Jespersen's Novial

In Jespersen's own language, published in 1928 under the name of Novial =Nov (new) I.A.L. (= International Auxiliary Language), he solved certain problems with new and unorthodox methods. In many respects Novial differs little from Ido, the language of the delegation; his new proposals merit our attention. A full summary of the grammar of Novial is impossible in this brief review, a more comprehensive study will be found in A Planned European Language, now being prepared.

Perhaps his most remarkable contribution to interlinguistics is the form of derivation he proposes, and within it the class of a/o/e words. `Derivation' is here used to describe the process of forming one word from another within the same word-family by means of affixes [to work, work/ing, the work, the work/er, work/able, etc.].

To appreciate Jespersen's rules of derivation, a comparative study of the rules of the five chief systems of demonstrated usefulness is required. This is clearly impossible here.

The systems Esperanto and Ido use -o to distinguish the noun in singular from other word classes. Jespersen uses -o similarly as well to denote `male sex' in nouns describing living beings. -o is no longer a purely distinctive ending but a formative element, i.e., an affix. Its third function is to denote a noun derived from or connected with a verb and meaning `the simple act or state' denoted by the verb. Jespersen calls nouns so derived `nexus-substantives.'

GROUP I. The simplest case is that in which only one noun can be derived from the verb. The verb ends in -a, the noun in -o. In most corresponding English cases the noun is not distinguished from the infinitive. This group of words is referred to as the a/o words [sonja/o `dream,' marcha/o `march,' odora/o `smell'].

GROUP II. The verb may end in -e, the noun in -o. In this case -o fulfils the same function as in Esperanto and Ido, it is a distinguishing mark used in certain cases. This group of words is referred to as the e/o words [respekte/o `respect,' neglekte/o `neglect'].

GROUP III. Verbs ending in -i or -u retain the final vowel when the noun in -o is derived; this group of words is referred to as the i/io, u/uo words [aboli `abolish,' aboli/o `the act of abolishing = abolition,' distribu `distribute,' distribu/o `the act of distributing = distribution'].

GROUP IV. The nominal root ends in -e, the verb derived from it ends in -a, and from the latter the verbal noun is formed ending in -o. These e/a/o words cover a variety of cases. The original noun is the name of an instrument, ending in -e, the verb derived from it describes `the natural use made of that instrument' [brose `brush,' brosa `to brush'], the verbal noun in -o describes `the act of . . . ' [broso `the act of brushing,' fume `smoke,' fuma `to smoke,' fumo `the act of smoking'; nive `snow,' niva `to snow,' nivo `snowing']. The e/a/o words are used for four different cases, (1) `to use as an instrument' [hamre/a/o], (2) `to secrete' [sange/a/o], (3) to describe meteorological phenomena [nive/a/o], (4) for cases in which no doubt as to the precise meaning of words so derived is possible. Jespersen has added to the infinitive the English `to' in phonetic transcription as a further mark of distinction for the verb [tu helpa `to help'].

The endings e/a/o are further used for nouns to denote respectively `common sex, male, female' in the case of living beings [home, homo, homa]. Jespersen does not anticipate any conflict between the use of these vowel endings for noun, verb, verbal noun, and their use to distinguish living beings. They are easily kept apart by their natural meanings.

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James Chandler 1997.