XV. The Work of the International Auxiliary Language Association

XV - 1. History

THE INTERNATIONAL AUXILIARY LANGUAGE ASSOCIATION (IALA) was founded in 1924 at the instance of the Committee on International Language of the International Research Council. In 1919 the International Research Council, to investigate the problem of a planned language, formed a special committee of which Frederick D. Cottrell, a scientist of wide repute, became chairman. In response to his invitation the American, British, French, and Italian Associations for the Advancement of Science, the American Council of Education, the American Classical League, the American Philological Association, and the National Research Council of the United States formed co-operating committees. This activity led to the formation of IALA which had as its programme the establishment, upon scientific foundations, of an international auxiliary language.

The outstanding personality of IALA was then, and is now, its honorary secretary, Mrs Dave Hennen Morris, who has made tireless efforts to further the work undertaken by IALA and its various committees in America and Europe. IALA has sponsored a number of experiments and studies in various aspects of the language problem and mainly on questions which had hitherto been assumed without convincing proof. IALA has had the active assistance of the Research Corporation, which has contributed an annual grant for its activities.

From the beginning IALA has held the conviction that no one of the great national languages will be permanently acceptable as the international auxiliary language. The chief reasons for this view are fully explained in IALA's Plan (1936): 'National associations bound up with the major languages; the time and effort entailed in learning a foreign language, not to say several; the constant and sometimes serious misunderstandings that arise in translating one ethnic language into another; the inevitable mutilation of a cultural tongue when adapted to international service (for example Pidgin English). Such desirable qualities as neutrality, grammatical simplicity, and regularity with consequent ease of learning, and maximum freedom from idiom and ambiguity (to be termed, according to Harold E. Palmer, irregular collocations) are to be obtained only in a language deliberately constructed for international use.'

IALA's programme had two main objects in view, (1) to obtain agreement on one definite planned language system and to obtain official sanction for that language, and (2) to secure the general acceptance of the sanctioned language which would include its teaching in the schools. To achieve agreement on a definite system, IALA has established and is maintaining constant touch with representatives of the main auxiliary language systems. The preliminary enquiries sponsored by IALA were (1) investigations in the field of language learning, (2) a survey of the language problems and practices of international conferences, and (3) linguistic studies.

Some of the many meetings and conferences convened by IALA were of particular interest. In 1930 (March 20 to April 2) IALA organized the meeting of linguistic research in Geneva, presided over by Professor Otto Jespersen. This was the first meeting of its kind where linguists and interlinguists were brought together to discuss the main problems of a planned language. Prominent philologists met there with representatives of Esperanto, Ido, Nov-Esperanto, Occidental and Latino sine flexione. Its direct result was that the congress of linguists, which took place a year later in the same town, expressed its appreciation of the work of IALA for an auxiliary language, and gave a general promise that scientists would contribute their share towards an evolution which is necessary and which will some day attain its goal. The latter congress was presided over by Professor Meillet whose interest in an auxiliary language and in Ido in particular is well known; as early as 1918 he pleaded the case of a constructed language in his Les Langues dans l'Europe Nouvelle (Payot, Paris).

The meeting of linguists at Copenhagen (August 1936), organized by IALA, attracted great attention in the linguistic world. Shortly before it took place IALA formulated its Plan for obtaining agreement on an auxiliary world-language which contained a detailed description of the task envisaged by IALA, the linguistic research to be undertaken and promoted, a mention of the project of an International Language Academy which is to maintain the stability and guide the development of the language, and the policy of IALA.

At this conference Professor Collinson (University of Liverpool), one of the linguistic collaborators on IALA's staff, mentioned that IALA had decided to admit as candidate languages the systems Esperanto, Esperanto-II, Ido, Novial, Occidental, and Latino sine flexione (Interlingua). These languages are referred to by IALA as 'existing, constructed languages of demonstrated usefulness.' A definition of this reference is given by IALA (Committee for Agreement, July 1936), (1) the language must be one that is already well developed, with vocabulary, grammar, and system of word-formation, and not a mere project, and (2) the language must be in use as a means of communication both in speech and writing, adequate for all ordinary purposes. In regard to the written language there must exist publications sufficient to prove such adequacy. IALA has made clear its policy to build upon the fund of experience and knowledge furnished by the languages which have been tested by time and use. For a number of years it explored the possibility of selecting one of the above mentioned 'candidate languages' as a base-language from which a definitive form of language might be developed (see p.147).

XV - 2. Experiments and research

Over the last twenty-two years IALA sponsored many enquiries of a technical and general character; these have been reported in books, annual reports, and language monographs and are briefly summarized here.

Professor Thorndike (Columbia University) has conducted, on behalf of IALA, a six-year experimental course to determine the relative ease of learning a constructed language as compared with learning an ethnic language, and to determine the influence of the study of a constructed language on subsequent language learning, both in the vernacular and foreign languages. Thorndike said that 'on the whole, with expenditures of from ten to a hundred hours, the achievement in the synthetic language will probably be from five to fifteen times that in a natural language, according to the difficulty of the latter.' (p. 7, Language Learning, 1933, Columbia University). A brief review of this work appeared in IALA's Annual Report, 1939. In a senior high school in the U.S. a group of pupils studied IALA's general language course which used Esperanto as a medium to show the relationship in words and in word-building between English, French, Spanish, Latin, and German. Another class studied French in the usual manner of the school as the first foreign language. Both groups studied five times a week for 45-minute periods. The result was that the average gain made by the students of the general language course in English vocabulary was 6.68 as against the 3.75 of the groups studying French as the only foreign language.

Another experiment which brings out more clearly the advantages to be derived from preliminary study of a planned language as a general introduction to language learning is provided by the results obtained at a junior high school. One group studied the general language course during one term twice a week for 45-minute periods on a voluntary basis. For the following term they joined other pupils in a beginners' class in Latin. An initial test, taken before the term began, showed that the language course pupils made 7 points against the 5 points of the other pupils. At the end of the term a second test was made in which the former language course pupils obtained 14.5 points against 12.4 of the other pupils. The final results averaged 21.5 for the former language course pupils and 17.4 for the others.

The conclusion reached was that the preliminary study of a Latin-derived constructed language as a kind of language model simplifies and clarifies for the pupils the problems encountered in language learning, that it has definite advantages for the study of foreign languages, and that it aids the comprehension of English words. The course used in these experiments was that compiled by Helen S. Eaton, the linguistic research associate of IALA.

The late Herbert N. Shenton, Professor of Sociology of Syracuse University, completed for IALA in 1933 a pioneer study of non-governmental, international organizations as a four-fold inquiry:

What do people desire to talk about?
Where do they assemble for conference?
What nationalities participate?
How do people of diverse mother tongues manage to converse?

Professor Shenton's study was published as Cosmopolitan Conversations, The Language Problems of International Conferences, Columbia University Press.

The international conference movement was outlined from its beginnings. In 1840-49 there was an average of only one conference a year. In the decade following World War I private international organizations with their periodic conferences formed a world-wide network of international cooperation in practically every field of human affairs.

By means of a questionnaire and correspondence, Professor Shenton obtained data from 607 organizations concerning their conferences. These data revealed that about 300 international conferences took place every year from 1921 through 1929 bringing together assemblies of different nationals from two or three countries up to more than a score of countries.

Organizations were classified under fourteen types according to their respective subjects of interest: Pacifism; Law and Administration; Labour; Education; Feminism; Sport and Tourism; Humanitarianism, Religion and Morals; Economics and Finance; Agriculture; Trade and Industry; Communications and Transit; Arts and Sciences; Medicine and Hygiene; and Miscellaneous which included the various propagandist organizations for Esperanto, Ido, Occidental, and Latino sine Flexione.

In general, language difficulties were handled by 'Official languages, languages of publication and correspondence, translation languages, permitted languages'. English, French, and German were the languages most frequently recognized, but the trend was to increase the number of languages admitted in conferences.

Significant interest in the use of an auxiliary language was revealed and a special section of the book was devoted to this aspect. The successful congresses held by Esperantists and also Idists gave proof of the practicability of a constructed language.

Professor Shenton's book remains an historical reference work of great value for the present-day approach to an analytical study of the language problem in international conferences.

World War II disrupted the activities of international organizations but in our present post-war world there is increasing evidence that the social institution of the private international conference is being used by scientists, educators, and welfare groups alongside the governmental committees and commissions of the United Nations. Much publicity has been given to the language difficulties of the United Nations. The San Francisco Charter was published in five official languages. Russian is admitted in the Security Council. Interpretation from French to English and English to French slows down the proceedings of the Assembly. Simultaneous translations are given by telephone at some meetings. The question of a common language to expedite the future work of UNO is receiving more serious public attention than ever before accorded the idea of an auxiliary language.

Another piece of research, of the greatest practical value irrespective of the final form of the auxiliary language, is the compilation of the Semantic Frequency List (University of Chicago Press) undertaken in 1934 by Helen S. Eaton of IALA's staff. The list is based on word counts in different languages, i.e., Teachers' Word Book of 20,000 Words by Thorndike, French Word Book by Vander Beke, Häufigkeitswörterbuch der deutschen Sprache by Kaeding, and the Graded Spanish Word Book by Buchanan. It shows the relative frequency of approximately 6,000 international concepts with common or related semantic values in four of the great European languages.

The 6,474 concepts are arranged on a scale of descending frequency, as determined by their frequency position in the four individual languages examined: English, French, German, and Spanish. As one language had to be selected for the 'key words' or 'finding words' for the concepts, English was chosen; and the other languages follow in the order given above. This does not mean, however, that the List was made entirely from the English approach. The English source list was examined first, and equivalents for the English words in the other three language lists were sought.

XV - 3. Vocabulary selection

IALA's General Report 1945, published in July of the same year, includes a brief review of IALA's aims and activities from the foundation of the Association at the end of 1924. The report is mainly devoted to an outline of the methods and results of IALA's linguistic research.

After much experimentation the idea of selecting one of the existing systems of demonstrated usefulness as a base-language has been broadened. It has been found to be more practicable to start from the basis which underlies all six of the 'candidate languages' rather than from any one of them, namely the basis of the international vocabulary, or, in other terms, the words common to the greatest number of widely distributed cultural languages.

The basic procedure for the selection of vocabulary includes, (1) the setting up of control languages to be referred to as control units; (2) the application of three rules for the choice of international words and the standardization of their forms and meanings in the auxiliary language vocabulary; (3) supplementary devices which assure that the auxiliary language vocabulary includes all words needed for practical purposes. The three rules referred to under (2) have the purpose of determining (a) in how many of the four control units an international word must be found in order to be eligible for representation in the auxiliary language; (b) in what form an eligible word is to be standardized; (c) what meaning or meanings it is to convey.

The four control units for the selection of the vocabulary are English, French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese, that latter two forming one unit as closely related languages. These units are the basic point of departure, giving IALA's projected system an Anglo-Romanic basis. The three criteria for obtaining standardized international words are as follows:


'If an international word is represented by variants with at least one common meaning in at least three out of the four control units - English, French, Italian, Spanish-Portuguese - it is eligible for representation in the auxiliary language.'

(2) FORM

'The standardized form in which an eligible word is represented is a common-denominator form of all its variants and may be called their prototype. The prototype is arrived at by a thorough study of the etymology of the word-family in which the international word is found.'


'The meaning or meanings of a standardized international word are the meaning or meanings which the variants contributing to its eligibilty have in common.'

The supplementary devices necessary for the selection of words which cannot be obtained by the strict application of the above three rules vary in character, though they do not differ in principle from similar procedures as applied in some of the existing systems of constructed languages.

IALA has classified existing systems into two schools already known to the reader, (a) the naturalistic school, and (b) the autonomistic school or, as IALA prefers to call it, the schematic school. The procedure of word selection as described produces words of the naturalistic type. To transform the naturalistic words into words for the autonomistic language model, it is necessary to apply certain additional procedures designed to regularize word-formation, spelling, and pronunciation. Here again various degrees of regularization are possible, and IALA has, so far, developed two models, referred to in the report as schematic E in which the regularization is the minimum possible, and schematic K which represents the medium degree of regularization. Further regularization is possible, though not without sacrificing international recognizability of the meaning of the text to those familiar with English and one or more of the Romanic languages. In all three models the roots remain the same, though the form of a word may be altered through the use of different suffixes, e.g., the adjectives severe and prompt are standardized as severe and prompte. The nouns severity and promptitude have, in the naturalistic model. the form of severitate and promptitudine, while schematic E has severitá and promptitá, and schematic K has severeso and prompteso, -eso being derived from Latin with its equivalents -esse in French, -ezza in Italian, -eza in Spanish and Portuguese.

The principles applied for the change from naturalistic word to either of the schematic models are as follows, (1) all naturalistic words are examined in the framework of the etymological families of which they are part. Each etymological family is divided into what IALA terms schematic groups, each group headed by an invariable root. Added to that there are standardized affixes, i.e., prefixes and suffixes and rules for using them; (2) a naturalistic word whose meaning can be expressed by a base word plus one or more of the standardized affixes, is given a form made up of the base word, less its final vowel, and the appropriate standardized affix or affixes; (3) a naturalistic word is not subjected to this schematic treatment when it has a meaning which cannot be expressed by the formation of a schematic word from a root plus one or more of the standardized affixes, but is taken over bodily into the schematic vocabulary after adaptation in spelling.

The actual difference between a naturalistic word and one of the schematic models is the regularization with which the latter is formed and the possibility of combining it with standardized affixes vastly extending its potential range as a root of a semantic group. IALA estimates that the proportion of naturalistic words requiring a different affix in the schematic version is as little as, approximately, ten per cent.

XV - 4. Experimental versions in three models

Little is as yet known of the grammar of the three models from the report. The three texts represent the present state of progress of IALA's work. On comparison it will be found that the naturalistic model has much in common both with Interlingua and Occidental, while the schematic K model is not far removed from Ido and Novial in their present form. The final language to be recommended by IALA will not greatly differ from one of the three models represented here, so that we have, today, a fairly clear idea of what that language will be, as confirmed in IALA's words 'when, as the result of its research, experimentation, and consultation, IALA decides which type of language it will recommend, it will proceed to develop a single model of that type which will not be fundamentally different from the models of that type in this report.'

Naturalistic model

Key to pronunciation: In all versions the stress normally falls on the vowel preceding the last consonant. In naturalistic and schematic E exceptions may be made to conform to the way certain words are stressed in the Romanic languages. In all versions the addition of -s to form the plural does not change the stress.

c before e and i = ts, s or ch in church
c in other positions = k
g before e and i = j, z in azure, or g in go
j = y in yes, j in joke, or z in azure
qu before e and i = qu in queen, or like k
qu in other positions = qu in queen
t in combinations tia, tie, tio = ts, s in sun, or t in top (but always as t in the word questione)
t in other positions = t in table

Le pace, como le libertate, require constante devotione et incessante vigilantia. Ille require le voluntate de prendere mensuras concrete pro su conservatione. Ille require constante cooperatione inter le nationes et determinatione de vivere in commune como bone vicinos in un mundo de bone vicinos. Le pace require le acceptatione de le idea que su mantenantia es un causa commune sic pretiose et sic immensamente importante que omne differentias et controversias inter le nationes pote et debe essere resolvite per le uso de medios pacific.

(Excerpt from speech of Hon. Cordell Hull, August 21st, 1944.)

Schematic E model

Key to pronunciation:

c before e and i = ch in church
c in other positions = k
g = g in go, in all positions
j = j in joke
qu = qu in queen, in all positions
t = t in top, in all positions
The apostrophe is used to indicate irregular stress

Le pace, como le liberita', require constante devotion et incesante vigilantia. Elo require le volentia de prender mensuras concrete por su conservation. Elo require constante cooperation entre le nationes e le determination de viver ensemble como bon vicinos in un mundo de bon vicinos. Le pace require le acceptation del idea ke su manteno es un causa comun tan pretiose e tan imensemente importante ke omne diferentias e controversias entre le nationes, pote e deve eser resoluete per le uso de medios pacifike.

Schematic K model

Key to pronunciation:

c = ts, in all positions
g = g in go, in all positions
j = j in joke
qu = qu in queen, in all positions
t = t in top, in all positions

Le paco, kom le libereso, require konstante devoto et noncesante vigilantso. Id require le volentso de prendere konkrete mensuras por su konservo. Id require konstante koopero inter le nacionos et le determino de vivere ensemble kom bone vicinos in un mundo de bone vicinos. Le paco require le akcepto del ideo ke su manteno es un komune kauso tan preciose e tan imensemen importante ke omne diferentsos e kontroversios inter le nacionos, pote et deve essere resoluete per le uso de pacifike medios.

XV- 5. Consultation

From the beginning of its activities IALA has kept in touch with leaders in the field of planned languages, with eminent linguists, and with people of experience in international affairs.

In October 1946, IALA issued a technical questionnaire in English and French dealing with many features of its experimental models. This questionnaire was prepared by Professor André Martinet (Paris) and Professor P. J. Vinay (formerly Paris, now Montreal). It contains summaries of the grammatical features of a naturalistic model and two schematic models, a list of all affixes used in the two schematic models, and 127 questions soliciting opinions and suggestions regarding structural details. It has been distributed to representative interlinguists and to certain linguists in a number of countries.

At the time of publication of the present work, IALA is experimenting with additional models of the auxiliary language. All of its models are variants of the emerging interlingua which it will finally recommend. Further samples of experimental models are soon to be published, in a pamphlet also prepared by Professors Martinet and Vinay. The texts will be presented in such a way that they can be easily compared. They will be accompanied by explanatory matter in five languages: English, French, Spanish, German, and Russian. The pamphlet will include about half a dozen questions asking the reader for his reactions to IALA's different models. He needs no special linguistic knowledge in order to answer the questions. The pamphlet will be distributed much more widely than the technical questionnaire, to people of many different fields of interest.

Both the technical questionnaire and the pamphlet of sample texts are aimed to gather opinions that will be valuable to IALA in determining the definitive form of auxiliary language it will recommend.

XV - 6. IALA's place in the auxiliary language movement

IALA has established its claim as an impartial and scientific investigator in the field of a constructed auxiliary language. Under the direction of its honorary secretary, Mrs Dave Hennen Morris, IALA has obtained the interest of a gradually increasing number of professional linguists who no longer regard the analysis of languages as they are as their sole task but who have contributed, out of their experience and vast knowledge, to the study of the language problem.

An important factor for the success of IALA's future efforts will be the official support it can secure from authorities in different countries and from scientific, educational, and commercial organizations interested in and concerned with its decisions. The stronger that support, the more definite can be the final form of the language envisaged. The degree of support will decide the likelihood of the immediate application and introduction of the auxiliary language. Should the support be insufficient to secure the introduction of the language proposed, it will have been IALA's contribution to have established, scientifically, the principles which are most likely to lead to the formulation of a common auxiliary language.

Back to Contents page

Back to International Auxiliary Languages

This page is hosted by Geocities.
James Chandler 2021.