The relations between the two rival languages have been far from amiable. History repeats itself - first an attempted conspiracy of silence, then ridicule, distortion of facts and calumny. Prior to the findings of the Delegation, the Esp. press boasted of the importance of the Delegation Committee. When its findings were made public, there was either entire silence on the part of the Esp. press or the misleading statement was given out that the Committee had decided in favor of Esp. The Delegation Committee desiring no break, made efforts to retain the good will of the Espists and, at the same time, introduce betterments. Even as late as January 26, 1908, the Delegation addressed a letter to the members of the Lingva Komitato, which said, "We therefore address to you, as friends of the idea of an I. L. for which we have fought for seven years and constantly are fighting, a request that you consider tranquilly and impartially the present situation (i.e. of (1) the conservative party which would tie the language down to a "sacred book", and (2) those who wished improvement by the counsel of scientific experts)". With the headstrong leaders of the Espists it was "Esp. or nothing" and no conciliation was possible. No Esp. journal, so far as I know, permitted fair discussion of the suggested reforms. Every reference which might be considered favorable to reform has been systematically minimized. On the hand, Professor Couturat, stung by the systematic suppression or distortion of the findings of the scientific body of which be had been secretary and the calumnious references to himself and de Beaufront, continued a stream of sarcastic ridicule of Esp. and its followers in the pages of PROGRESO. This, though intellectually justified and very natural under the circumstances, did not tend to allay the antagonism. The method of attack by ridiculing the views of opponents is a common one in French intellectual life and is often very effective. Many reforms have been won by it, some lost. However, it seemed to me and to many others, that a somewhat more reticent manner of opposing the distortions and slander of the Esp. press would have been better for the promotion of the movement. Since the war, however, there has appeared in the Esp. world a dawning recognition of the fact that Esp. cannot be stuffed down the throats of the authorities without an examination of the whole problem which would likely result in the adoption of the changes in Esp. made in Ido. As stated before, I am quite willing to admit, that at the time of the general recommendations made by the Komitato there was a justified fear that continued changes extending over several years might do harm to the practical progress of the Esp. movement. Now, however, that the period of change in Ido has practically come to an end, there no longer seems practical reasons for refusing to adopt the reforms. The inert, uninterested public cares little for either project and it would seem the part of wisdom to adopt the most efficient form of I. L. and concentrate the attack on the mass of the people. As said Couturat: "Those who believe the ruin of Esp. means the ruin of the idea, have a too favorable opinion of Esp. and too little respect for the idea."
In January, 1906, in order to head off, if possible, more radical proposals
by the Delegation, Dr. Zamenhof communicated to a number of Espists a number
of changes to be introduced into the language as neologisms. Among these
(1) Replacement in some words of the diphthong au by e.
(2) Suppression of the plural termination -j and indicating the plural simply by accenting the last syllable instead of the next to the last which remains (plus the terminal letter) to denote the singular: boná patró: bonaj patroj. (Doubtless this reform would tend to do away with some of the forest of -js, but as a practical sign of the plural has little or nothing to commend it.)
(3) Modification of a number of roots, such as: alumo (vice alumeto), amusi (amuzi), lo (anstatau), ad (apud), arhhitekto (arhhitekturisto), avra (avara), abenturo (aventuro), fensi (defendi), dajmono (demono), djamanto (diamento), komti (kalkuli), kamarado (kolego), pisi (urini). (So many of these changes are lacking in internationality, that they do not commend themselves to any but Espists accustomed to the use of mutilated roots.)
(4) Replacement of a number of roots by others, as: stete (vice anstatau), stati (farti), breva (mallonga), fidrompi (perfidi), mem (malpli).
(5) A number of changes in the alphabet, or rather use of the alphabet, as: the hh letter, i.e. the letter h with supersign, being replaced by kh except in the transcription of proper names and in the words hholero and hhoro which would become holero, koruso. The letters c, g, j, s, with supersign to be written as ch, gh, jh, sh, even in the printing establishments where there was a supply of supersigned letters.
(6) In order to reduce the number of finals, as -j, the adjective need not be made to agree with the noun unless it stands alone.
(7) The verb esti to be reduced to the form of its monosyllabic endings: as, is, os, us.
It is to be noted that these changes were to come about simply in the way of additional or optional forms to the original forms which might still be used. It is difficult to understand how Zamenhof expected to reconcile some of these changes, such as the suppression of the agreement of the adjective with the noun, with his claim to a strict adherence to the Fundamento. These proposals were made to the Lingva Komitato to be accepted or rejected as a whole. Though many of the Espists were not averse to reforms in general, some of the proposed changes were repugnant to them (such as the monosyllabic forms of the verb esti), furthermore others were in favor of still other changes not proposed. The leading conservatives opposed any changes. As result of the cold reception given to these proposals Zamenhof did not put them to vote.
Even after the close of the Delegation's sittings, Dr. Zamenhof wrote out a modified form of the above proposals and, although not recommending their adoption offered to submit them to the Lingva Komitato. They never came to vote, however, as certain powerful leaders were firm against any change.
The above outline of reform within the ranks of Esperanto is chiefly useful as an example of endeavor to avoid any fundamental reforms and an attempt to placate a large number who desired some sort of reform. In letter to Couturat, dated January 21, 1907, in reply to the assertion that he was listening only to the voices of the conservatives, Zamenhof said: "It is exactly because I have listened too much to the critics that I have been convinced (particularly in the last three or four months) how difficult it is to content the reformists and what a great danger it would be (to the movement) to start to concede anything."
The Delegation Committee was not only fully cognizant of the important
work that the Espists had done in popularizing the idea of the I. L. and
the desirability of keeping intact, if possible, the large body of adherents
but, at the same time they recognized the real substantial excellencies
of the language. In a very real sense, Ido incorporates certain fundamental
features of Esp. and may therefore be regarded as an evolved, scientific
form of Esp. What are these excellencies and how far have they been retained
in Ido? The most important are (1) Simple grammatical forms, -o, -a, etc.
indicating the grammatical role of the word. (2) Simple conjugation without
exceptions. (3) The practical system of word derivation which enables all
related ideas to be regularly formed from the root. (Ido has simply carried
out the earlier system of word derivation to a greater degree of logical
precision). (4) Power of word combination, similar to the German. (5) A
large proportion of its vocabulary which, in spite of its empirical selection,
conforms to internationality. (6) Coordination of orthography and pronunciation,
and the suppression of double letters.
Dr. Zamenhof was not the only one, or the first author to recognize the necessity of simple, regular grammatical forms or to use international roots. His system is far from perfect but it marks a decided step in advance over its predecessor, Volapuk.
It is not necessary to be a learned philologist or accomplished linguist to understand the common sense necessity for the general reforms of Esperanto proposed by the Delegation Committee and carried out in Ido. In judging the relative excellence of Ido and Esp., it is essential to keep the mind upon the main points of the differences hereafter discussed. Esp. writers are apt to endeavor to confuse the mind of the inquirer by the discussion of subsidiary questions.
Esp. has six supersigned letters: c', s', g', j', h', u'. Owing to the
lack of special type for these characters, I have endeavored to distinguish
these special letters by placing an accent point thereafter, as here shown.
It is argued that the use of the special letters permits the carrying out with scientific exactitude of the phonetic principle of "one letter, one sound." The digraphs: sh, ch, as found in the words: ship(o), chambr(o), being reduced to s'ip(o), c'ambr(o). No member of the Delegation Committee attempted to defend the retention of the supersigned letters. Out of all the projects considered, Esperanto alone had the temerity to offer an alphabet which demanded special type. However, the celebrated philologist, Prof. Baudouin de Courtenay, with Prof. Ostwald concurring, did put in a plea for the absolute phoneticism of "one letter, one sound." His argument was that one should be guided by a strict logic rather than by traditional use, however international. He proposed that the sound of the Esp. letter c be represented by ts: tsent (for cent), tserta (for certa), etc.; that the Esp. sound of c' be represented by tc: tcambro (instead of as Ido: chambro); and that the Esp. letter s' (Ido: sh) be represented by c: cipo (for ship). Jespersen, Couturat and Moch opposed these proposals, basing their arguments on the practical ground of international usage; showing that whatever theoretical benefits might arise by their adoption would be more than offset by the loss of facility of recognition because of the distortion of the spelling. The outcome of the discussion was that, "the Committee accepted in the I. L. the digraphs ch and sh with the sounds found in the ordinary English words." The voting was four against two -- the only decision reached in the whole conference which was not unanimous. Prof. Jespersen states on this point: "(In Ido) the strict phonetic canon "one symbol, one sound" is followed in so far as the same sound is never arbitrarily written one way in one word and another way in another word, and the same letter is never pronounced differently in some words compared with the majority... The canon must be subordinated to the fundamental principle of greatest facility."
It is argued that the retention of these supersigned letters, especially the g' (pronounced like the E. j) tends to preserve the international aspect of certain words, as: g'entila, g'ermo, g'ardeno, g'irafo, sofag'a, voyag'o. This must be granted as respects such words as the above. However, it may be said that the Esp. g' likewise distorts some words from the English standpoint: g'oj (E. joy), g'ardeno (pronounced in E. with "g" hard as distinguished from the French sound). In Ido, it has been the rule to follow the spelling where that has the greatest internationality, and the pronunciation where that kind of internationality predominates over the orthography.
The above words are written in Ido: jentila, jermo, jirafo, sovaja, voyajo; gardeno (with the hard g as in E.); other such words are: anjelo, vejetanto, mariajar. The French word 'boudoir' is transcribed phonetically in Ido as buduaro. However, as has been stated before, because the orthography of the common roots is so much more often international than the pronunciation, there must often result in any form of I. L., formed on an a posteriori basis, a certain amount of "distortion" of the pronunciation, though, in most cases, the "distortion" is not sufficiently great to prevent easy recognition of the original words as found in the natural languages.
It is argued that the retention of these special letters enables an easy phonetical transcription of certain difficult Russian and German proper names. It is enough to answer to this that the transcription of proper names is of comparatively little importance in any I. L.. All existing alphabets are imperfect symbols from the viewpoint of the philologist. Permit the philologist 80 characters, instead of 30, and, from a phonetic standpoint, his alphabet would be far superior to any existing, but it would result in the loss of facility for immediate recognition of words now afforded by the common international orthography, imperfect as it admittedly is. Schleyer, in his Volapuk, for instance, replaced the r in words by 1, because r was difficult to pronounce by the Chinese and in consequence of this and similar changes, his vocabulary, though largely based on English words, was so disfigured as to become almost unrecognizable even by Englishmen.
Another argument offered by the Espists in support of the supersigned letters is the somewhat curious one that the lack of availability of these letters prevents half-taught Espists from rushing into print at the nearest printers. Because there exists but few centers where Esp. copy can be set up, there exists in these centers competent Espists who will see to it that only copy composed in good style is put into print. I shall only say that this affords a somewhat startling commentary on the boasted facility of Esp. One would presume that it was the essential aim of any form of I. L. to be printed in numberless centers, rather than a few.
The last argument offered in support recognizes the difficulties in the way of obtaining a stock of official letters and states that where the special letters cannot be obtained, the supersigns be done away with and the digraphs ch, gh, jh, sh, hh be used instead and the supersign over the u simply suppressed. Thus those printers who possess only the Roman letters can print any Esp. article. Of course, this is no fundamental reform of the alphabet and is put forward only as a makeshift, a temporary expedient to be used by those who for the time do not possess the proper letters. So far as I know, no Esp. journal employs this palliative remedy. The Esp. editors recognize the fact that if the language is to be printed, the proper alphabet should be used and not digraphs which deform the original and make unsightly the appearance of the words.
The practice of the Espists themselves is a sufficient argument against this makeshift. No one uses it and no one will use it because it alters the whole aspect of the language. There exists no sufficient reason for retaining a special alphabet if it is not fit for use. The digraphs ch, sh (as found in chambro, shipo) are acceptable enough and were adopted by the Delegation Committee because of their wide internationality, but the digraphs: gh, jh, hh, so distort the international spelling as to cause a great loss of facility of recognition. Such forms as: agho (age), ghentila, ghermo, voyagho, ghoyo, ghardeno; jhaluza, jhargono, jhuro; hhaoso, hhameleono, hhemio, hhino, hhirurgo, hholero, hhoro, monahho (monk), monarhh (monarch), have not only lost their international aspect as, to the spelling but are displeasing to the eye and a shock to our common sense. There is no real alternative to either retaining the special letters and always using them, or to making a thoroughgoing reform of the alphabet, as was done in Ido. The criticism of Dr. Zamenhof himself in 1894 (quoted on p. 71) as to the practical detriment of these letters to the diffusion of the languages stands as good to-day as when it was written. Of course, the Esp. propagandists claim that Esp. has not obtained such wide use and recognition that it is unwise and impolitic to make changes. This argument is but a sample of what would be adduced to hinder any change in the language, should any official congress be considering the adoption of Esperanto. All the forces of conservatism, of vested interests, of prejudice would put in the plea of long use against all proposals of improvement, just as the advocates of spelling reform fail to get a fair hearing and support. The longer errors exist, the harder it is to eradicate them.
The one all-sufficient, all-compelling argument against the special letters is their lack of internationality. It has been stated that the Esp. alphabet has a considerable resemblance to the Polish, Lithuanian and especially the Czech alphabet. Doubtless the Esp. alphabet seemed natural enough to Dr. Zamenhof with his limited linguistic training and his Polish-Russian outlook, but what a basis for an alphabet suitable for international use! A scientific I. L. must take as the basis of its vocabulary those roots which are most international, that are easiest for the greatest number of men. Why then, in the name of common sense, should this principle be rejected in the selection of the alphabet? Is not internationality and consequent facility of use as much needed in that most fundamental of all things, the alphabet, as well as in the vocabulary? The facts of the case are simple: The great majority of the nations of Europe and the Americas, peoples vastly superior in numbers and culture to the rest, do not use these special characters -- they use the Roman alphabet. Even the Germans, Russians, Czechs, print many books and papers in the Roman type and all printers of importance have some stock of the characters and can readily and cheaply procure additional ones if needed without going to the expense and delay of having special type cast. As a practical example of the widespread use of the Roman type. I will state that within the last few months several bids for printing the new Ido-English dictionary were submitted by small printing establishments in Germany and Czecho-Slovakia. They could not do this except they had in stock the Roman type. The Czecho-Slovakian alphabet is practically unprocurable outside of the national borders, yet this alphabet most nearly resembles the Esp. alphabet! With the Roman alphabet we have hundreds of thousands of printing establishments, linotypes, typewriters in a position to print Ido at will. For Esp. none, unless specially equipped. It is well to remember that the equipment of special type just cover all sizes and kinds, both for small and capital letters. These types must be specially cast or procured from possibly half a dozen printing establishments throughout the world. An American author of a small Esp. grammar printed some years ago was compelled to pay over one hundred dollars for the type necessary for the special letters to set up his booklet. In order to avoid errors in setting up the type, double the attention and labor is demanded. In writing, it is constantly necessary to stop and insert supersigns, thus slowing down the rapidity of the writing and interrupting the attention to the subject.
One who is not a learned philologist must, of course, speak with difference on the selection of the letters which should compose the best alphabet for the I. L. The Ido alphabet is the outcome of the advice of competent philologists from the different linguistic groups. Prof. Otto Jespersen played a leading part and it is fully recognized that no philologist stands higher in learning and special competency than this eminent scholar.(12)
To the Poles, to the Russians, possibly to the Germanic races, the presence
of the various supersigned letters, the continued "ch" and "sh" sounds,
the frequent diphthongs, the forests of "j's" in the plurals, and the constant
accusative ending in "n", seem not to disfigure the text but even to beautify
it. To the majority of Europeans and all Americans, their presence,
to say nothing of the difficulties of pronunciation, has a strange and
disagreeable aspect. De gustibus non est disputandum. The fact,
however, that the English and Romance group compose a vast majority and
have a cultural predominance makes it necessary in any scientific form
of I. L. that their usages and prejudices be taken into consideration.
Take the diphthongs: aj, ej, oj, uj, au, eu, which are disagreeable both
to eye and ear because of their frequency and which present more or less
difficulties of pronunciation to all Romance peoples. One of the
recommendations of the Committee on the I. L. of the American Philosophical
Society was that no future I. L. should contain diphthongs -- Esp. bristles
Take the c', s', of the supersigned letters (replaced in Ido by the digraphs: ch, sh), which all Esp. textbooks in English inform the student are to be pronounced as in the Ido digraphs: Kotzin (Historio kaj teorio de Ido, p.23) informs us that these digraphs are really not the equivalents of the supersigned letters, that chambro and posho do not correctly represent the sounds of c' and s' in c'ambro, pos'o -- what the proper sounds are he does not state.
Take the diphthongs: aj, oj, uj: According to Dr. Zamenhof (Esperantisto, Jan., 1893) the letter "j" is always a consonant, either before or after a vowel. Therefore these so-called "diphthongs" represent a vowel combined with a consonant: aj- "a", vowel, plus the "j" (consonant). In English, these combinations are true diphthongs, pronounced as if composed of two vowels: aj- ai sound, like "y" in my; oj- oy sound as in boy. Yet if the "j" is to be considered a consonant, the English usage is not correct for Esp.
The combination "uj" as found in such ordinary words as unuj, tiuj is especially difficult -- for the English speaker -- the exact pronunciation I cannot attempt to state. It was noted that out of 22 successive numbers of the British Esperantisto, six contained articles on the pronunciation of the aj, oj, uj. This would not have happened if the pronunciation were as easy for the English as claimed.
To inform the English speaker that h' is to be pronounced as "ch" in the Scottish word "loch", does not give us much of a guide when this supersigned letter is used as an initial consonant.
Take "au", "eu": Zamenhof claims, I believe, that in these two "diphthongal" combinations each letter is to be pronounced separately. Yet how that can be done, especially with the "au" is not clear.
However, it is not necessary to stress the difficulties too much. Esp. seems in practice to be orally intelligible to all European peoples, though the language does present some difficulties of pronunciation, especially to the English. These difficulties arise in part from the unusual letter sounds or combination of letter sounds which are not found, or rarely found in the English. These sounds so difficult to the English seem easy and simple to the Russians and Poles, just as certain sounds (the "th" for example) seem easy and simple to us but very difficult to many foreigners. Take, for instance, the three j's: g' or gh with the value of the ordinary English j sound or soft g; j like the y in yes; j' or "jh" like the s in leisure. The Esp. sounds for these letters are unfamiliar to English ears and tend to mislead the student or user from the correct pronunciation.
Another criticizable point is the constant succession of "ch" sounds which, to Western European ears seem disagreeable, as found in chio tio chi, chiuj tiuj chi, char ech che tiuj. Chu shia fiancho serchis shin. (In Ido: Kad lua fianco serchis el?) Char shi ne scias, chu shia chapelo estas tie-chi au che shia chambro, serchu ghin chie. (In Ido - Pro ke el ne savas, kad lua chapelo esas hike od en lua chambro, serchez ol omnube.) The Slavic languages are, I understand, very rich in such sounds consequently they seem easy and euphonious to Slavic races, but, such is certainly not the case to the majority of Europeans.
Still other questionable phonetics are the difficulties of pronunciation of such letter combinations as: sc in absceso, sceptro, scii; kc in akcepti, akcio, funkcio; the kv sounds which replace the qu in many words of Latin derivation, as: akvo, kvar; the gv where the takes the place of "u", as: lingvo, gvidi.
According to the democratic and scientific principle of "the greatest good to the greatest number", Slav phonetics should not be given a preference over the phonetics of the majority languages.
12 - One of the most difficult phonetic problems which confronted the
Delegation was the proper sound to be given the letter "c" -- the acceptance
or rejection of "k". In the original Latin alphabet, the "k" sound was
represented by the letter "k", the letter "c" having the sound of "g".
Unfortunately for future phonetic regularity, "k" became practically obsolete
and "c" usurped its place. As a consequence modern Italian (also Spanish
and Portuguese lack the letter "k", replacing it by "c" or "ch" before
vowels, and admitting it only in words taken from other languages. The
English "c" consequently sometimes represents the hard "k" sound, and sometimes
has the value of " s" to say nothing of the variations in sound represented
by the digraph "ch". We have catholic and catholicism, publicity
The different authors of the I. L. projects have variously solved, or attempted to solve these difficulties. Some Italians and Latinists, as Peano in Interlingua, reject the letter "k" altogether and give to "c (and "ch") the "k" sound. In Ido (as in Esp.), the letter "k" is retained and "c" given the sound of "ts" as the "ts" in bits and the "cz" in czar. The use of "c" for the "ts" sound enables us to retain the ordinary spelling for such words as cento, civila, instead of being compelled to write tsento, tsivila, etc. thus losing facility of recognition. There is an excellent discussion of the problem in the August, 1910, number of Discussiones, Prof. Meysmans, who is a advocate of some sort of a Latin-based I. L. comes to the following conclusions: (1) If we retain in the I. L. the Latin roots and differing conjugations with their vowel endings in a, e, i, o, u, it is possible to use "c" for the "k" sound; (2) that if we do not retain the Latin final vowels and have only one conjugation, the retention of "c" (with the "k" sound) is difficult, if not impossible. In this latter event, the "k" must be used and "c" given the sound of "ts" (as Ido). As Prof. Meysmans stated elsewhere (see p. 51) that he found a perfect wall of prejudice against the Latin finals, it is evident that he would vote for the retention of "k". The dropping of "k" from the Latin alphabet is one of the phonetic catastrophes of history from the I. L. standpoint.
Pages 1 to 24
Pages 24 to 54
54 to 74
Pages 74 to 85
Pages 86 to 101
Pages 101 to 124
Pages 121 to 139
Pages 140 to the end
The International Language
IDO - Reformed Esperanto