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AUXLANG  December 1997, Week 4

AUXLANG December 1997, Week 4

Subject:

Re: N97isms

From:

"Robert J. Petry" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

International Auxiliary Languages <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 19 Dec 1997 15:46:38 -0700

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Bruce R. Gilson wrote:

> Bob Petry wrote:
>
> > ... I have run across several interesting and
> >Artificial Languages." by Ogden, 1935. There is a 15 page chapter discussing the
> >"weaknesses" of Novial by L. W. Lockhart. Has anyone read this book/chapter?
>
> I must confess I've never seen, or even heard of, this reference. If Bob can
> type this up in the form of a file, I'd like to see it and, if I feel I can
> respond to it, I may even want to feature it on my website... with the response.

Bruce,Since the 15 pages are actually small in size, about 3 x 5" actual size, I will
send them to the list 5 pages at a time. Here are the first 5 which I just scanned
for you. Enjoy..

Al l sue,
Bob

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SUPPLEMENT 11

A CRITIQUE OF NOVIAL

BY

L. W. LOCKHART

As the product of a distinguished philologist who had Esperanto, Ido, and=
 Occidental before him and rejected them all, Novial has a unique interes=
t.  It may fairly be assumed to contain whatever wisdom has emerged from =
the prolonged and bitter controversies of the experts.  This criticism, t=
herefore, though apparently concerned with the defects of a single system=
, is in effect a more general indictment.
In two outstanding respects Professor Jespersen has improved on most of h=
is rivals.  He recognizes that a practical international language cannot =
afford to antagonize typists and printers by making innovations in the al=
phabet, however tempting these may be in theory ; and wisely favours gram=
matical forms approximating to those found in the natural
languages, rather than the synthetic. devcies which gramniarians mistake =
for simplification.  The best illustration of this is the treatment of th=
e verb in Novial. Jespersen abandons Zamenhof's a Priori verb-system, bas=
ed on a minimum of auxiliaries and a multiplicity of participles, on the =
ground that " the whole system is totally artificial without any connecti=
on with our natural linguistic habits." He then goes on to state that tho=
ugh " the six participles may be helpful in some instances to express nua=
nces which ordinary languages do not distinguish ... they often also cons=
titute a real embarras de richesse." In other words, it is not in the dir=
ection of subtlety but of simplicity that the verb may profitably be refo=
rmed.
Unfortunately for Professor Jespersen, this admission does much to destro=
y the case for an artificial language.  The incorporation in Novial of so=
 many of the salient features of the English verb system is evidence that=
 no artificial language can carry simplification much beyond the point al=
ready foreshadowed by tendencies at work in some of the natural languages=
=2E  The extent of this borrowing is instructive.  In the creation of ha =
and fika as special auxiliary forms of the verbs 'have' and I make,' trib=
ute is paid to the increasingly important function of auxiliaries, and Je=
spersen points out how readily they may be built up into compound tenses.=
  As in English, the infinitive is marked by no special ending ; but the =
use of tu as an infinitive preposition seems unnecessary, and argues a to=
o uncritical acceptance of the natural model.  The Imperative is expresse=
d with the auxiliary let, and wishing with may.  Similarly, Future and Co=
nditional are operated by the auxiliaries sal and vud, Perfect and Pluper=
fect by ha and had, and the analytical form of the Past is indicated by d=
id (a source of confusion to English-speaking people, for whom did is a m=
eans of emphasis).  In Indirect Speech, also, English is substituted for =
Esperanto usage.
The two important points in which Novial departs from the English verb sy=
stem are the invariable use of the simple stem-form for compound tenses i=
nstead of participles (e.g. me ha Proteke), and the expression of the pas=
sive of becoming, as distinct from the passive of being, by means of the =
auxiliary bli.  The passive of becoming, however, can, as Professor Jespe=
rsen points out, be expressed in English with 'get,' which is being incre=
asingly used in this auxiliary sense.  ' Get' is actually more satisfacto=
ry than bli for this purpose, as it is used to indicate the completion of=
 an act rather than becoming' in the purely passive sense.  The passive o=
f 'becoming,' as exemplified by Novial, appears to be little more than a =
nice academic distinction
So much for the credit side of Professor Jespersen's contribution.  But i=
ts chief interest for the student is less in what it achieves than in wha=
t, in common with all other artificial languages, it fails to achieve.  A=
 traditional Iiinitation of outlook is indicated at the start by the comp=
lacent admission that the formula of " the greatest facility to the great=
est number " refers " only to Europeans and those inhabitants of the othe=
r continents who are either of European extraction or whose culture is ba=
sed on European civilization."(1) No one familiar with the history of the=
 I.A.L. Movement will wonder at the pronouncement, however.  Nor will the=
y be surprised to discover that Jespersen, faced with the rival principle=
s

(1) A" International Language, p. 53.

of national usage and international intelligibility, hesitates like his p=
redecessors and is lost.
Respect for existing languages is on the whole a useful antidote to the g=
rammarian's taste for improvisation of an unpractical kind, but it has le=
d in the case of Novial to an unfortunate destruction of symmetry, Not on=
ly does Professor Jespersen accept as inevitable the vague meanings attac=
hing to such widely diffused words as nature, kulture, karaktere, etc., t=
hough professing a desire to " specify meanings precisely,"'(1) but he wa=
ives the Novial rules of word-formation in deference to international cus=
tom.  Thus korporatione is not the state resulting from making a body but=
 a ' corporation,' and sivilisa is not to ' make civil' but to 'civilize.=
' This is an unsatisfactory compromise, for the forms which result are no=
t international, and the learner's confidence is shaken by discovering th=
at the mechanical regularity on which he counted cannot be relied upon. [=
End of first 5 pages. Rest to follow.]

(1)Novial Levike, p. 23.  There is no evidence in this Dictionary, howeve=
r, of a concern with precise meanings.  Where the Novial word is sufficie=
ntly like a French, German, or English word to be identified, no eq' uiva=
lents are given.  In other cases, the sense is generally indicated by a s=
ingle approximation.

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