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Need for an interlanguage

An International Language (1928)

by Otto Jespersen, Ph.D., Litt.D., LL.D. (1869-1943)

Introduction[edit source]

This book is to be a plea for an artificial international auxiliary language, and it will be well at the outset to see what is implied in these adjectives. Artificial, i.e. made consciously by one man or a group of men, in contradistinction to such natural languages as English, French, etc., which have been spoken for generations and whose development has chiefly taken place without the individuals being conscious of any changes. But the term "artificial" is apt to create a prejudice against the language we are to deal with, and it will be my business in this book to show how very "natural" such a language may be; I shall therefore prefer to speak of a "constructed" language, and instead of terming the existing languages natural I shall use the more appropriate term national languages.

The next adjective was international. That is to say that the language is meant to be used not by any one nation or in any one country, but by individuals who though belonging to different nationalities have something they wanted to communicate to one another.

Third: auxiliary. This implies that our international language is meant to be only a sort of substitute for national languages whenever these are not capable of serving as means of communication. It is not intended that a new language should supplant the existing languages: no one in his sober senses would think it possible to make all nations forget their own languages and agree on one single substitute for all purposes. But what a great many sensible men and women in many countries do think worth working for, is a state of things in which an educated Englishman when meeting an educated Spaniard or Dutchman or Bulgarian would be pretty certain to be understood if he addressed him in a constructed language adopted for that purpose - a state of thing also in which international conferences and congresses on political or scientific or commercial questions would be carried on freely without need of interpreters, and all official documents relating to more than one state would be circulated in a single language.

What then we interlinguists are thinking of, is not what Schleyer made the boasting motto of his Volapük, "Menade bal, püki bal" (To one human race, one language), but rather what another inventor of an artificial language, Bollack, took as his motto: The second language to everybody. The new interlanguage would not infringe the sacred rights of the mother-tongue, but be used only when two or more persons ignorant of one another's language had occasion to talk or to write to one another.¹

¹ In this book I often use the abbreviation I.A.L. for International Auxiliary Language, also sometimes I.L.