know it, how to
form the past, present and future from the infinitive of any verb
in the language.
For greater precision though, other means are available. For
example there is a difference in English between sentences like:-
Page 75 of 127
"I eat my dinner every day" and "I am eating my dinner at this
"I shall be going out when you will be coming in"
does not have quite the same meaning as:-
"I shall go out when you come in".
Such great precision, when required, needs the use of
participles and the system of participles in Esperanto is easy.
The indicative participles are as follows:-
present participle help-anta
past participle help-inta
future participle help-onta
The passives are:-
The regularity of the above makes them easy to learn because of
the following symmetry:-
Page 76 of 127
Indicative Active participle Passive participle
Present -as -ant-a -at-a
Past -is -int-a -it-a
Future -os -ont-a -ot-a
There is only one auxiliary verb, namely the verb "esti" which
means "to be".
Of course, so long as sense permits, any version, past, present or
future, of the verb "esti" can be matched with any of the six
participles, thus there are eighteen possible compound tenses
available if required before we even get on to the conditional
and the imperative, but this gives the learner no problem, if he is
He doesn't have to learn them separately because they all fall
into the above scheme and with very little practice they become
second nature to use.
The hyphens inserted in the above are for clarification only, they
are not needed in practice and the examples given are adjectives;
naturally they can be turned into adverbs or nouns (the noun
form referring to a person or persons) if the user wishes, with no
lack of clarity and nothing extra to learn.
Such precision is sometimes necessary, for example, in
commercial contracts, as the international lawyer Professor Ivo
Lapenino pointed out. Consider the difference between paying
for a house "when it has been built", "when it is being built" and
"when it is going to be built". Obviously similar precision is
Page 77 of 127
frequently required in scientific work and the above system is a
comparatively simple way of achieving it.
Now of course the ease of the above must have been anathema
to the dyed-in-the-wool partisan of the Interlingua cult. The
Interlingua student mustn't be allowed to get off so easily, so
let's see how Gode has managed to make life more difficult.
To start with there are three conjugations, so that the infinitive
can end in "-ar, -er, and -ir". This alone makes the verb difficult
enough. Anyone who has learned a foreign language will know
that it is frequently more difficult to remember the ending than
the stem. You may remember that the verb "to sleep" is "dorm-"
plus something or other but is it "dorm-er" or "dorm-ar" or
"dorm-ir"? Apart from the difficulty of remembering the correct
vowel, there is the fact that speakers of several languages have
difficulty with words ending in the consonant “r”
We then find that sometimes for some reason an "-e" has to be
added to the infinitive, just to make the learning task just a little
Passing this riddle we look at the method of forming the present
tense from the infinitive. If you get the infinitive right you might
get the present tense of regular verbs right because you usually
form it by removing the "r" of the infinitive but, curiously
enough, the imperative is formed in the same way. This is one
trap for the unwary (especially as you later have to learn that
there is also another way of forming the imperative). To
complicate things further the present tenses of “vader ,esser”
and “haber” form further exceptions being “va ,es” and “ha”
"Esser" presents another alternative when in the present tense,
because it has a plural present tense, namely "son".
Page 78 of 127
The problems get even murkier when we look at the present
participle. To match the three forms of the infinitive there have
to be three present active participles, namely "-ante","-ente" and
"-iente", with the usual anomaly that some verbs in the "-ir"
conjugation have an irregular present participle formed as if
they were in the "-er" conjugation.
However, when you get the past participles there are only two.
The past participle of the "ar" conjugation is "-ate" but the past
participle of both the "-er" and the "-ir" conjugations is "-ite".
Once again we can see that Interlingua is clearly intended as a
classroom project rather than one for use in real life. In a
classroom one may be introduced to the infinitive and told to
form other parts of speech from it, but in real life one might for
instance come across a past participle first. Coming across a
word like "dormite" one would have no way of knowing
whether it was one of the "-ir" or the "-er" conjugation, and so
one would not be able to form its present tense.
Finding the past participle "audite" you might think that its
infinitive is "auder". It isn't. It's "audir", from which you will of
course assume the infinitive of "vidite" is "vidir", but no, it isn't.
Hard enough so far, but there are still more problems. Again,
worse is to come!
Because there are only present participles and past participles
but no future participles and the active past participles have to
act as passive participles, there have to be three auxiliary verbs,
all of which are irregular. The usual past is an imperfect and the
future is formed from the infinitive but breaks the Interlingua
Page 79 of 127
rule about "natural" accent by shifting stress, as does the
conditional "tense", although in the latter case there has to be a
additional way of forming the conditional with yet another
There are also perfect, pluperfect and future perfect tenses,
which the future perfect and conditional perfect tenses all
dependant upon manipulation of the participles and one of the
auxiliary verbs, although there are two different ways to be
learned for forming the conditional perfect. To form a passive
you have to use a different auxiliary verb, but you have to use it
with a past participle, so that the present passive has to use not a
present participle but a past participle. Easy enough (perhaps) if
you know English, which uses a similar principle, but quite a
difficult concept for anyone whose native language doesn't have
this illogical complexity. In an endeavour to mitigate the
difficulties of the Interlingua passive, Dr. Gopsill complicates
things further. We are told (ICB Part 2 p.193) we should use
reflexive pronoun. Instead of “Le porta esseva claudite” . Does
this mean “The door was being closed” or “The door was (had
been ) closed”? Presumably instead of “The bread was eaten”
we have to say “The bread ate itself”.
Just to make things even harder, the verb “haber” which usually
means “to have” often means “to be” even when it is not being
used ( using itself ?) as an auxiliary!
Of course, as we have seen, many ethnic languages have
complications of this sort, which arise as a result of historical
accidents. Nevertheless we find in languages which are used the
tendency to become simpler so that new verbs, for example,
.which are introduced tend to be regular rather than to follow an
unnecessary irregular pattern.
Esperanto shows that it is possible for a verb system to be fully
expressive while not making huge demands on the person
learning the language. There was no excuse for Gode to
Page 80 of 127
introduce anomalies into his system making it a patchwork of
artificial difficulties, except for his desire to baffle anyone
whose native language was outside the scope of his elite
minority. Interlingua therefore could never to be anything more
than an artificial imitation language, ignoring the results of the
researches of IALA and the practical experience of Esperantists
and other interlinguists.
Romance languages have complex verbs because of historical
accidents. To copy such complexities into a system which is
supposed to be easy to learn doesn't make the system easier for a
speaker of Romance languages, and complicates it enormously
for others, and is unforgivable in a planned system.
Page 81 of 127
Prepositions do not give trouble in Esperanto. They are used in
the same way as prepositions and similar particles are used in
other languages. Obviously in all languages prepositions may
be misused or may be used in an ambiguous way. Naturally an
English speaker would be misunderstood if he said, "the book is
on the box" when he meant to say, "the box is on the book".
Again there is an ambiguity in the statement "the boy runs in the
house". That one can mean either "the boy is in the house and is
running" or "the boy runs into the house.
More difficulty is caused by the fact that prepositions are
sometimes used outside of their exact meaning. For instance,
the word "on" in the phrase "on the telephone" does not have the
same meaning as it has it in the phrase "on the table".
A language student may have difficulty in deciding whether to
say "in the street", "on the street", or "at the street".
Sometimes prepositions are used in one language where they are
not used in another, particularly after verbs. For instance, in
English we quote "listen to someone", whereas in French no
preposition is used after the verb "écouter".
In Esperanto there are two ingenious devices which solve all
these difficulties. The first of these is a preposition "je" which
does not have a precise meaning assigned to it. It has what in
Page 82 of 127
linguistic terminology may be termed multi-ordinal semantic
content, that is to say, it is a sort of joker or wild card and can be
used to replace any preposition or used where any other
preposition doesn't quite fit. This concept, perhaps startling at
first, is extremely easy to use and has been admired and imitated
even by opponents of Esperanto.
The other device is that, where convenient, one can just miss out
the preposition altogether and put the accusative ending on the
noun which it governs. This is particularly useful in cases like
that mentioned above where one is not sure whether a verb is
transitive like the French "écouter " or intransitive, like its
English equivalent "listen". This gives another reason why the
simply learned Esperanto accusative particle works where the
fixed order complex form of Interlingua would not.
In Esperanto you can't go wrong, but characteristically, Dr.
Gopsill cooks up a couple of phrases where the use of these
devices would be inconvenient or ambiguous. Obviously the
answer is merely not to use the devices in such cases. All the
student of Esperanto needs to do is to learn the prepositions as
part of the vocabulary and use them according to common
sense. Of course, a pragmatic approach like this would not do
for a teacher of Interlingua.
Page 83 of 127
We have seen that the grammar of Interlingua is difficult. Dr.
Gode did not consider that important. Interlingua was not
designed for active use by non-specialists. The totally unnatural
process employed was to choose vocabulary first so as to enable
instant comprehensibility for the educated elite of Romance
polyglots and to cobble together some sort of grammar
But what of this vocabulary? When we look at a specimen of
Interlingua which has not been carefully prepared for
propaganda purposes we find (as Andrew Large points out in
"The International Language Movement") that it is by no means
as easy to understand as the Gode-ians would have us believe,
although such alleged "instant comprehension" is the whole of
A look into Gode's Interlingua-English Dictionary gives the
game away completely. There are masses of both synonyms
and homonyms. Just to get us thoroughly confused you can
even have a pair of synonyms, which forms two pairs of
homonyms. "Nepto" and "nepote" both mean both "nephew"
and "grandchild" - an offence to the science of linguistics and to
that of genealogy as well as an affront to common sense. One
could not say in Interlingua "The son of my sister is not my
grandchild. He is my nephew".
Interlingua has a difficult vocabulary to match its difficult
orthography and grammar and number of words to be known
and recognised is enormous. However simple the grammar of a
language, anyone wishing to use that language actively still
Page 84 of 127
needs to learn a vocabulary. This is the greatest difficulty faced
by language planners.
After some worry about this problem, Zamenhof happened upon
a solution which was suggested to him by the use of suffixes in
the Polish language. This solution was based on a quite natural
system which already exists in incomplete form in many ethnic
languages, namely the use of affixes (which may be prefixes or
suffixes) to form new words. We can illustrate this by examples
taken from English.
An example of a prefix in English is "un-". Knowing this prefix
and learning the word "able", the student is able to recognize the
meaning of the word "unable" without having to learn that word.
Knowing the suffix "-ess" and learning the word "poet" the
student will know, without having to learn it, the meaning of the
This is a useful system and would appear to be common to most
languages but the usual snag is that it only works one way. A
good knowledge of such affixes in English, while enabling the
student to recognise many words which he had not in fact learnt,
does not enable him to create words with any confidence. One
stumbling block is that often the root word is deformed so that,
for example, the student who believes that the female of "actor"
is "?actoress" will be in error and he has to learn the word
"actress" as a new word.
Another difficulty, which is perhaps even more confusing, is
that there may be more than one affix with the same meaning.
Although the opposite of "able", the opposite of "ability" is not
"?unability". The opposite of logical is not "unlogical" or
"?imlogical" but "illogical".
Page 85 of 127
Often compound words in English may be taken from another
language so that the student with a knowledge of English affixes
will be able to understand the word "uneatable" when he comes
across it but will not know the meaning of "inedible" unless he
understands its Latin etymology.
In short, although the affix system in, say, English may be able
to help in the passive recognition of compound words the
student cannot rely on it when he wishes to use the language
actively so that the compounds still have to be learned as
separate words. In Esperanto, however, the affix system is more
consistent and reliable and the affixes can be applied whenever
they make sense. This does not mean, as Dr. Gopsill appears to
imagine, that such affixes must be applied in circumstances
where they are unnecessary or do not make sense. It does mean
that anyone learning five hundred or so root words of Esperanto
can create from them a working vocabulary equivalent to
several thousand words in any other language. At its inception,
the language had a very small vocabulary, and users of the
language were able to create new words from that small
vocabulary. The original small but useable vocabulary was
provided by Dr. Zamenhof. Dr. Gopsill, confusing Esperanto
with Volapük, refers to Dr. Zamenhof as the "datuval" of
Esperanto. "Datuval" was a Volapük word meaning "inventor"
(Dr. Gopsill, getting things wrong as usual, translates this as
"great inventor"). The fact is that Dr. Zamenhof, who claimed
no proprietary rights over Esperanto, pointed out that he was not
the inventor of Esperanto but the initiator of it.
Esperanto, like any other living language, is in a constant state
of being created by its users. As in any other language, creation
can take two forms: the manipulation of existing roots with
affixes or by the use of neologisms, the latter often being
borrowed from other languages, living or dead. Neologisms
which come into general use becomes part of the language and
ones, which are ignored, die out.
Page 86 of 127
Sometimes more than one term may be tried out so that two or
more synonyms may co-exist for a time. When computers first
came into general use, some Esperantists used the term
"komputoro", others used "komputero" but, by general consent,
the current word is "komputilo" which literally means a
computing instrument so that we have, for example, perfectly
natural formations such as:-
"komput-i" = "to compute"
"komput-il-o = "a computer"
"komput-ist-o" = "a person whose profession is the use of the
From to time the Academy of Esperanto may express opinions
or recommendations about such new terminology but there is no
way of enforcing its opinions and Dr. Gopsill's strange belief
that no new word can be used without the permission of the
Academy is a ridiculous fantasy.
The use of affixes is not carried to ridiculous excess and no
Esperantist would use (except perhaps as a joke or when
teaching a beginner) such Gopsillian words as "malnordo" (un-
north) to mean "south" or "malnokto" (un-night) to mean "day".
Commonsense rules! O.K.?
In the early days of Esperanto the word used for a hospital was
"malsan(ul)ejo" (Dr. Gopsill imagines a more complex term),
but today the more usual word is "hospitalo", no doubt thought
to be more convenient and being "international" adopted in
accordance with Rule l5 of the original rules of Esperanto which
recommends the adoption of such international terms. The older
word is still understandable even though it does not have to be
learned, but the more modern word is now more common.
Page 87 of 127
Dr. Gopsill, however, has a more lurid explanation for this
development. He tells us that Esperantists were pressured into
adopting the word "hospitalo". Carefully hiding behind the
passive voice, he does not tell us who did the pressuring or how
the operation was carried out! Perhaps we are supposed to
imagine a band of intrepid Interlinguaist guerillas invading the
mythical head-quarters of Esperanto and taking members of the
Academy hostage until all dictionaries were altered.
Dr. Gopsill appears to understand part of the idea behind the
Esperanto affix system. He says:- "The reason for
adopting mal was to reduce as much as possible the number of
root words, up to 3,000,"(Does he mean "down to 3,000" or "by
3,000" ?) "in order to facilitate memorization of the vocabulary
" (ILMI p.l970). However he then goes on to state:- "A
praiseworthy caution, but in practice the result was to render
the language less comprehensible at first sight and to give the
language an artificial aspect". [ILMI p.l98]. The emphasis,
which I have added ("at first sight", "aspect") give the game
Esperanto does not pretend to be comprehensible at first sight.
Interlingua attempts to be comprehensible at first sight for the
Romance polyglot but pays the price of being extremely
difficult to learn. The aim of Esperanto has always been to be
simple and flexible. This aim it achieves.
As for the artificial aspect, it is noteworthy that Dr. Gopsill does
not say that a regular affix system makes Esperanto artificial.
He considers both Esperanto and Interlingua to be "artificial" by
his definition. He knows that the idea of an affix system is
natural and common to many (if not all) languages. The
artificiality which has crept into ethnic languages consists of the
irregularities caused by accidents of history and etymology. By
Page 88 of 127
speaking of an artificial aspect he is not showing that Esperanto
is artificial but merely that it looks as if it were. In the same
way, of course, an aeroplane may look artificial in comparison
to an eagle but you would neither make it more efficient nor
more aesthetic if you were to stick feathers on the plane's wings.
Dr. Gopsill, then, is not concerned with usefulness or aesthetics
or linguistics but merely with a totally artificial propaganda
trick. No language has ever developed on the basis of whether
its users think it looks like some other language or group of
languages. They develop, irrespective of theoretical
considerations, on the basis of utility.
This point goes to the root of the fallacy that lies behind
Interlinguaite thinking. The proponents of Interlingua purport to
distinguish between naturalistic and schematic systems on the
basis of the former being systems in which grammar is forced to
fit into a prepared vocabulary and the latter where vocabulary
has to fit into existing grammar. A little thought will show these
definitions to be totally misleading.
In the normal usage of the word, all languages are schematic.
You do not have to know "all languages" to realise this.
Without system - without a framework or scheme, which we call
grammar or syntax, - one cannot have a language, but only a list
In the days when Latin grammar was regarded as the basis of all
grammar and was supposed to be known to all literate persons in
Europe, a borrowed Latin word might bring some of its own
grammar with it. For example, when the word formula was
brought into English, it had the Latin plural "formulae". Today
it would be more natural to fit the word into English grammar
Page 89 of 127
with the plural "formulas". It is the insistence on flouting
normal linguistic practice by adopting a "schema" which is
complex and riddled with anomalies and exceptions that is
totally arbitrary and unnatural.
There is nothing natural in attempting to create a system which
is a museum of ancient difficulties. This is not what languages
Oddly enough, Dr. Gopsill does not apply Interlingua thinking
to weights and measures. On page 246 of ILMI, , we read that
(confusing decimalisation with metrication), he believes in a
transition to decimal metrication merely because it is easier and
Obviously in this field he prefers "schematism" to the artificial
conservation of historical complexity which he calls
In spite of all this the Esperanto system of formation of words
by the use of compounds based on affixes has been much
imitated by opponents of Esperanto and to some extent it
appears in Interlingua. Unfortunately because of Gode's dogmas,
he bungled the system so that in Interlingua it just doesn't work.
In the Interlingua Dictionary Dr. Gode gives a list of a
staggering l24 "active" affixes which have to be learnt if one
wishes to use Interlingua actively. Unfortunately, having learned
them, the would-be Interlinguaite would not be able to use them
to form compound words, because they are not consistently
One example given by Dr. Gopsill (ILMI Page 200) is the prefix
"con-" which is sometimes "com-", sometimes "col-",
Page 90 of 127
sometimes "co-". One may be able to recognise these in a text if
one has a sufficiently good knowledge of Latin, etymology and
about half a dozen romance languages, but a person attempting
to write in Interlingua would have no way of knowing which to
The ILMI treatment of the Esperanto prefix "re-" highlights the
fact that the reason why the Interlingua system of using prefixes
and suffixes is useless as an aid to the student. Lack of practical
experience in interlinguistics led Gode and his followers to
confuse two different concepts both of which are called
The term "interlinguistic derivation" refers to the method, such
as that used in Esperanto, designed to assist the student by
enabling him to form compounds from a relatively small
number of words so as to enable the learning of a small
vocabulary to give the word power of a large one.
Etymological derivation is a philologist’s tool for determining
the origin of words. The latter, while an interesting study in its
own right, is of little value to anyone wishing to speak and
It may be interesting to know that the English word "auditor"
comes from Latin expressions meaning "one who has heard" but
this is no guide to the meaning of the phrase "the auditor of
Dr. Gopsill, like Dr. Gode, confuses these two concepts over
and over again, imagining (to give English equivalents of the
words he criticises), that the word "reduce" should because it
begins with the letters "re", mean "duce again"; that recipe
Page 91 of 127
should somehow mean "cipe again"; "recital" - "cital once
more" and "requiem" - "another quiem", and so on.
"If a non-occidental were to see these words for the first
time or if a computer were to be translating the words, there is
every reason to believe that total confusion would set in" (ILMI
p.200). We shall see that this arbitrary belief is contradicted by
Instead of relying on his illogical imagination, Dr. Gopsill
would have done better to enquire (via a competent interpreter
of course) of an oriental Esperantist or study the methods by
which computer assisted translation is carried out. He might
then have seen why Esperanto has made progress where
Interlingua is, as usual, "completely useless".
But worse is to come.
Let us take another example and see what Dr. Gopsill has to say
about the suffix "ad". Although the beginner is not concerned
with linguistic analysis, we can, for this purpose, go along with
Dr. Gopsill's analysis of the suffix as meaning "action",
"duration" or "repetition".
Dr. Gopsill says:-
"Of a consequence "kronado" could mean "coronation" or
"crowning", that is, single or repeated action. Interlingua does
not have one suffix for this one Esperanto suffix, for it uses
"-ion" and "-mento" more or less interchangeably, so "coronar"
gives in theory, and in practice "coronamento" and
"coronation" to mean the same thing. This is not bad thing for
natural languages do not adhere to one or the other suffix
consistently or exclusively, thus Interlingua's flexibility caters
Page 92 of 127
for all the romance languages and allows the language to be
used naturally rather than in a rigidly and arbitrarily fixed
pattern. Interlingua openly admits such doubles having the
same meaning. For an Esperantist to criticize Interlingua for
this is hypocrisy, for Esperanto, as already has been shown, is
unintentionally fraught with such doubles and even multiples,
and where Interlingua does not set out to avoid these,
Esperanto's intention is to give one notion one word and one
word one notion, a dream Esperanto could not fulfil. But
synonyms are no bad element, for they permit variety of
expression and help to avoid repetition and enable stylistic
juxtaposition of ideas". [ILMI p. 202].
We see here that Dr. Gopsill is criticising Esperanto and then
showing that Interlingua is subject to more severe criticism, but
trying to get away with it by talking about "Esperanto's
intention ..... to give one notion one word and one word one
notion". As we have already seen, what Dr. Gopsill calls
"Esperanto's intention" was in fact the intention of IALA, and
with reference to Esperanto it is not "Esperanto's intention" but
Dr. Gopsill's invention.
The Esperantist learning the word "kron-i" can automatically
both recognize and use the word "kron-ad-o" but the poor
Interlingua student has a multiple dilemma. First, he has to
learn that the verb is "coron-ar" and not "coron-er" or "coron-ir".
He next has to learn in this case (but not in others) to add the
present tense ending "-a" to the root before adding one of the
two suffixes "ion" or "-mento". Next we find that in practice he
has to learn that the suffix "ion" is not correct because in this
particular case, although not in others, he has to use the suffix "-
tion". Then he has to check that the letter with which the root
ends is not one of those which has to be changed when
compounds are formed. Worst of all he has to know just who is
going to read his text.
Page 93 of 127
If he uses the suffix "-mento" or "-amento" his text will not be
readable by a Frenchman, if he uses the suffix "ion" or "-tion" or
"-ation" the text will not be readable by, say, an Italian.
We now see that the whole basis of Interlingua, its so-called
immediate comprehensibility, is another fake, except for persons
knowing more than one romance language.
The position is complicated further by the fact that Interlingua
has another synonym to add to the above group in "-ura" which
is used with the stem of words in the "-er" or "-ir" conjugations
Occasionally you have to use the infinitive and sometimes what
appears to be the present tense of the verb for the same purpose
(e.g. "fractura" from the verb "fracturar" the noun formed from
the verb "fracturar" is not "fracturition" or "fracturara" or
"fracturamaento" or any of the other variations on that theme but
"fractura") and sometimes you have to use "-(a)tura" (as in
"signatura" which means, according to the IALA Dictionary not
"a signature" but "the act of signing".
In short, Interlingua does not possess a usable affix system but
merely a pseudo-system more primitive than that of Volapük.
However, in a vain endeavour to make the Esperanto system,
which has proved itself usable in practice, appear to be difficult,
Dr. Gopsill has again "discovered" a non-existent Esperanto
rule. We may call this rule "the rule of reversibility of word
building". He pretends that any root word, which has in it a
syllable, which resembles an affix, should really be a compound
word. This ridiculous suggestion is akin to saying that the
English word "mess", because it ends in "-ess" must logically
mean a female letter "m". That "unless" should be analysed as
"un-less" and being the opposite of "less" must therefore be a
Page 94 of 127
synonym of "more" or even that it should mean the opposite of
the female letter "l".
The author of ILMI has trawled through an Esperanto dictionary
to produce page after page of such pseudo-homonyms (just as
anyone with the patience could do so with an Interlingua
dictionary). However, needless to say, out of over a century of
the use of Esperanto, he has not been able to produce a single
example of any error produced by anyone believing in his
Further, in accordance with another Gopsillian rule (which we
may call "the Rule of Compulsory Error") which says that
whatever can be done must, in defiance of common sense, be
done whether there is a need for it or not, the Interlingua teacher
ingeniously has contrived to produce for his readers the
pseudo-Esperanto word braksegapogilkolektademeco.
He does not pretend to have found this anywhere in Esperanto
literature. Being an honest man, he confesses that he has
invented it himself! You are certainly no more likely to meet it
in Esperanto, than you are likely to meet anywhere, in any
normal English context, an English word such as
unpseudoproantidisestablishmentarianisticalisation (which is
made up entirely of an ordinary legitimate English word and
Nor are you in a normal piece of text in German likely to find
any such "logically-formed" expressions as
"Hottentotenpotentatentantenattentat" or a word like
Naturally, such expressions may be used as jokes or by a teacher
explaining the affix system in any language.
Page 95 of 127
The only justification the author of ILMI can produce for these
absurdities is to pretend that his imaginary pseudo-isomers
would make it impossible to use Esperanto on a computer, a
suggestion so much at odds with the facts that it deserves a
chapter on its own.
Page 96 of 127
THE ROLE OF THE COMPUTER
Long before the popularisation of the computer, the concept of
a translation machine was a staple of science fiction stories.
With the growth in the work done by computers it was
inevitable that an attempt should be made to create such a
machine. In practice the concept proved to be far more difficult
than had been anticipated mainly because the logic of computers
could hardly be expected to take into account the illogic of
human language so that, although strenuous efforts continue to
be made in the field of computerized translation, a more
promising field was that of computer assisted translation.
The high cost of simultaneous translation systems made
investment in experimentation in this field worthwhile. Not Dr.
Gopsill (as usual, ignoring the facts) expressed the opinion in
ILMI that Esperanto was unsuitable for use on the computer.
There is no need to refute his arguments.
By the time his book had been published he was already proved
wrong by the facts, and in l983 in response to a growing number
of enquirers the Esperanto Centre in London reprinted in
booklet form as "Esperanto and Machine Translation" a paper
originally called "Esperanto - the Logical Intermediary" by Ian
D.K. Kelly of Solfield Ltd., Plessey Computer Centre in Surrey.
The most promising systems of computer assisted translation
used Esperanto based systems for the bridge between the source
language and the target language, the best known of these is the
DLT system developed by Danish and Dutch companies and
partially funded by the Dutch government. Another important
use of the computer is in voice synthesis by which text could be
reproduced as spoken words. This would enable speech input to
be achieved from a keyboard and even make the reading
Page 97 of 127
and pronouncing of text from a page of print by use of an
optical character reader. This would enable a blind person to
read an ordinary printed text but for clarity would need a
language with a phonetic alphabet such as that of Esperanto.
The Esperanto speech programme was achieved by a number of
systems such as Esparol produced in Hungary. Evidently Dr.
Gopsill's researches were insufficient to direct his attention to
these systems nor did he apparently know that the
Israeli Esperanto Association was able to provide for the home
user of a personal computer an Esperanto version of the artificial
intelligence programme "Eliza".
Although these facts show that there is no need to refute
Dr. Gopsill's error, it is worth looking at the reasons why
Esperanto is so successful in a vital field for which Interlingua
is, as usual, totally unsuitable. Strangely enough the DLT
method of computer-assisted translation is described in ILMI (p.
23) but Dr. Gopsill does not mention that the DLT method is
based on Esperanto. Instead he hides between his
own misleading terminology and describes the intermediate
language being used as a bridge between source and target
languages as "interlingua" (this time with a small "I
He does not mention Esperanto at all in this context, instead he
says:- "The Interlingual approach involves translation via
an intermediary "universal" language or interlingua as the
medium is called". It will be news to any who have followed
the progress of DLT that Esperanto is called interlingua by
anyone except Dr. Gopsill.
He then says:-
"There are two stages in the translation process;
firstly analysis of the source text and representation to the
Interlingua structures; secondly, synthesis into the target text
from the Interlingua". Here he clearly over-simplifies. In fact
the stages consist of (1) analysis of the source text (2) synthesis
Page 98 of 127
of the bridge text (3) analysis of the bridge text and (4) synthesis
of the target text. Having set out his criteria for the bridge
language he tells us that:- "Such criteria would favour an
international language such as Interlingua but exclude
Volapüüuk". In fact, the opposite is the truth. Whilst it is
possible that a regular system such as Volap\"uk might possibly
be adaptable for the purpose in question, the same arguments
which show Interlingua to be useless as a universal language
apply with even more force to its use in the world of computers,
where Esperanto has already proved its value. Oddly enough
some of the very features which the Interlinguites attack in
Esperanto are the features, which facilitate its use in machine
In the first place, Esperanto has a phonemic orthography in that
each letter of the alphabet corresponds to one phoneme. This
creates the possibility of direct speech input into a computer
from a microphone, one which is now of great importance . The
writer has already experimented with such a system. In the
same way, the ability of a computer to speak text in Esperanto
has been demonstrated to be an actuality. All this is unthinkable
in the case of Interlingua as can be seen from Chapter 9. The
computer could hardly be expected to be programmed to know
which of all the different ways a particular letter can
be pronounced or which letter to use when a phoneme can be
represented in several different ways. Nor can the computer be
expected to understand all the exceptions to stress rules. This
last point might be less important except that in some cases
(e.g., indication of the future tense) the meaning of an
Interlingua word depends on its stress. Similarly the
pronunciation of an Interlingua word sometimes depends on its
etymology and in these cases the human user of the language is
supposed to rely on his prior knowledge of
Romance languages. But this is not all. As usual, worse is to
come! Not only the pronunciation but also the ability to
manipulate the compound words of Interlingua would have to
depend on a prior knowledge of romance languages so that a
Page 99 of 127
computer would have to be provided with a thesaurus
comprising dictionaries of all the romance languages and the
whole of this thesaurus would need to be searched before any
Interlingua affix could be used. We can then see that the many
exceptions and irregularities in Interlingua grammar, which have
already been noted, would fool the most powerful computer. Of
course we can read in ILMI (pp. 140 and 141) that the
Esperanto alphabet produces difficulties on the computer
because its alphabet possesses diacritic signs. Dr. Gopsill
admits:- "One cannot condemn these letters on linguistic
grounds, for there is no linguistic argument against them". He
says that:- "One can condemn them only for their use and
(Does one condemn usefulness?)
So bearing use and usefulness in mind, one can conceive the
difficulty of having to back space on a typewriter or press
special function keys in order to type an unnecessary accent or
the annoyance of having to buy the accented letters for the
typewriter or the appropriate chip for the computer, that is if
they are available".
Leaving aside for the time being the fact that we see that in
practice the Interlingua alphabet possesses diacritic accents, Dr.
Gopsill has already pointed out (p. l40) that:- "Presses,
typewriters and computers without the letters "ĉ", "ĝ", "ĥ", "ĵ",
"ŝ", "ŭ", can use "ch", "gh", "hh", "jh", "sh", "u" ". This option
has been available to Esperantists ever since Esperanto was first
produced. This alone demolishes Dr. Gopsill's
argument. However, a little more can be added. Although the
above option has always been available to Esperantists, there
hasn't been much need of it. There is no difficulty in adding
a "dead key" to any typewriter and most typewriters have
provisions for accents. In any case there is no record of any
printing house wishing to print in Esperanto and being unable to
do so. With the appearance of the modern word processor and
computer, Dr. Gopsill's argument looks even more foolish.
Every computer has the "^" and there is no need for a back
Page 100 of 127
space because the accent can be printed either before or after the
letter which is good enough for the purpose of such matters as
file transfer. For word processing it takes only a few seconds to
adapt the computer. This analysis is being prepared on an
inexpensive word processor without any special chip but there is
no difficulty in producing the letters “ĉ”, “ĝ”, “ĥ”, “ĵ”, “ŝ,”
“ŭ”. It is true that, as I haven't bothered adapting a function key
(as Dr. Gopsill suggests), I have to press two keys in order to
show the letter "ŝ", but I don't think Dr. Gopsill can complain of
this unless he can tell us it takes less than two key presses to
produce the letters "sh" which Interlingua would use for the
same sound. Indeed, it takes two key presses to produce the
Interlingua "th" which has exactly the same pronunciation as the
letter "t" (save for the usual exceptions which we have come to
expect from Interlingua). It is, perhaps, noteworthy that the fact
that Dr. Gopsill's own printers seem to be able to cope with
these letters also contradicts his thesis. Again we find in this
context that elements of Esperanto criticized by the
Interlinguists once more proves to be invaluable. The
agreements of adjective and noun and the vocalic endings
which identify parts of speech give an essential degree of
"redundancy" checking the completeness of transmitted data
(just as they do in human speech). They serve a function
analogous to that of "stop bits" in data transmission. The proof
that Esperanto is possible for word processing and electronic
data transmission is that it already has been and is being used for
these purposes. However, what makes Interlingua unsuitable for
computer assisted translation is its ridiculous grammar and
enormous dictionary. We have seen that its grammar is riddled
with alternative forms and exceptions. Dr. Gode answered all
critics of this by his assumption that anyone learning to use
Interlingua would first have to have a good acquaintanceship
with romance languages. We cannot make the same assumption
for a computer. Without the ability to determine
the unmutilated root from any part of the speech the computer
would be unable to search its vocabulary for any word unless
every possible variant of every word in Interlingua were
Page 101 of 127
separately noted in its thesaurus, every singular, every plural,
every tense and variant of every word would need to be there. A
mammoth task for even the largest main frame and the speed of
dictionary searching would then be cut down to a useless crawl.
Even Volapűk could do better than this. When it came to
synthesis rather than analysis the position would be worse. The
computer again could not be guided by a knowledge of
etymology and of all the romance languages. So far as simple
(i.e., non-compound) words are concerned, those of Interlingua
swell the dictionary to enormous proportions. No language can
be expected to be free of homonyms but the number of
common concepts which are each represented by several words
in Interlingua is ridiculous. As usual, worse is to come! We
now need to look again at the system of compound-word
formation. Essentially this is the same situation as we find in
grammar. Esperanto is basically an agglutinative language
whereas Interlingua is very highly inflected, that is to say, roots
are deformed to accommodate the Latin supine and accidents of
history. Again, to take an example already given, let us look at
the Esperanto word "kronado". A first pass through the
dictionary not revealing a root "kronad-", the computer could
then analyse from a short affix list and find the word "-ad"
showing the root required to be "kron-". In order to synthesize a
similar process (but a little more complicated) could take place,
but the process would not work with Interlingua. What could
you do with the similar Interlingua compound? How would
a computer know that in this case you can't form by the normal
rule "coron-ion"? Among other possibles would be
coronation, coronetion, corontion, coronision,
coronesion, corone, corona, coronmento, coronatura,
coronura and many others, all formed in accordance with the
multitudinous grotesque Gode-esque methods for forming
verbal nouns How would the computer chose? To get this
matter into perspective, let us take a section from the manual of
"SoftSpeak" which is a software program designed to
enable speech output from an ordinary personal computer:-
"You will find that a lot of words have common suffixes
Page 102 of 127
and prefixes. On obvious suffix is "ness" as in "likeness",
"smoothness", etc. If you wish to construct a composite word
using a prefix, the word should be terminated with the
underscore character "_". You will see, in the pre-defined
libraries words such as "pre_" and "post_". You can add these
words to any other without separating them by a space
character, e.g., "pre_face", "post_fix". In the same way as
for prefixes, you can add suffixes to any word. These have a
hyphen as a first character, e.g., -ness, as in like-ness". The use
of the hyphen rather than the underscore is used to distinguish
between a prefix and a suffix. This allows you to construct
many more words than you actually have in your speech library
without using any more memory or disk space. How well
the words and their suffixes (or prefixes) fit together depends
largely on how careful you are with editing. In most cases it
should be possible to make a completely natural sound."
(SoftSpeak Manual Quantech 1991 p.70) Now this program
was not prepared with Esperanto in mind. Nevertheless it is
quite clear that this or any other similarly based computer
programme and Esperanto are ideally suited. This is
highly important because this means that the Esperanto word-
building system is so suitable for a computer that the essential
vocabulary to be searched at any time would be relatively small,
enabling the computer both to synthesize and to analyse any part
of speech, any tense, or any compound word in Esperanto.
Just as we have seen the criticized orthography of Esperanto
is suitable for the computer, we can also see that other criticisms
by the Interlinguaists have again missed their mark, such small
but very useful items as the "wild-card" preposition "je" would
Again the Esperanto way of indicating the direct object of the
verb comes into its own. Because Interlingua has no such
device, the computer would have to cope with the fact that
Interlingua has to rely on a rigid word order. Interlingua,
therefore, could not be used as a bridge language when the
source language and the target language had different word
Page 103 of 127
orders, as the computer would not know when it had to re-
arrange the order of words in a sentence.
Also, meaning is often changed, dependent on the position of
the adjective in relation to the noun. There is no difficulty in
Esperanto because the adjective and noun agree in number and
case, so that it is always clear which adjective refers to which
noun, but in addition we have the problem that an Interlingua
word may change its meaning because of the relative position of
noun and adjective. For example "auto car" does not mean the
same as "car auto", so that Interlingua could not be used if you
wished to translate from the source language where the adjective
came after the noun into a target language where the adjective
came before the noun. The sentence "Io pingeva le porta rubie"
would be translated (if indeed the computer could cope with the
verb flexion) into English as "I painted (was painting) the door
red" which is not the correct meaning so that an additional
bridge would be needed involving two more operations to
translate from Interlingua to Interlingua. Again, how would the
computer deal with two sentences like "Vu pingeva rubie
le blua" and "Pingeva vu blua le rubie?" where the words are
the same but the meanings are totally different.
Any computer would be baffled by the number of common
homonyms. How would the computer know when to translate
the Interlingua "la", when by "the" or when it means "there" or
Don't ever use the services of an agency with a mythical
Interlingua translating machine to tell a hospital to re-assure
your nephew. The ambiguities of Interlingua can make this
come out in the target language as an instruction to tranquillise
your grandchild. They might even assume that they have to cure
("curare") him by curare That masses of common synonyms
increase the size of the dictionary is bad enough; is it really
necessary to have, say, two words for "house" and three for
This mass of synonyms, confusing enough for a human being,
even one acquainted with a few romance languages totally
invalidates Interlingua for any use with computers. An attempt
Page 104 of 127
to use Interlingua as what Dr. Gopsill calls "an interlingua"
might well have the source language speaking of "the Pope" and
the target language receiving this as "her dad"; "new"
might come through as "nine" (both words matching the
Interlingua "nove". Probably no language can avoid collecting
some synonyms and homonyms but the quantity of both in
Interlingua is utterly ridiculous.
Finally, let us return to an example given by Dr. Gopsill. He
tells us that an international incident might be caused
by translating "La France demande aux etats-unie" as "France
demands of the United States". Now if French could be used as
a bridge language, a search of the dictionary would show that
the French word "demander" is translated into English as "to
ask" which would show French, in spite of the defect which Dr.
Gopsill points out, would in this particular respect work as a
bridge language, but what would happen if we were unwise
enough to try to use Interlingua? Interlingua being a non-
autonomous language would give as a translation of the French
word "demander" the Interlingua word "demander" (or whatever
it is). The second search necessary to translate from the bridge
language into English would find as an equivalent the English
word "to demand". Does this mean War, Sir?
Page 105 of 127
THE INTERNATIONAL LANGUAGE IS AN AID TO
A particularly useful function of Esperanto is the way in which
it can be used as an introduction to the study of languages in
general. Obviously having learnt a second language one is in a
better position to learn a third, whatever the language is
involved. For centuries in Europe the first language to be
learned for many people was Latin and all other language
learning was based on assuming a knowledge
of Latin. However, the value of using Esperanto as an
introduction to language learning is that, unlike Latin (or
Interlingua), Esperanto itself is easy to learn. One of the earliest
experiments carried out in this field was at Eccles in Lancashire
when a group of school children were taught Esperanto for
several months and then taught French for an equal period.
Finally their achievements were measured against those of
a similar group of pupils who had been taught French during the
whole of the time. It was found that the group which had started
with Esperanto were better at French than the group which had
spent twice as much time on the French language. The same
results were demonstrated before a Committee of The League
of Nations with the result that the Committee's Report pointed
out that teaching Esperanto in schools would not take away time
needed for teaching other languages because teaching Esperanto
actually speeded up the learning of other languages. Naturally,
Dr. Gopsill reports this as a rejection of
Esperanto. Surprisingly, Dr. Gopsill refers to a similar
successful test of Esperanto by IALA. Of course, Dr. Gopsill
introduces the paragraph by missing out the hated name
Esperanto and referring to it merely as "a planned language",
only letting slip at the end of the account the fact that the
language concerned was Esperanto. Dr. Gopsill claims similar
results for Interlingua in Sweden but does not give enough
details to say whether the results were checked by any outside
body. In any event as the Interlingua experiment appears
merely to have been a substitution of Interlingua for Latin it
Page 106 of 127
would only show that Interlingua would be no worse than Latin
as an introduction for Europeans to the study of romance
languages. However, we have Dr. Gode's own word for it that
Interlingua can not be used for an introduction to language study
- see Chapter 20. The Swedish case appears merely to be one
where Interlingua was substituted for Latin in a general
language course - with quite foreseeable results. Interlingua
does not save time for persons wishing to learn a
romance language because Interlingua itself is so difficult to
learn that one might as well start with the romance language
itself, particularly as one needs to know one or more romance
languages before starting on Interlingua. CHAPTER
19 INTERNATIONAL LITERATURE People who
have not been exposed to the full functioning of
Esperanto sometimes think that the international language can
function only as a low level communication system like the
language of a tourist phrase-book. In the days of Volap\"uk, the
idea of Volap\"uk poetry was scorned even by the leading
publicists. It was to be a business language pure and
simple. However, from the very start the idea of the
Esperantists has been different. Esperantists have always felt
that a language can only be viable if it has cultural and aesthetic
value. A language which is not flexible enough for poetry or
pornography, for novels and songs, for plays and short stories
for opera or pop groups , will have limitations which will
similarly make it unsuitable for science and commerce. The
earliest books in Esperanto contained verse and for over a
hundred years the language has been used for literature,
plays, films, songs, opera, poetry and essays, indeed for all the
functions of language both in translations and original works.
Conscious of Interlingua's failings in these respects, Dr. Gopsill
will have none of the above. He says (ILMI p.l48) that
"Esperanto poetry is inherently boring". There may well be
people who think that all poetry is boring and the statement that
the poetry of a language is boring may well be regarded as a
matter of personal taste, the value of the opinion
being dependent on the acquaintance of the speaker with that
Page 107 of 127
language and with its poetry. However, in the case of Dr.
Gopsill, we can see that his opinion is worthless because his
inability to translate simple sentences in Esperanto show a lack
of understanding of the language and, as we shall see, his
knowledge of Esperanto poetry in particular is negligible. An
opinion based on ignorance of the facts can safely be
ignored. The fact is that Dr. Gopsill shows his lack of
knowledge of Esperanto poetry by asserting that it:- "is
inherently boring because the insistence on the penultimate
stress means that only trochees, that is a long-stressed vowel
plus a short un-stressed vowel, can be used in rhyme, unless
one elides the grammatically functional last letter of a
word". Quite apart from the fact that there is no reason to
believe that trochees are inherently boring (some fine English
poetry is trochaic) and the fact that it is an Interlingua rule that
stressed vowels are long and unstressed vowels short, one has
only to look at any of the larger books of Esperanto poetry, or
listen to any poetry recordings, to see that Esperanto verse is not
exclusively trochaic or dependent on elision. Obviously Dr.
Gopsill has not conducted an elementary piece of research and
has relied on his belief in a regular alternation of long stressed
and short unstressed vowels. As the stress on the penultimate
syllable could only lead to this result in a language where every
word had to consist of exactly two syllables, it is clearly not
Esperanto, which is the target! This may make us
wonder whether there isn't some mistake. Can it be that Dr.
Gopsill, who believes in using the word "interlingua"
indiscriminately for any planned auxiliary, is really talking
about something entirely different to Esperanto when he uses
the word "Esperanto"?
Page 108 of 127
DR. GOPSILL'S NEW "LANGUAGE"
Although Dr. Gopsill appears to be highly critical of Esperanto,
many of his criticisms are, as we have seen, based on matters so
factually inaccurate with regard to Esperanto that one is tempted
to believe that they are directed at a language, which Dr. Gopsill
calls Esperanto but it is quite different from the International
Language Esperanto. Let us call the language at which he
directs his criticism "Gopsilanto". Gopsilanto though is in some
ways superficially similar to Esperanto but has quite different
In the first place we are told that Gopsilanto aims at being
perfectly phonetic - so much so that the letter "n" in "doni"
should be written differently from the letter "n" in "ingo" [ILMI
P.l46]. Dr. Gopsill does not mention such fine distinctions when
telling us how to pronounce Interlingua words.
These minute variations, known to phoneticists as allophones,
are of no importance to the ordinary language user and
Esperanto pretends to no such distinctions contenting itself with
the practical rule that the written form of a word should be a
practical guide to the pronunciation. How anyone condemned to
having to learn Interlingua would envy such simplicity!
Less to be envied than admired is the ability of speakers of
Gopsilanto who, as a result of his rules, tend to pronounce the
word "oy" (as in the English word "boy") by "a closing of the
mouth" - a clever piece of ventriloquism. Although the system
of forming the plural from the singular (and vice versa) in Dr.
Gopsill's system are different from the rules in Esperanto, they
are by no means as difficult as the chaos in Interlingua.
Nevertheless Esperantists would find them as strange as the
Gopsillian rules about "prepositions of approach". Another
strange rule of Dr. Gopsill's version (or perversion) of Esperanto
is that every word consists of exactly two syllables! (see Chapter
19). As the stress on the penultimate syllable could only lead to
this result in a language where every word had to consist of
Page 109 of 127
exactly two syllables, it is clearly not Esperanto which is the
Another strange rule of the strange dialect is the rule which may
be called "the rule of compulsion" namely the belief that
whatever is possible is compulsory, e.g., elision can be used
where it is convenient, therefore it must be used even where it is
not convenient or if words can be combined to make compound
words then one must use them in defiance of commonsense to
make unwanted and ridiculous compounds. Linked to this is the
rule which may be termed "the rule of reversibility". This
appears in many forms. Adverbs formed from nouns or
adjectives end in "-e". Therefore, apart from believing that all
adverbs (even those not formed from adjectives) must end in "-
e", we have to believe that all words ending in "-e" must
therefore be adverbs (ILMI P.l38). Accordingly such English
words as "sly", "ally" and "rally" must be adverbs! Similarly, as
the ending of the simple present tense is "-as" and that of the
past "-is", we are led to infer that the letter "a"
should exclusively be used in words signifying the present tense
of a verb and that because infinitives end in "-i" words such as
"tri" ("three") or "pli" ("more") should be infinitive. We have
already seen that this same principle of reversibility leads to
most of Dr. Gopsill's attempt to present as complicated
Esperanto's straightforward and natural system of affixes but as
this principle has never existed in Esperanto, we again have to
assume that the critic is really attacking some strange dialect of
his own invention.
No doubt, however, Dr. Gopsill's strangest ploy is to claim over
and over again that the IALA principles of "one word, one
meaning and one meaning one word" apply to Esperanto is an
Esperanto principle but as this belief is based on egregious
mistranslation, again we have to come to the conclusion that it is
not Esperanto which is being criticised (see Chapter
8). However, it is not only his own strange variant of Esperanto
which Dr. Gopsill attacks. Some of his criticisms of Interlingua
are as we shall see, devastating.
Page 110 of 127
DR. GOPSILL VERSUS INTERLINGUA
Interlingua was designed on the basis of the artificial and
arbitrary postulates of a small clique of elitist classical
linguistic theoreticians with a view to enabling a corps of highly
skilled professional translators with a background of romance
languages and funded by wealthy institutions to give a special
service within very narrow limits by translating certain types of
scientific texts for the benefit of persons already acquainted with
the type of subject matter and with Romance languages,
Esperanto is designed to be simple enough for the average
person to be able to learn very quickly for all the purposes of
communication. For this reason even if Interlingua worked
properly it would hardly even scratch the surface of the
problems which have been solved by Esperanto. Whilst the use
of Interlingua would still leave the requirement for Esperanto,
the more widespread use of Esperanto would make a
system such as Interlingua totally superfluous, to the chagrin of
any future successor of Dr. Gode who might entertain hopes of
being the head of a highly paid corps of linguists forming a new
Interlingua Division of Science and Service. It seems
reasonable to accept that the essential criteria for a
viable international language should be flexibility and usability,
ease of learning and cultural neutrality. So far as Esperanto is
concerned, we don't need to theorize about its ability to meet all
these criteria. Esperanto has already been put to enough
practical application to show that it is a fully functional
language. The fact that it is regularly used as the sole language
of the largest international meetings of the world which take
place without the employment of interpreters, in itself proves the
case for Esperanto. Whilst the language is not lacking for
support amongst expert linguists its adherents come from all
walks of life and from a multitude of different ethnic cultures.
The language has met with the demands of every practical
application to which a language can be put. It may be argued
that Esperanto is not totally culturally neutral. Its orthography is
based on the Latin alphabet and a large part of its original
Page 111 of 127
vocabulary was European. However these factors are not a
bar to cultural neutrality. Esperanto has already been
transliterated not only into the International Phonetic Alphabet,
it has also been transliterated into Braille, Morse, Moon,
International flag signalling, computer machine codes, dozens of
different shorthand systems and various projects for new
alphabets such as Intersteno and Parolspuro. There would be no
difficulty in transliterating Esperanto into any neutral alphabet if
this were necessary, but in practice the fact that the former Latin
alphabet is now in use (often with modifications) for many non-
Latin languages and that Esperanto (like many other languages)
uses a suitably modified version of the Latin alphabet clears the
Esperanto orthography of any charge of parochialism and has
made it acceptable outside the realms of the romance
languages. So far as vocabulary is concerned we have seen that
Esperanto has a word building system which enables the user to
create words without compulsory recourse to Latin and the
language has proved to be sufficiently flexible to accept words
from any cultures whatever when this is desirable. Although on
its first appearance, Esperanto was described by references to
the grammatical characteristics of Latin (as all other languages
tended to be described at that time), there is now no reason for
this to be necessary. It is possible to teach Esperanto
without reference to the Latin forms of linguistic description.
The present writer, whilst experimenting with teaching methods
was able to devise, and has lectured in Japan upon, a system of
teaching Esperanto on the basis of Japanese language
customs. One of the most famous methods of teaching
Esperanto was that devised by Dr. Andreo Cseh, the founder of
the international Cseh Institute. Dr. Cseh devised his variant of
direct method teaching, known as the Cseh Conversational
Method, when he had to teach Esperanto, in immediate post-war
conditions when text books were not available, to a large group
of students of diverse educational levels coming from
four different ethnic backgrounds and having no language in
common. This system continues to be used successfully without
the need for any conventional linguistic terminology. There is
Page 112 of 127
no doubt about the ease of learning Esperanto.
Although Esperanto has had its critics, few of them have
practical experience of it and therefore speak from the depths of
ignorance. Of those who claim to have studied Esperanto, not
one has ever complained of being unable to learn the language,
or even of finding it difficult to learn. In particular, Dr. Gopsill
states that he found it "remarkably easy".
In these two words Dr. Gopsill negates the whole of his
criticism of Esperanto.
The aim has been that Esperanto should be "remarkably easy"
and we have Dr. Gopsill's testimony that it has
successfully achieved this aim, whereas according to Dr. Gopsill
his four volume course only provides "a survival guide to the
system". (ICB Part l p.5). Why then is the world expected to
reject Esperanto in favour of a system which we have seen is
remarkably difficult just in order to fit in with the theory of a
minute elitist group of classicists? In particular one may wonder
just what is Dr. Gopsill's reason for rejecting Esperanto. Can it
be that the words "remarkably easy" are in fact intended in this
case as adverse criticism. Surprisingly enough the very ease of
learning Esperanto is seen by some critics to be a
disadvantage. Nobody can be particularly proud of his prowess
in learning Esperanto, whilst anyone who managed to learn
Interlingua could well be commended for his ability in
mastering a difficult task. Indeed, one complaint which is
occasionally heard in educational circles is that Esperanto is too
easy and therefore gives an unfair advantage to
examination candidates who have chosen Esperanto. Obviously
this is an invalid argument because examinations can be pitched
at whatever level of difficulty an examiner requires. A teacher
of Esperanto should consider his teachings to have been
successful if in a relatively short time (as is usual) students can
converse and correspond in the language irrespective of whether
they hold any certificates of their capability. On the other hand,
as the writer discovered when he taught Esperanto, it is just
those students who have educational attainments in acquiring
ethnic languages who are sometimes disconcerted at first
Page 113 of 127
by being unable to find lists of irregular verbs in their text books
and find it difficult to believe that having learnt the scheme for
one verb they can automatically "conjugate" every verb in the
language. The writer recalls one educated lady who was unable
to translate a simple sentence into Esperanto at her first lesson.
When the answer was pointed out to her she replied to the
effect: "That's what I thought at first but I didn't imagine it could
be as easy as that". The old fashioned teacher too may be
disconcerted by not being able to give lists of irregular verbs to
be learned as homework, or by not being able to get the class to
chant in unison things like:-
“Adjectives usually follow the noun
But the following go before the noun
Alicun, itere, cata and multe
Ambe, omne, plure and nulle”.
and soon through a few more verses.
He may miss being able to teach complicated rules about
which prepositions can follow which verbs and which of them
take which case. To such a teacher the pragmatic rules of
Esperanto that you should use words wherever they make sense
may be very disconcerting, so that as we see, Dr. Gopsill has
had to invent unnecessary rules about which prepositions are
followed by the accusative approach. Once they have seen what
Esperanto can do, many more modern teachers have tended to
become enthusiasts. Dr. Gode was not a teacher and we have
seen that the complaint of being "remarkably easy" cannot be
levelled at Interlingua so that we may at first wonder just why
its creator should have gone out of his way to build in so many
unnecessary complexities. The answer is that Interlingua was
not designed to be used by the public at large. Dr. Gode, like
many creators of latinoid systems was thinking of a language
which could be read at sight by people like himself, that is to
say, educated polyglots. In an article written for the
"International Medical Digest", at a time when a knowledge
of Latin was a normal requirement for entry into a University by
any student desiring to become a medical practitioner or
other professional man, Dr. Gode said:-
Page 114 of 127
"Interlingua is a book with seven times seven seals to the
man who knows nothing about language and has studied none,
not even his own. But it is read without initiation by the
professional man - especially the medical man - who has
acquired (in addition to his own native tongue) some knowledge
of Latin or French or German or Russian".
On the other hand, practical experience has demonstrated that,
apart from being "remarkably easy" for both the polyglot and
the linguist, Esperanto is an excellent introduction to language
learning even for the person "who knows nothing about
language and has studied none not even his own".
The fact that texts in a language, in order to be read, have to be
written by somebody was not seen to be a
disadvantage. According to articles in "The International
Language Review" Dr. Gode himself thought that the language
had succeeded as soon as he had found twenty people who could
use it actively. His idea, as exemplified by his creation of the
"Interlingua Division of Science and Service", that the writing in
the language should be done by a team of highly skilled
professionals funded by wealthy foundations.
Here we can see that it is not only out of intellectual snobbery
that the fact that Esperanto is "remarkably easy" may be
regarded by some as the ultimate condemnation. We know that
IALA was a well-financed organisation and that Gode and his
minions were financed by wealthy patrons. Indeed the creator
of Interlingue went so far as to sugggest that the staff of IALA
were delaying their work for mercenary reasons. Some
Interlingaists longed for the renewal of this patronage and, if it
had been forthcoming, the so-called Interlingua Division of
Science and Service would have continued to provide
employment for an elite corps of experts who would have set
out to provide medical congresses with Interlingua abstracts
Obviously a language which is "remarkably easy" to learn even
for those to whom Interlingua has been carefully locked away
behind Gode's "seven times seven seals" and which makes
possible computer-assisted translation might well be seen as a
threat to such would-be vested interests. Of course, the post-
Page 115 of 127
Gode Interlingua fans could entertain no such hopes but we can
understand the attitude which formed the original
Interlinguaite viewpoint. It was only after it became obvious
that the original concept was not viable that the minimalist
supporters of Interlingua gave way to the maximalists who
believed that it should be taught on a more widespread basis.
We have seen that a highly qualified teacher and polyglot with
a background in Romance languages can learn to use
Interlingua, but perhaps we should look at the way in which he
points out some of its many deficiencies.
Firstly however it is only fair to note that Interlingua has
earned the right to be taken more seriously than most of the
projects listed in ILMI. Dr. Gopsill does not tell us the criteria
for inclusion in his select list but the majority of the attempts to
create an international language have been learned by nobody,
not even their authors. A few, a very very few, have had
relatively small groups of people advocating and occasionally
even learning them (though, even on the most prejudiced of
anti-esperantist calculations, the number of supporters of
Esperanto must be thousands of times greater than that all the
supporters of all of its would-be competitors put
together). Nevertheless, even if we accept the disputed figures
of sixty-one or forty-two adherents for Interlingua (as mentioned
on page 24l of ILMI), this certainly puts Interlingua in a
different category from Spokil or Paleneo or Ya-zu. However,
the fact remains that Interlingua has been a failure and some of
the reasons can be found in Dr. Gopsill's own express or implied
criticisms of Interlingua.
First we may read (ILMI p.40):-
"For an international language to be successful it must
be easy not only to the listener or reader but also to the speaker
and the writer. In addition it must possess the same degree
of neologistic versatility as English. It should also be
constructed in such a way that it is not like a code but like a
natural language. It must be neutral in every sense, have a
standardization, be phonetic and have simple grammar".
Page 116 of 127
Could there be a stronger condemnation of Interlingua, which is
not neutral, has no standardisation, is not phonetic and has a
complicated grammar and was designed for passive
readingrather than for active use. Next we may consider Dr.
Gopsill's praise of Volapük:-
"The language had no irregularities whatever, an
important factor for an international language".
As we have seen Interlingua is full of irregularities even though
Dr. Gopsill is anxious to avoid the term "irregularities"
preferring to call them "alternative forms" (although the word
"irregular" sometimes slips in, as when he speaks in ICB as
"irregular stresses") or when he states complex rules to hide the
fact that the simple rule has masses of exceptions. He then goes
on (ILMI P.73) to state the good points of Volapük as follows:-
"On the good side there was complete regularity of
grammar; there was a phonetic alphabet and the pronunciation
These three good points are all absent in Interlingua, so that we
must say that, by Dr. Gopsill's standards, the fact that
Interlingua has irregular grammar, does not have a phonetic
alphabet and has complicated pronunciation are three points
which disqualify Interlingua. He goes on to say in the same
"A full vocabulary ensured that all necessary ideas could
Here again we see that because of Dr. Gode's rejection of any
regular derivation system, it is impractical for anyone but the
dedicated polyglot to attempt to acquire a full vocabulary in
Interlingua. In addition the voluntary limitation of Interlingua to
purely western concepts means that for many people "necessary
ideas" could not be expressed in Interlingua. Dr. Gopsill then
adds:- "Most significantly, the language was speakable as
indicated by the societies in which people came together to
converse in it". This seems to be another advantage of Volapük
over Interlingua. Dr. Gopsill then appears to contradict himself
on the same page by saying:- "Moreover, the extremely
complicated grammar conflicted with the demands that the
Page 117 of 127
prime function of a language was practical
oral communication" whilst on a previous page he has said:-
"in Paris (l899) .... an attempt was made to speak the language,
with Schleyer himself finding this difficult".
Apart from noting that Volapük’s "extremely complicated
grammar" was not burdened with the multiple conjugations and
irregularities and other complications of Interlingua, one
wonders how Dr. Gopsill knows that Schleyer found Volapük
difficult to speak. Not many of his Interlingua informants are
likely to have been around in l899 and Dr. Gopsill does not cite
any contemporary reference for his dubious contention.
However, the fact is that, whether we think that the fact that
Volapük was speakable was one of its advantages or the
fact that it couldn't be used for "practical oral communication"
was a disadvantage, we are faced with the fact that Interlingua,
whose grammar as we have seen is "extremely complicated"
(indeed much more so than that of Volapük), was designed for
written communication and there is no objective evidence of its
viability in practical conversation. There is indeed, evidence to
The grandiosely named World Union of Interlingua did manage
to produce a tape recording in Interlingua which in itself is
sufficient to destroy the credibility of Interlingua's pretension to
become a spoken tongue. On this tape a number of experts read
out (in some cases, rather painfully) texts in Interlingua from
translations of pieces by Hans Christian Andersen. Even for
anyone with a knowledge of romance languages and
some knowledge of the structure of Interlingua and of the items
in question, these pieces are very difficulty to decipher. The
lack of any regular functional endings to words make it
difficult to know where the spaces between words appear, unless
the speaker is very careful to pronounce each word with a pause
after it. In particular, the vocalic sound "e" appears frequently.
It is the ending of many adverbs. It is the vowel component of
the definite article. It serves to differentiate neuter adjectives
from masculine or feminine ones (particularly confusing where
it is unstressed) and above all it is the conjunction "and". This
Page 118 of 127
creates even more difficulty with the past tense.
Strangely enough Gode decreed that the simple past tense
should take the imperfect inflexion so that the repeated "-eva"
can often be mistaken for two words "e va", "va" being the
irregular present tense of the verb "to go" or the "alternative"
(irregular?) method of expressing the future tense! If these
difficulties become apparent from a carefully read
and, presumably, rehearsed reading, what could the language be
like in unrehearsed conversational use where the speaker would
not be able to stop before each word to consider which of the
complex rules of pronunciation applies, which language the
word is derived from, whether the verb is irregular, whether this
is a case where the adjective has to come before a noun or
whether it has to come after it, and so on and so forth?
On Page 75 of ILMI it says :- "The distinguishing feature
between Volapük and Esperanto was the primary function of the
languages. Where Volapük aimed at being based on logic to
help lucid thought, the heart of Esperanto was its empiricism,
that is, its main function was for practical social intercourse.
The great advantage of Esperanto over Volapük then, was that
Esperanto was easier to speak and use".
Dr.Gopsill is of course quite right here but we have seen that
ease of speech and use can hardly be counted among any
qualities which Interlingua may have had, which means that as
Volapük had such advantages over Interlingua and as Esperanto
was superior to Volapük, we arrive at another condemnation of
Interlingua, which has neither! When dealing with the use of an
inter-language for computers, Dr. Gopsill says:-
"It has to be "computer friendly", namely, be rich
and flexible, be symbolizable for data processing, have constant
meaning and have regular surface structure".
All these criteria of course invalidate the pretensions of
Interlingua for computer translation as we have previously seen
but Dr. Gopsill, still riding his hobby horse of "constant
meaning", goes on to say:-
Page 119 of 127
"A constructed language that has constant meaning and
a regular surface structure would best succeed in this kind of
Another condemnation for Interlingua! The death blow is
delivered when Dr. Gopsill says:-
"However, it is desirable that such a language is
also readable and speakable, so that it can be used for human
communication as well as for machine translation"!
Another striking condemnation of Interlingua appears right of
the beginning of Dr. Gopsill's book when he attempts to show
the problems caused by multi-lingualism. He says:-
"Although first class translators and interpreters are
used, mis-translations and misunderstandings often occur. A
diplomatic incident could occur, as illustrated by the famous
example "la france demande aux etats-unis de ........" being
translated as "France demands that the United States should
........". We have seen that this statement illustrate the
uselessness of Interlingua in computer assisted translation but
once again by striking out at another target, Dr. Gopsill
completely destroys the claims of Interlingua even aside from
computer usage. If one wishes to know the meaning of the
French verb "demander" one can look at a French dictionary
because French is an autonomous language and must be defined
in its own terms. If Interlingua is to be readable and
understandable at sight either by a Frenchman or by an English
speaker, Interlingua has to be a non-autonomous system.
This means that the Interlingua word "demandir" (or
"demandar" or "demandor" whichever it is) has to be translated
by a Frenchman as "demander" but by an American as
"demand", so destroying any hope of using Interlingua by
human interpreters as it did in the realm of the computer.
On Page 238 Dr. Gopsill says:-
"This is not to say that Interlingua is the epitome of perfection.
There are further difficulties in the practical application of the
language, such as the spelling of some words, disagreement
about the form of certain suffixes, and which prepositions to use
Page 120 of 127
after verbs and adjectives". Although he goes on to tell us that
such previously unadmitted problems :- "do not cause
misunderstandings in general and usage will eventually
establish the accepted form" there is no evidence of all this last
piece of optimism. On Page l50 he tells us that :-
"Interlingua is not a "universal" language and can make
no claim whatsoever to be of use in communication with people
who speak no western language. Orientals might usefully learn
Interlingua as an introduction to western languages, but there
would be no point at all in writing letters to a monoglot
(Esperanto has made substantial headway outside Europe and
this writer has corresponded and conversed with orientals with
whom Esperanto was the only language he had in common.
"So Interlingua is not to be proposed as a universal language as
Esperanto has been. It is unwise for Interlingua supporters
to suggest that Interlingua should be the second language for all
men, because one has to admit the limitations of its use. There
are areas where it is useless and there are areas where it can
play but a minor role. But there are areas where it is
irreplaceable". (We haven't yet seen any):- "where
Interlingua does the job or the job is not done at all". (Again, no
evidence given). "nor must one forget that not all people are
sufficiently educated to read Interlingua texts without prior
After this fantastic piece of elitism one might think that little
more need be said against Interlingua but Dr. Gopsill goes on
(ILMI Page 253) to:-
"offer Interlingua not as a world auxiliary language
but purely for use among western cultures, a separate auxiliary
language being used to accommodate non-western
Dr. Gopsill then graciously gives the following permission:-
"The Esperantists can continue to promote their campaign
for Esperanto to be the second language for the whole world."
Page 121 of 127
So it seems we must now have two interlanguages. Presumably
people all over the world will be permitted to speak and write in
Esperanto and the United Nations will conduct its business in
Esperanto whilst the European Community (presumably after
expelling its non-Latin members) will hire expensive experts to
produce summaries in Interlingua. Or will it?
Page 122 of 127
Replies to my book were immediate and vitriolic. Although
supporters of Interlingua have been in the habit of attacking the
international language for many years, it seems to have been a
shock to them to find an Esperantist answering back. In their
attempt to make up in ferocity what they lacked in numbers the
faithful did not wait to read the book before attacking it. One
who did read the complimentary pre-publication copy which I
sent was Dr. Gopsill and the Interlingua newsletters "Panorama"
(produced in Denmark) and "Lingua e Vita" (produced in
England) each published his reply disguised as a review. When
I pointed out that the reply was inaccurate and misleading,
the editor of "Lingua e Vita” at first indicated his willingness to
publish my rejoinder but was apparently overruled.
Nevertheless I offered to give the final word to Dr. Gopsill
by reprinting his review as an afterword to this edition. The
editor agreed, subject to Dr. Gopsill's consent but the latter,
perhaps fearing that he would lose credibility in the eyes of
those who could compare what I had said with what he wished
his readers to think I had said, withheld permission. I can
therefore only reprint my own letter:-
Lingua e Vita,
I am flattered to think that the review (Lingua e Vita No. 76) of
my little work should be worth two pages of your journal in
comparison to only one paragraph devoted to a Strindberg
translation. At least my friend Dr. Gopsill (I hope I can still call
him that) shows signs of having read my book (if only
somewhat superficially) unlike some of its other attackers.
However, would it not have been fairer to have indicated to
your readers that my book was expressly a reply to works by Dr.
Gopsill himself? This would have enabled them to have a
clearer idea of whether to expect the review to be an objective
one. Your readers would then have known how much weight to
Page 123 of 127
give to Dr. Gopsill's statement that my own book was devoted to
"deification" of Esperanto. In fact, I used Esperanto merely as a
background to an examination of Interlingua and expressly
stated that I was not presenting the case for Esperanto except on
the basis on which the Idist Auerbach stated "Esperanto, it
However, those familiar with Dr. Gopsill's writings will be
aware that, to him, anybody who has even a word to say in
favour of Esperanto is a dyed-in-the-wool fanatic. I should hate
any of your readers to think that I have "utter contempt for
Interlingua and Interlinguists". I merely agree with Dr. Gopsill
that Interlingua is useless as the much needed world auxiliary
language. Interlinguists, of whom I am one (Dr. Gopsill, who
has rather a cavalier way with the English language should
consult the Oxford English Dictionary about that word) are
people for whom I generally have the greatest respect. As for
my alleged views on Dr. Gode's cultural imperialism, I
actually stated that Mussolini would have approved of a
passage, which I quoted in full to enable readers to judge for
themselves. Nor did I use the expression "anti-semitic" to
describe Berger. I pointed out that he used misleading
semantics (was he anti-Semantic?) when he quoted the
American Philosophical Society's use of the word "Aryan" in
the precise linguistic sense of the word and then
dubbed Zamenhof a non-Aryan using the racist sense of the
word. Again I quoted Berger's own words so that readers can
judge for themselves whether they show him to have been anti-
Once again the suggestion that the IALA staff delayed their
work for mercenary reasons was clearly attributed to de Wahl,
the chief Interlinguist (as Dr. Gopsill would call him) as
indicative of his fraternal attitude towards Gode and company.
The fact that my work was based on his own writings (imitating
his polemical style but with a greater regard for facts) makes
amusing his contention that it was based on an analysis
"unsound, inaccurate or false". Indeed the errors specified by
Dr. Gopsill (including the one about the verb "to ask") are all
Page 124 of 127
taken from the works of Interlingua-ist authors - but mainly
from his own works (I will give details for each one if
Having had concealed from them the fact that the book was a
reply to Dr. Gopsill himself, readers may wonder why there is
an alleged digression into Biblical studies. Only those who have
read the book will realize that this alleged digression consists of
pointing out that Dr. Gopsill has taken his disagreement on
points of theology with the translators of the Esperanto Old and
New Testaments as meaning that those translators and the
translators of the major English versions were bad
Even when stating that I "decreed that the plural of tu.......
should be tus" the reviewer carelessly (or should it be
carefully) leaves out the words which show that this "decree" is
a reference to an incorrect hypothesis of his own.
As for the defects which he details (after saying that there is
little point in detailing them), I wish he would tell me more
about the alleged misquotations, point out a single misprint
which makes the meaning unclear, and save the prurient the
trouble of seeking the imaginary "unnecessary obscenity".
I do agree that the (free) copy which I sent to him was bound by
myself so that I could get it to him a little earlier, but I am sure
that the Esperanto Centre in London will send him a
professionally bound copy if he sends them a fiver (cheap
enough for eighty-one pages of A4 equivalent to about l60
pages of Lingua e Vita format). One thing we do agree about is
that the criteria which I cite for a bridge language for computer
assisted translation excludes all national languages. That is why
DLT is based on Esperanto. But why (when Dr. Gopsill
apparently agrees) does he distort my meaning by missing out
the crucial word which I have italicized?
I was intrigued to read what Dr. Gopsill said about the
attendance of the secretary of the British Esperanto Association
at the Interlingua Meeting in Sweden but when I asked Mr.
McClellan (the B.E.A. secretary) about this, he told me that he
Page 125 of 127
had not been there and had never heard Interlingua spoken. Will
Green, to whom you refer in a footnote, was in Helsingors at the
time of that friendly little gathering but is not, never has been,
and has never claimed to be, the secretary of the British
Esperanto Association - a strange mistake on the part of
Dr. Gopsill who claims (incorrectly, I am told) to be a member
of the B.E.A.
And no - I haven't spoken to all the Euro-MP's about their rebuff
to Interlingua. I simply believed what Dr. Gopsill said on the
Which brings me to the one real error mentioned in the review.
I was indeed incorrect in saying that Professor Collinson
occupied the Chair in Esperanto at Liverpool when he became
the Director of IALA. Being temporarily prevented from
consulting other sources of information, I took this from an
article written by ...... the Editor of Lingua e Vita.
Page 126 of 127
Page 127 of 127