Thursday, August 22, 2013

Conlangs: Interlingua

Over the past week or so we've had a look at Esperanto as well as Ido, a constructed language that came from Esperanto reformists. Today we're rounding off with the last of the the three most popular conlangs, Interlingua.

Interlingua takes its name from the Latin words inter and lingua, effectively meaning "intermediary language". Unsurprisingly, in Interlingua, these words also mean exactly the same thing. Interlingua is younger than Esperanto and Ido, having been created between 1937 and 1951. The language has a similar number of speakers to Ido, having never really garnered as much support as the significantly more popular Esperanto.

Europe, home to the languages used to create Interlingua.
The vocabulary of Interlingua is based principally on a set of control languages which include the EFIGS languages (English, French, Italian, German, and Spanish), as well as Portuguese and Russian. However, as long as an international usage can be shown within these seven languages, vocabulary can also be taken from any language. As a result, Interlingua also features vocabulary from Japanese and Arabic, for example.

What makes Interlingua different from Esperanto and Ido is the way that it adds words to its vocabulary. As we have already said, it can borrow almost any word that is understood internationally. On top of that, Interlingua retains the spelling, pronunciation, and meaning of any words it adds to its vocabulary, unlike Esperanto and Ido, which prefer to change the word's spelling to conform to their rules. However, if loanwords feature a diacritic that does not affect pronunciation, they are removed.

Due to the aforementioned conventions, Interlingua is considered a naturalistic auxiliary language, as it takes vocabulary and loanwords much like naturally-occurring languages and, as a result of this, is the world's most widely-spoken language of this type.

The main criticism of Interlingua is its purpose as a Eurocentric auxiliary language. Due to its reliance on its control languages, it is fairly easy to learn amongst speakers of those languages. Interlingua is generally considered to be more expressive as it maintains elements from its control languages, in comparison to Esperanto which is more restrictive in its construction.

So while Interlingua is far from being as popular as Esperanto, it's not particularly fair to compare the two due to their different functions and constructions.