XII. Autonomistic and Naturalistic Principles

XII - 1. Points of departure

THE RESPECTIVE MERITS OF the autonomistic and naturalistic schools of thought for the planned language can be assessed only if we know their different points of departure. A mere comparison of the rules and forms without a knowledge of divergent and sometimes opposing principles will not give a fair picture of either type of language. The autonomistic school is mainly represented by the two systems Esperanto and Ido; the naturalistic school is mainly represented by the two systems Occidental and Interlingua (Latino sine flexione). Novial is based on autonomistic principles but contains some naturalistic features, and can thus be described as an intermediate system between the two schools of thought.

The guiding principle of the naturalists is the closest possible similarity to existing forms of the ethnic languages, and preferably to the Romanic group of languages. The elements and forms shall be natural. Immediate comprehensibility is more important than forms independent (autonomistic) of the existing languages and any factor contributing to naturalness is desirable.

The autonomists demand that all elements (roots and affixes) shall be monosignificant and independent (autonomous) of the existing languages even though they are modelled - to the extent practicable - on these languages. All elements shall be monosignificant and be related to each other in a logical manner; they shall be independent of all conventional usages (irregular collocations - Palmer). The rules and elements shall be regular (without exceptions).

XII - 2. Words and affixes

In consequence of these principles, the naturalists set out from the full words in the ethnic languages which are in international use, i.e. common to several European languages. The affixes selected were defined according to the meaning which they have in ethnic languages, and which may vary in different connexions. The definitions of affixes are, of necessity, wide, general, and not precise [-ion denoting action, state or results]. De Wahl and Peano thus achieved a nearer approach to natural forms than did the authors of the autonomistic systems.

Esperanto and Ido chose their elements from the ethnic languages but assigned one function only to each element (root or affix). The result was a more regular system and greater precision of the terms, and, in Ido, the application of reversibility of all derivatives. Its obvious disadvantage was a greater artificiality of many forms in the language [Ido-Esp. delegitaro, Occ. delegation].

To absorb as many international expressions as possible, de Wahl was obliged to take from the ethnic languages many more affixes than either Esperanto or Ido. In Chapter III only the most important ones are enumerated. In some cases we have a choice of four or more affixes but unless we know the international or conventional form as used in the ethnic languages, we cannot autonomously apply it with the help of definite rules [yuness but infantie]. We may know the root and a number of affixes which, according to their definitions, may be equally correct. Even analogy to other forms in Occidental does not always lead to the correct form. Further still, the many affixes from which we may select the correct one - either by previous knowledge of the ethnic base languages, or by an imitation of good writers in Occidental - does not always lead to an international form, for even a wide choice of affixes must still be limited in a constructed language [interprension = enterprise, descovrition, etc.].

XII - 3. Spelling

The naturalists have consistently followed the principle of naturalness and have adopted the so-called historic (or etymological) spelling. They have justified it by saying that as soon as phonetic spelling is adopted in the ethnic languages, their system will follow. However, for aesthetic reasons they accept the present usage of ethnic languages rather than anticipating such simplification. The authors of the naturalistic systems have retained double consonants, the double pronunciation of c, g and t, the use of y as a consonant and a vowel. They have retained the use of accents for stress and in some few cases for differentiation of meaning [ín accented has the negative meaning of non or un, ínscrit = unwritten; in unaccented has the meaning of E in, inscrit = written in]. Either the grave accent [`] or the acute accent [´] may be used for stress [logicalità].

The autonomists have tried, as far as practicable, to adopt phonetic spelling. Ido has compromised by retaining x and q, sh and ch. Esperanto has suppressed x and q and substituted ks or kz for x. Double consonants were suppressed and each letter has one function only.

In adopting historic spelling de Wahl was able to retain the known abbreviations of chemical formulae in Occidental. Ido has to make a concession to science by retaining the known formulae, which were not, however, the natural abbreviations of the terms in Ido.

XII - 4. Indicative endings

The autonomistic systems have a number of terminations which serve to indicate the grammatical species of the words. [-o, -a, -e, etc.]. The argument in favour of these endings is that they help the student to identify the component parts of a phrase more easily. They are an important factor for ease of learning of the planned language.

Rather than following the accepted grammatical pattern of noun in singular and plural, adjective, adverb and the tenses, some Esperanto teachers have accepted a simplification, and refer to various word classes as the -o group which indicates an object, the -a group which indicates a quality, the -e group which indicates how a thing is done, etc. The thus avoid the necessity of referring to grammatical terms which offer difficulties to some students.

The naturalistic systems reject these obligatory endings which they call pleonastic, i.e., superfluous. It is argued that if suffixes are added to words which end in either -o or -a etc., these endings are superfluous because they do not fulfil any derivative function. They are considered a priori designs for certain classes of words which have no parallel in any ethnic language. These endings, they say, are unnatural and have, by their repetition in writing and speech, a bad effect on style. Occidental does, however, admit such pleonastic endings in certain cases, and these endings have to be suppressed if a suffix is added [hom(e), homanità; fat/e, fat/al]. In Occidental it is necessary to remember which letter is part of the root and which is simply added as a pleonastic ending. In Ido and Esperanto the grammatical ending is always retained and follows the suffix or suffixes, i.e., the suffix or suffixes are inserted between root and grammatical termination [labor/ar = to work, labor/o = the work, labor/ant/o = the worker)].

For aesthetic reasons the naturalists object to the use of -a to denote the adjective. In Spanish -a denotes the feminine gender, and, say the naturalists, the phrase la bona patro = the good father, would be objectionable to people accustomed to -a for the feminine, and -o for masculine.

Occidental admits the optional -i for adjectives and the optional -e for nouns. The plural ending is -s, and -e is then required [hom(e) = man, homes = men; par(e) = pair, pares = pairs].

The demand for euphony is often used as an argument in favour of the endings of Esperanto and Ido. The vowel endings of Ido, and to a lesser degree Esperanto, make them sound similar to Italian.

XII - 5. Analytic and synthetic conjugation

Esperanto and Ido use the so-called synthetic forms of conjugation as well as the analytic conjugation with the auxiliary verb esti or esar. Occidental and Novial use the analytic form, i.e., with auxiliary verbs [Occ. yo ha amat, Nov. me did ama, Ido me amabis or me esis amanta]. Jespersen introduced the analytic for besides the simple past as a useful alternative. It should not be used with the same emphatic meaning as in present-day English, but rather as an alternative for the simple past, as in Elizabethan English when he did say meant nothing more than he said. The -ab- [am-ab-is] forms in Ido are very rarely used as the simple past expresses the idea adequately in most cases. S. Quarfood (La Akademio) has proposed some new forms of analytic conjugation for Ido but they have, so far, not been accepted. These proposals show, however, that analytic conjugation could well be fitted into the structure of Ido or Esperanto if interlinguistic experiments proved them to be desirable.

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James Chandler 2001.