AT THE TIME OF the World Exhibition in 1900, many international scientific organizations chose Paris for their conferences and congresses. At these important meetings, attended by people from many countries, the language differences were an obvious disadvantage and were acutely felt. An eminent scientist, Léopold Leau, professor of mathematics, proposed a solution by means of an auxiliary language constructed on scientific principles. Many of those who were experiencing the difficulties of communication gave him encouragement and support. After careful preparation the Délégation pour l'adoption d'une Langue Auxiliaire Internationale was formed on 17th January 1901 on the initiative of Léopold Leau. The programme of this Delegation contained two important points:
(1) `It is desirable that an international auxiliary language should be introduced which, though not intended to replace the natural languages in the internal life of nations, should be adapted to written and oral communication between persons of different mother-tongues.'
(2) `In order to fulfil its object, such an international auxiliary language must satisfy the following conditions, (a) it must be capable of serving the needs of science as well as those of daily life, commerce and general communication, (b) it must be capable of being easily learnt by all persons of average elementary education, especially those belonging to the civilized nations of Europe, (c) it must not be one of the living languages.'
Up to 1906 the Delegation had received the support of over 1,200 members of Academies and Faculties of Universities and the adherence of over 300 societies. In May 1907 the Delegation submitted the subject to the International Association of Academies in Vienna which, by twelve votes to eight with one abstention, declared itself unable to decide the problem of an international auxiliary language. In consequence the Delegation proceeded to form a working committee, and by 242 votes out of the total of 253, the following members were elected: Messrs Manuel Barrios, Dean of the medical school of Lima, Peru, President of the Peruvian Senate; Baudouin de Courtenay, Professor of Linguistics at the University of St. Petersburg; E. Boirac, Rector of the University of Dijon, France; Ch. Bouchard, Member of the Academy of Sciences, Professor at the Paris Medical School; R. Eotvos, member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences; W. Forster, chairman of the International Committee on Weights and Measures; Col. George Harvey, Editor of the North American Review; Otto Jespersen, Professor of Philology, University of Copenhagen, member of the Danish Academy of Sciences; S. Lambros, former Rector of the University of Athens; C. Le Paige, Director of the Scientific Section of the Royal Academy of Belgium, Administrator-Inspector of the University of Liège; W. Ostwald, member of the Royal Society of Sciences of Saxony, Professor Emeritus in the University of Leipzig; Hugo Schuchardt, member of the Imperial Academy of Sciences of Vienna, Professor at the University of Graz.
The Committee was completed by the co-option of Messrs Gustav Rados, of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences; W. T. Stead, editor of the London Review of Reviews; G. Peano, Professor of the University of Turin, member of the Academy of Sciences of Turin. As Messrs Bouchard, Harvey and Stead were unable to attend, they were represented by Messrs Rodet, Hugon and Dimnet; M Boirac was represented at some sittings by the prominent peace advocate, G. Moch; the joint secretaries of the Delegation, Messrs Couturat and Leau, became members of the Committee.
Couturat and Leau had published, in 1903, their remarkable book Histoire de la Langue Universelle (Hachette, 576 pp.) which reviewed more than fifty different systems of constructed languages. This book was sent to all members of the Committee before the sessions of the Delegation. It contains a detailed exposition of seventeen a priori systems, of twelve mixed systems, and of twenty-six a posteriori systems. It gives details of each system, alphabet, phonetics, grammar, sources of roots, and a critical commentary.
In October 1907 the committee met at the Collège de France at which, finally, the following decision was reached, `None of the proposed languages can be adopted in toto and without modifications. The committee has decided to adopt in principle Esperanto, on account of its relative perfection, and of the many and varied applications which have been made of it, provided that certain modifications be executed by the Permanent Commission, on the lines indicated by the Conclusions of the Report (Conclusions du Rapport) of the secretaries and by the project of Ido, if possible in agreement with the Esperantist Language Committee.' The Permanent Commission consisted now of Ostwald, Couturat, Leau, de Beaufront, Jespersen, and Baudouin de Courtenay. A basis for the work of that commission was the Histoire de la Langue Universelle (1903) and its supplement Les Nouvelles Langues Internationales (1907) by Couturat and Leau, a detailed review of all projects known to the authors. In 1907 Couturat distributed his study Étude sur la dérivation en Esperanto which stated for the first time the principle of monosignificance of affixes and the principle of reversibility, i.e., the possibility to deduce the meaning of the derivative from the meaning of the root and the fixed meaning of the affix or affixes, and inversely to analyse a full word consisting of root and one or more affixes and logically arrive at the meaning of the root.
During its sessions the authors of many systems appeared before the permanent commission to defend the principles of the languages but it soon became clear that an a posteriori project (i.e., one which is based on ethnic languages) would have to be chosen, of which the most favoured systems were Esperanto, Neutral, Nov-latin, and Universal. An anonymous project under the name of Ido was submitted which incorporated many of the reforms proposed as early as 1894, as well as the principles of derivation proposed by Couturat in his Étude; on the whole it was a reformed Esperanto. Many of the proposals were finally adopted by the Delegation in its language, but Jespersen points out that this project was not approved in all details, neither concerning grammar nor in the choice of words, and it differed in many points from what is now known under the name of Ido.
Louis de Beaufront had been chosen by Dr Zamenhof to represent Esperanto before the Permanent Commission, and a personal controversy followed when it became known that he was the author of the anonymous project. It has also been alleged that Couturat was the real author of that system. If so, and being a member of the delegation, he was prevented by its statute from submitting his own system. Undoubtedly Ido contained some of his ideas and avoided many mistakes which Couturat and Leau had pointed out in their Histoire. Whatever the personal aspect may have been, it is true to say that Ido as it is known today started as a reformed Esperanto, abolishing the accented letters and the plural form in -j. In Ido the adjectives were made invariable, the accusative was retained only in inversion, the a priori list of correlative words disappeared and the roots were chosen from the ethnic languages; the spelling of many roots was brought into conformity with international usage. All roots were re-examined on a scientific basis and many new ones adopted, the derivation was adapted to Couturat's proposal. The total result was that the language became more immediately comprehensible and more natural in aspect. After the adoption of reformed Esperanto, now known as Ido, a Union of Friends of the International Language was formed which elected an Academy (later known as the Ido Academy). In 1908 a monthly journal Progreso (edited by Couturat) was started which contained the linguistic discussions and the decisions of that academy. The grammars, dictionaries and text books which were revised in accordance with the decisions of the academy became available only after the 1914-18 war. These dictionaries were then and are today the most complete works of their kind for any system of planned language.
Back to `A Planned Auxiliary Language' Contents Page
Back to the Ido Homepage