Jens Otto Harry Jespersen
Otto Harry Jespersen - Danish linguist who specialized in the grammar of the English language. He was an active developer of international auxiliary languages. He was involved in the 1907 delegation that created the auxiliary language Ido, and in 1928.
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Jens Otto Harry Jespersen or Otto Jespersen IPA: (July 16, 1860-April 30, 1943) was a Danish linguist who specialized in the grammar of the English language. He was born in Randers in northern Jutland and attended Copenhagen University, earning degrees in English, French, and Latin. He also studied linguistics at Oxford.
Jespersen was a professor of English at Copenhagen University from 1893 to 1925. Along with Paul Passy, he was a founder of the International Phonetic Association. He was a vocal supporter and active developer of international auxiliary languages. He was involved in the 1907 delegation that created the auxiliary language Ido, and in 1928, he developed the Novial language, which he considered an improvement over Ido. Jespersen collaborated with Alice Vanderbilt Morris to develop the research program of the International Auxiliary Language Association (IALA), which in 1951 presented Interlingua to the general public. Edward Sapir and William Edward Collinson also collaborated with Morris.
He advanced the theories of Rank and Nexus in Danish in two papers: Sprogets logik (1913) and De to hovedarter af grammatiske forbindelser (1921). Jespersen in this theory of ranks removes the parts of speech from the syntax, and differentiates between primaries, secondaries, and tertiaries; e.g. in "well honed phrase," "phrase" is a primary, this being defined by a secondary, "honed", which again is defined by a tertiary "well". The term Nexus is applied to sentences, structures similar to sentences and sentences in formation, in which two concepts are expressed in one unit; e.g., it rained, he ran indoors. This term is qualified by a further concept called a junction which represents one idea, expressed by means of two or more elements, whereas a nexus combines two ideas. Junction and nexus proved valuable in bringing the concept of context to the forefront of the attention of the world of linguistics.
He was most widely recognized for some of his books. Modern English Grammar (1909), concentrated on morphology and syntax, and Growth and Structure of the English Language (1905) is a comprehensive view of English by someone with another native language, and still in print, over 60 years after his death and nearly 100 years after publication. Late in his life he published Analytic Syntax (1937), in which he presents his views on syntactic structure using an idiosyncratic shorthand notation.
More than once Otto Jespersen was invited to the U.S. as a guest lecturer, and he took occasion to study the country's educational system. His autobiography (see below) was published in English translation as recently as 1995.
Jespersen was a proponent of phonosemanticism and wrote: “Is there really much more logic in the opposite extreme which denies any kind of sound symbolism (apart from the small class of evident echoisms and `onomatopoeia') and sees in our words only a collection of accidental and irrational associations of sound and meaning? ...There is no denying that there are words which we feel instinctively to be adequate to express the ideas they stand for.”
The name of Otto Jespersen is a household word to all advanced students of English. Who has not again and again consulted the volumes of the Modern English Grammar, this inexhaustible mine of systematized knowledge, and found there just the information he wanted? Many teachers and scholars have received valuable impulses from the Growth and Structure of the English Language, Essentials of English Grammar, Philosophy of Grammar, and Language, the acme of Jespersen's scientific efforts. Many other books and papers may be mentioned in which he has shed new light on or definitely solved some linguistic problem, or in which he simply is the model teacher. So it seems natural that the Englische Studien, to which, by the way, he has contributed papers from the eighties on, should bring a mention of Otto Jespersen and his work.(1)
Jens Otto Harry Jespersen was born on 16 July, 1860, in the town of Randers in Jutland. His father was a district judge (herredsfoged), and his mother was the daughter of the clergyman who had been Hans Andersen's first teacher of Latin. Jespersen' father died in 1870, and his mother with all her children moved to Hillerшd, but she, too, died before all the children had grown up. Otto Jespersen was thirteen years old at the time. He attended the public school of Frederiksborg and seventeen years old matriculated at the University of Copenhagen, during the first four years as an undergraduate holding a scholarship and living at the college of Regensen.
On his first years of study Jespersen tells in his Farewell Lectures at the University of Copenhagen (printed in Linguistica  p. 1 ff.): 'As a boy I read with enthusiasm of Rasmus Rask and by the help of his grammars made a certain start in Icelandic, Italian and Spanish: while I was still at school I had on my own initiative read a good deal in these languages. I count it as a piece of luck that I had as my headmaster Carl Berg, who in a few small books had shown an interest in comparative philology and who lent me books, among others books by Max Mьller and Whitney. After my parents' deaths, I was much in the house of an uncle whose main interest was in the Romanic literatures, and his collection of books was a treasured browsing place for me in my last years before going to the University.
In spite of these more or less childish studies I did not at once take to philology, but following a family tradition (my father, grandfather and great-grandfather held legal appointments) I turned to law .... When, after three or four years' study of law I gave it up, the linguistic study came as a freeing of one's personality from the mere learning by heart of paragraphs and the ready-made opinions of professors - which was all that the study of law consisted in at that time. It was this so-called study I reacted against. I wanted to go my own way and not to have my opinions dictated to me from outside.
For seven years I was a shorthand reporter in the house of parliament, this gave me my bread and butter during some years when otherwise I had nothing to live on. If I had not had that at my back, I should not have dared to take the plunge and leave law.'
During a number of years Jespersen pursued a more or less unsystematic study of various languages, and in 1887 he took his master's degree with French as his main subject and English and Latin as his secondary subjects.
In the 1880's phonetics was the watch-word within linguistics, and there was a great cry for a reform of the teaching of the languages, in which the young pioneers advocated the introduction of practical phonetics. This movement brought Jespersen into contact with Felix Franke, but I had better let Jespersen himself tell about his friendship and collaboration with him (Farewell Lecture, pp. 5-6):
'The one I first got in connexion with, who for a few years came to mean much to me, was a german of my own age, Felix Franke. Our correspondence began in 1884, and quickly became very extensive, as we had many interests in common. Letters passed every week from his side and mine till he died in 1886. Seldom has one seen such an idealistic enthusiast for science as in him and in spite of his youth and tuberculosis he had amassed very wide knowledge. Though I never saw him, I was more closely tied to him than to any of my fellow-students at home, and was spiritually more akin to him than to anyone else. Two years after his death I visited his family in the little town of Sorau in Nieder-Lausitz and was received as a son of the house. I wrote a memoir of him in the journal Phonetische Studien and I published the work he left behind him on colloquial German.
The reason of my first letter to him was the wish to obtain permission to translate his little book Die praktische Sprachenlernung auf Grund der Psychologie und der Physiologie der Sprache. That was one of the first works in which the cry was raised for a reform in the teaching of languages .... Franke's Phrases de tous les jours, which he managed to finish just before his death, and my own [first book] Kortfattet engelsk Grammatik for tale- og skriftproget (1885), both with phonetic spelling throughout, were the fruits of our common work.'
In 1886 Jespersen and other Scandinavian scholars and teachers (among them Lundell and Western) founded a Scandinavian association for a reform of the teaching of languages and named it Quousque tandem, from the slogan Viлtor had used as a motto for his pamphlet Der Sprachunterricht muЯ umkehren).
Jespersen, in a few cases in collaboration with others, wrote a series of school-books, which have been extensively used in Danish schools. Some of them have been adapted for use in other countries as well. He gave a theoretical discussion of the problem in Sprogundervisning (1901), also translated into English (How to Teach a Foreign Language), Spanish, and Japanese.
Immediately after taking his degree Jespersen went to London, where amongst others he met Viлtor, old Ellis, and Sweet. The three Danish scholars Vilhelm Thomsen, Karl Verner and Hermann Mцller, Johan Storm the Norwegian (Englische Philologie), and Sweet probably are those teachers to whom Otto Jespersen owes most, no doubt he was Sweet's dearest pupil.
In October 1887 he went to Oxford, where Dr. Murray told him of the work on the NED, and where he heard lectures by Sayce and others. About New Year 1888 he went to Germany, first visiting Leipzig, where he saw Techmer, Brugmann, and Leskien. He also visited Sievers at Halle, Fr. Beyer as WeiЯenfels and Klinghardt at Reichenbach. He then went to France for two months, staying at the Passys' at Neuilly-sur-Seine. Every day he went to Paris together with Paul Passy to see sights or hear lectures by Gaston Paris, Darmesteter and Gilliйron, or he was present at Passy's English lessons. Then he returned to Germany to study Old and Middle English in Berlin under Zupitza. Among the students of that term were also Joseph Schick and George Moore Smith, who both became his friends for life. Back in Copenhagen he taught English and French at private schools.
For some years he gave much time to the study of his own native language, and in 1890-1903 was joint editor of and a frequent contributor to the folkloristic and linguistic periodical Dania.
In 1891 his doctor's thesis Studier over Engelske kasus, med en indledning om fremskridt i sproget was published, and 1893 Jespersen succeeded George Stephens as professor of English in the University of Copenhagen, a post he held until retiring in 1925. 1920-21 he was Rector of the University.
Otto Jespersen has been a great traveller, who has visited most countries of Europe. He has been twice to the U.S.A.: in 1904 he was invited to give a lecture at the Congress of Arts and Sciences held at St. Louis, and in 1909-10 he was visiting professor to the University of California and Columbia University.
Jespersen's first important scientific effort, written while he was still and undergraduate, was the paper Til spцrsmеlet om lydlove, which was at once translated into German (Zur Lautgesetzfrage) and printed in Techmer's Zeitschrift 1886. (Reprinted in Jespersen's Linguistica 1933 with two continuations, one written in 1904 for the Phonetische Grundfragen and another written in 1933. Here he attacks the principal thesis of the Young-Grammarians, that of the 'ausnahmslosigskeit der lautgesetze', emphasizing the close connexion between sound and sense. Language has an outer form, phonetical and grammatical, and an inner form, the meaning in a wide sense, and he shows that many sound-changes are due to semantic factors, a point of view which has proved very fertile in his later work.
This view of the close connexion between linguistic form and contents is one of the two fundamental principles on which Otto Jespersen's work is based. The other is the idea of progress in language, which was first elaborated in the introduction to his doctor's thesis of 1891, Studier over engelske kasus, and later in a fuller form embodied in Progress in Language with Special Reference to English (1894).
In contrast the Romantic school of linguists, who considered language as an independent organism and admired the elaborate morphological systems of the old languages as contrasted with the 'degenerated' modern stages with their poor forms, Jespersen simply maintains that 'language is activity, chiefly social activity undertaken in order to get in touch with other individuals and communicate to them one's thoughts, feelings and will' (Efficiency, p.12), or, in other words, it is an instrument for people to make themselves mutually understood, hence a shortening of the forms and a simplification of the grammatical system which do not injure the understanding must be considered progress. Jespersen never maintained that all linguistic changes in all languages and at all times made for progress, 'but I still think', he says (Efficiency, p. 7), 'that I was right in saying that on the whole the average development was progressive and that mankind has benefited by this evolution.' As will be seen this principle rests on the first, the view of the close connexion between sound and sense.
The chief work in which Jespersen has discussed linguistic evolution in general is Language: Its Nature, Development and Origin (1922; also in German and Japanese), which is also his most brilliant work (dedicated to Vilhelm Thomsen). It falls into four books. In Book I he deals with the history of linguistic science. Book II is about the linguistic development of children, and the material comes in very useful in the concluding chapters of the work: 'Primitive man came to attach meaning to what were originally rambling sequences of syllables in much the same way as the child comes to attach a meaning to many of the words he hears from his elders, the whole situation in which they are heard giving a clue to their interpretation.' Book III, The Individual and the World, includes chapters on The Foreigner, Pidgins and Congeners, The Woman, and Causes of Change, all of them containing material for a discussion of linguistic development in general. In Book IV conclusions are drawn. The author discusses the problem of progress or decay, offers a theory of the origin of grammatical elements, calls attention to the role played by sound symbolism, and finally offers a theory of the origin of speech, concluding: 'Language began with half-musical unanalyzed expressions for individual beings and solitary events. Languages composed of, and evolved from, such words and quasi-sentences are clumsy and insufficient instruments of thought, being intricate, capricious and difficult. But from the beginning the tendency has been one of progress, slow and fitful progress, but still progress towards greater and greater clearness, regularity, ease and pliancy.'
The above hints give a very inadequate impression of the originality and richness of Language. I take it for granted that most readers of the Englische Studien have read it, but those who have not I urge to do so as soon as possible. The book is full of original observations, does away with antiquated theories, advances new ones, and opens up unexpected vistas in many directions.
The question of progress has been made the object of a final discussion in the book quoted above, Efficiency in Linguistic Change (1941), introducing new points of view and material.
The problem of children's language, its influence on linguistic development always interested Jespersen greatly, and he has collected a large quantity of original material from Danish. This has been utilized in various publications in Danish, the latest being Sproget (1941), which may be considered a popular version of Language.
The problem 'the individual and the world' he has dealt with in Mankind, Nation, and Individual in Language (1925), a series of lectures given at Oslo in which he amongst other questions discusses the connexion between dialect and standard language, correctness of language, and slang.
As stated above Jespersen in his youth was highly interested in phonetics. His great Fonetik (1897-99) is one of the principal works within classical phonetics, teeming with original observations from many languages. The book was translated into German, but here divided into two books, Lehrbuch der Phonetik and Phonetische Grundfragen (both 1904). (Twice preparations have been made for a publication of the book in English, but for various reasons it never came off.) In Danish he has further published an Engelsk fonetik, Modersmеlets fonetik, and some Engelsk lydskriftstykker.
Jespersen's grammatical points of view have been generally treated in the Philosophy of Grammar (1924), in the System of Grammar (Linguistica 1933; also published separately), and the Analytic Syntax (1937). He treats the grammatical problems according to notional categories (instead of word-classes as eariler grammarians), always keeping in mind his principle of the close connexion between sound and sense. In syntax we must start from within and investigate how a certain grammatical notion is expressed, in morphology we start from the form and ask what it stands for.
Jespersen's most original contribution to grammatical theory is probably his setting up of the two categories of Rank and Nexus. His new theory was first advanced in Danish. In contrast to previous grammarians who applied the terms substantival, adjectival, and adverbial to the functions in the sentence, Jespersen in his theory of ranks keeps the parts of speech out of syntax, and instead distinguishes between primaries, secondaries, and tertiaries; thus in a cleverly worded remark, remark is a primary, this being defined by a secondary, worded, which again is defined by a tertiary cleverly, and cleverly for that matter might be defined by a quaternary, e.g. very, but as a rule it is sufficient to consider three ranks only.
The term nexus is applied to what may be called sentences and sentences in embryo, thus the dog barks furiously, the door is red, (I heard) the dog bark, (he painted) the door red. A dependent nexus may enter in a sentence as a subject, object, etc., just like a single word, thus the dog bark and the door red are objects in the full sentences. A juncion represents one idea, expressed by means of two or more elements, whereas a nexus combines two ideas. Jespersen has also tried to apply the theory of ranks to nexus. The new theory of junction and nexus has proved valuable in bringing together organically related elements which in previous grammatical works were often kept apart.
Two other grammatical categories he has treated separately in Tid og tempus (1914) and Negation in English and Other Languages (1917).
Of course a great part of Jespersen's work falls within the study of English. The Growth and Structure of the English Language (1905; also in Japanese), for which he was awarded the French Volney prize, is sufficiently well-known for its originality and brilliancy. His chief work within English is the Modern English Grammar (vol. I was published in 1904, vol. VI has just been published ; vol. VII, which will conclude the great work, is in preparation). The sequence of the volumes is rather haphazard: vol. I is an English sound-history, vols. II-V deal with various syntactical categories and problems, vol. VI with morphology, and vol. VII will again be about syntax, but within each volume the various sections are systematic. Everywhere Jespersen distinguishes between form and function, between grammar and logic, thus between time and tense, the latter term being only grammatical. His own two categories rank and nexus are considered again and again in the syntactical parts. Here and there we find new and fertile points of view, new obvious explanations of various grammatical questions. One of the most valuable things in the MnEG is the wealth of quotations collected at first hand by the author. They greatly contribute to making the MnEG an invaluable mine of information about Modern English grammar.
Essentials of English Grammar (1933) may be considered a succinct edition of MnEG.
At school Jespersen proved himself to be a very good mathematician. And in later life he has preserved an interest in systems of symbols. In the eighties he felt the want of a system of denotation of the articulation of speech-sounds, and so constructed his system of analphabetic (later termed antalphabetic) symbols, which was published in the Articulation of Speech Sounds (1889). Greek letters here stand for the active organs of speech (tongue-tip, etc.), numerals for the degree and form of the opening, if any (0 = closure), small letters for the place of articulation, etc.
The Danish phonetic dialect alphabet is also due to Jespersen (Dania 1890).
In the middle of the thirties when working at vol. V of the MnEG he needed a system of symbols for the denotation of syntactic analysis and set to work at creating one. Symbols were tried and given up and new ones tried again and again till at length he stopped at the set of symbols published in the Analytic Syntax (1937). The symbols denote nexus, rank, composition, extraposition and apposition, types of sentences, etc.
To many people the formulas may look forbidding, but as a matter of fact it is easy to learn the system, and often, like the antalphabetic symbols used in phonetics, it may save the trouble of a long and cumbersome circumspection. The symbols will also necessarily force the user to be consistent in his analyses. It would no doubt be worth while introducing the formulas in schools where parsing of sentences is regularly pursued. A successful attempt of this kind has been made by a Danish teacher. One good thing about the system is that it can easily be modified.
From the first appearance of Volapьk Jespersen has been interested in the problem of auxiliary languages, which of course is closely connected with his view of language has (chiefly) a means of communication and his belief in progress in language. He was a member of the committee that worked out Ido, and for many years supported this language, but in 1928 he prepared his own system Novial (i.e. NOV = new-I[nternational]-A[uxiliari]-L[ingue]). In An International Language (1928; also in German) he first reviewed the history and theory of international languages and then gave a Novial grammar and some texts. In 1930 a Novial Lexike was published.
Bernard Shaw in an interview has made a statement on Novial: 'Novial, invented by Professor Jespersen, is really good: there is a good deal of English in it, so that it is delightfully easy to read. Besides, Professor Jespersen has common sense, which is a great advantage in a professor. Everybody can learn Novial, there is very little grammar in it; but one must be English to understand how one can get along splendidly without grammar. These new languages are very interesting.' Professor Uhlenbeck wrote: 'Novial surpasses the other international languages in all respects.' And similar statements were made by other reviewers at the time.
A selection of Jespersen's papers and articles in Danish were published in 1932 under the title Tanker og studier, and in 1933 he published the Linguistica, Collected Papers in English, French and German.
Finally it may be mentioned that Jespersen has written a biography of Rasmus Rask (1918) and a small book about Chaucer (Chaucers liv og digtning, 1893), both in Danish.
In 1899 Otto Jespersen was elected a member of the Danish Videnskabernes Selskab, and later he has become a member of many academies and scientific associations. Honorary doctor's degrees have been conferred on hom by three universities (1910 Columbia University, New York, 1925 St. Andrews, Scotland, 1927 the Sorbonne, Paris). He was President of the Fourth International Congress of Linguists in Copenhagen, 1936. On his seventieth birthday, July 16, 1930, was published a large honorary volume, A Grammatical Miscellany Presented to Otto Jespersen with contributions from prominent scholars from fourteen countries. And on his eightieth birthday he received a Hilsen til Otto Jespersen paa 80-Aars Dagen (i.e. Greetings to O. J. on his eightieth Anniversary) with personal contributions from a wide circle of friends, admirers and pupils.
From 1934 he has been the first resident of the country-house Lundehave near Helsingшr (Elsinore), which the Danish merchant Andreas Collstrop had bequeathed to Videnskabernes Selskab as an honorary residence for a Danish scholar or scientist.
Through a long life Otto Jespersen has offered valuable contributions to general phonetics and grammar and to our knowledge of English and Danish and other languages, thus being a worthy successor of the great Danish linguists of the last century (Rask, Thomsen, Verner, and others). His revolutionary work for the improvement of the teaching of modern languages has had great effects far beyond the boundary of his own country. He has lived a rich and happy life, he has reaped great honours and won friends from all over the world, always interested and helpful as he is. In his opinion scientific work should be done for sake of mankind, and he has tried to do his share.
On Jespersen's birthday in 1930 Edward Sapir in the Danish newspaper Politiken wrote the following characterization addressed to Jespersen himself: 'Your work has always seemed to me to be distinguished by its blend of exact knowledge, keenness of analysis, ease and lucidity of style, and by an imaginative warmth that is certainly not common in scientific writing'.
He has always been a friend of progress and peace and advocated international collaboration. It is to be hoped that he will live to see a world at peace, a world in which collaboration between nations is again possible, not least within the science to which he has offered so many and valuable contributions, the noble science of the human language (2).
OTTO JESPERSEN WAS one of the first philologists to support actively the work for an international auxiliary language. He rejected Volapьk, critically examined Esperanto, and followed with interest the preparatory work of Prof. Lйopold Leau and Prof. Louis Couturat which led to the foundation of the Dйlйgation pour l'adoption d'une langue auxiliaire internationale. In May, 1907, Jespersen was elected a member of the committee of the delegation. When the delegation had selected Ido, essentially a reformed Esperanto, he became president of its Academy and took an active part in the linguistic discussion in the journal Progreso, a discussion which led to further improvements in Ido and a considerable development of the vocabulary of the language. He has described the beginning of the work which he carried on in conjunction with others in his History of our language. The system known as Ido owes much to Otto Jespersen, his experiences as a linguist, and the criteria which he applied to all proposals for the formation and development of the international auxiliary language.
Many points had been criticised in Esperanto and the members of the delegation introduced improvements in Ido to meet this criticism. The accented letters were suppressed; the plurals in -aj were replaced by the invariable adjective and -i was used instead of -oj for the plural forms of nouns; the accusative -n was retained only in cases of inversion; the arbitrary table of correlative words was replaced by words taken from the ethnic languages; the consonants w, x, y were reintroduced and the international spelling of many words restored; thousands of new roots were added to the vocabulary; the system of word derivation was completely revised and the new rules were based on Couturat's study Etude sur la dйrivation. Jespersen formulated a principle in 1908 which became very popular among interlinguists, and was adhered to, to the extent practicable, and according to the development of interlinguistics at that time. "THAT INTERNATIONAL LANGUAGE IS BEST WHICH IN EVERY POINT OFFERS THE GREATEST FACILITY TO THE GREATEST NUMBER."
The war of 1914-1918 interrupted the propaganda for Ido and, in spite of the initial success, the world which needed a means for international communication remained indifferent. Jespersen explains the reasons for this indifference in his book (An International Language, 1928, Allen and Unwin, pp. 44-45), "In the first place the time was not yet ripe (in 1907) for a final decision; the principles for an interlanguage had not been thrashed out scientifically, and much of the short time at the committee's disposal had to be spent in clearing away much old rubbish, so that a great many details had to be left for further discussion in Progreso .... but in spite of all - in spite also of the amount of energy squandered away in the quarrels of Esperantists and Idists - the Delegation and the Ido Academy have left their indelible mark on the interlanguage movement, and their influence has been chiefly for the good."
In 1928 Jespersen published a system mainly based on Ido and called Novial. In introducing his new system, Otto Jespersen speaks of the unmistakable family likeness of all types of international language, refuting an objection which has often been raised because of the great number of different systems. These languages may differ in detail but they contain many common features and principles. Of all of them Jespersen said that "the less arbitrary and the more rational the forms, the more stable they will be." An examination of a comparative text of the systems of demonstrated usefulness, found at the end of this booklet, will show that to one who knows one of these languages the other systems are easily understood. They may differ, but their differences are not profound. While some tend to strive after greater similarity with the existing national or ethnic tongues at the cost of regularity, others tend to follow a more regulated system of grammar and derivation. All are workable languages which in every case are easier to learn and easier to use than any existing ethnic language, a criterion which we do well to remember.
The International Auxiliary Language Association (= IALA) was formed in 1924 to conduct neutral investigation and research in the field of auxiliary language. Under the able direction of its Hon. Secretary, Mrs. Dave Hennen Morris of America, IALA attracted many scientists and practising linguists and with their co-operation elaborated the principles of and the basis for the best form of a neutral, constructed, auxiliary language. In 1925 Otto Jespersen met Mrs. Dave Hennen Morris in Switzerland; here started a long and fruitful collaboration between Jespersen and IALA. Two years later a meeting was arranged between Mrs. Morris, Prof. Jespersen, and Prof. W. E. Collinson (University of Liverpool) a close collaborator and later director of research of IALA. Discussion took place on theoretical linguistic problems and on the programme of IALA which outlined the plans for a number of years.
After this conference Jespersen decided to give definite shape to his ideas on particular aspects of the language problem. When he found encouragement both from Prof. Collinson (a member of the Esperanto movement) and from Dr. S. Auerbach (a member of the Ido movement) he began the work and published his book in 1928 under the title An International Language (Allen & Unwin). Jespersen is not content to state the rules only, he discusses certain points and compares them with other systems and he is sufficiently objective to state certain shortcomings for which he was unable to find a better solution. Dr. S. Auerbach offered in the initial stages to translate the book into German and later furnished the translation Eine internationale Sprache (Heidelberg). This grammar was followed by Novial Lexike in 1930.
In 1930 Jespersen convened, on behalf of IALA, and presided over a meeting of linguists and interlinguists in Geneva which had an informal character and which it was hoped would prepare the ground for future co-operation between linguists and the various schools of auxiliary language.
At the congress of linguists (Geneva, 1931) Jespersen reviewed, for the secretariat, the answers to a questionnaire which had invited opinions on the desirability of an international auxiliary language. This gave him the opportunity to refute many old arguments against and international auxiliary language. Sechehaye, the general secretary of the congress, said that "to judge from the answers and opinions received, one could now speak of the solemn rehabilitation of artificial languages ... science will contribute its share towards an evolution which is necessary and which will, one day, lead to a solution." (Novialiste, March, 1938).
Meanwhile Jespersen joined Prof. Collinson and Prof. Sapir, as well as Helen S. Eaton as linguistic research associate, on the Advisory Board for Linguistic Research of IALA.
On the occasion of the 4th International Congress of Linguists which was to take place in Copenhagen, in 1936, IALA invited the participants to a preliminary meeting to discuss the problem of an international auxiliary language and its own long-term programme, its past work of research, and its draft of criteria for an international language. Again Jespersen and other members of IALA's staff took an active part in the proceedings and so prepared the ground for a gradually increasing interest for IALA's plans among the linguists of the world. (Men labore por un international lingue, Novialiste, 18, 1937; 19, 1938).
In a series of lectures on the `Development of Language' at University College, London, in 1920, Otto Jespersen reviewed the work for an international language and unhesitatingly recommended Ido. This was only a few years before he published his own system. He had never given up this work and has devoted much time during his life for the advancement of an international auxiliary language. This question was dear to him and he saw its practical application and potential possibilities, as well as the urgent necessity for its solution.
It is to IALA's merit to have drawn Jespersen into active participation in the work for the auxiliary language, for the proposals which he crystallized in Novial are a valuable contribution of a professional linguist. Many principles of Novial and much of the grammatical structure confirm what has been defined for Ido under his own active participation and the collaboration of many other experienced interlinguists. The differences between Ido and Novial are small and we may justifiably hold the belief that the final auxiliary language cannot be far from either and is likely to incorporate the best points of both languages.
In Jespersen's own language, published in 1928 under the name of Novial =Nov (new) I.A.L. (International Auxiliary Language), he solved certain problems with new and unorthodox methods. In many respects Novial differs little from Ido, the language of the delegation; his new proposals merit our attention. A full summary of the grammar of Novial is impossible in this brief review, a more comprehensive study will be found in A Planned European Language, now being prepared.
Perhaps his most remarkable contribution to interlinguistics is the form of derivation he proposes, and within it the class of a/o/e words. `Derivation' is here used to describe the process of forming one word from another within the same word-family by means of affixes [to work, work/ing, the work, the work/er, work/able, etc.].
To appreciate Jespersen's rules of derivation, a comparative study of the rules of the five chief systems of demonstrated usefulness is required. This is clearly impossible here.
The systems Esperanto and Ido use -o to distinguish the noun in singular from other word classes. Jespersen uses -o similarly as well to denote `male sex' in nouns describing living beings. -o is no longer a purely distinctive ending but a formative element, i.e., an affix. Its third function is to denote a noun derived from or connected with a verb and meaning `the simple act or state' denoted by the verb. Jespersen calls nouns so derived `nexus-substantives.'
GROUP I. The simplest case is that in which only one noun can be derived from the verb. The verb ends in -a, the noun in -o. In most corresponding English cases the noun is not distinguished from the infinitive. This group of words is referred to as the a/o words [sonja/o `dream,' marcha/o `march,' odora/o `smell'].
GROUP II. The verb may end in -e, the noun in -o. In this case -o fulfils the same function as in Esperanto and Ido, it is a distinguishing mark used in certain cases. This group of words is referred to as the e/o words [respekte/o `respect,' neglekte/o `neglect'].
GROUP III. Verbs ending in -i or -u retain the final vowel when the noun in -o is derived; this group of words is referred to as the i/io, u/uo words [aboli `abolish,' aboli/o `the act of abolishing = abolition,' distribu `distribute,' distribu/o `the act of distributing = distribution'].
GROUP IV. The nominal root ends in -e, the verb derived from it ends in -a, and from the latter the verbal noun is formed ending in -o. These e/a/o words cover a variety of cases. The original noun is the name of an instrument, ending in -e, the verb derived from it describes `the natural use made of that instrument' [brose `brush,' brosa `to brush'], the verbal noun in -o describes `the act of . . . ' [broso `the act of brushing,' fume `smoke,' fuma `to smoke,' fumo `the act of smoking'; nive `snow,' niva `to snow,' nivo `snowing']. The e/a/o words are used for four different cases, (1) `to use as an instrument' [hamre/a/o], (2) `to secrete' [sange/a/o], (3) to describe meteorological phenomena [nive/a/o], (4) for cases in which no doubt as to the precise meaning of words so derived is possible. Jespersen has added to the infinitive the English `to' in phonetic transcription as a further mark of distinction for the verb [tu helpa `to help'].
The endings e/a/o are further used for nouns to denote respectively `common sex, male, female' in the case of living beings [home, homo, homa]. Jespersen does not anticipate any conflict between the use of these vowel endings for noun, verb, verbal noun, and their use to distinguish living beings. They are easily kept apart by their natural meanings.
In Novialiste (3, 1934) Jespersen reviewed a book my M. Follick, The Influence of English (Williams & Norgate). He made this review the platform of a general expression on the question of English, of which he was a great master and admirer, as an auxiliary language. "Although English is easier than other languages," he says, "it is not easy enough. The spelling is so absurd that small changes as those favoured by Theodore Roosevelt are useless; we must have a fundamental revolution based on pronunciation ... but such spelling reform is not sufficient. To make English a really easy enough language for the whole world to accept it as a universal language, it is essential to simplify considerably its grammar. The ideal of the author is something similar to Pidgin English. This suggestion interested me as I have studied all such languages, Pidgin, Beach-la-Mar, etc., and have written a long chapter in my book Language, its nature, development and origin (Allen & Unwin); I have called them `Minimum languages.' I do not, however, agree with Mr. Follick when he believes that it would be possible or even easy to make the world adopt such a language in universal use - not only among exotic people but also in Europe. It would be too much of a parody of English, laughed at and mocked, and all those millions who know and love the old English language would not consider it a serious attempt to solve an important problem, but would turn away with horror. The author has not considered the natural feelings which are less shocked by a language constructed on the principles of Novial, than by English as Mr. Follick conceives it."
There have been attempts to reduce artificially the vocabulary of English to make it an auxiliary base language. J. Hubert Jagger gives us a considered view on the meaning of words contained in such lists. He says, "This subject of meaning is one of great importance. English words possess a remarkably large number of meanings: for example, to give the New English Dictionary ascribes 64 distinct senses, to take 63 senses, and to clear 25 adjectival senses." (English in the future, p. 84, Nelson). If we were to accept these words in a limited vocabulary and to try to persuade the foreigner that he need only learn these verbs with a similarly selected number of nouns and other words to be able to use them as an auxiliary language, we would be misleading him. For, to master even such a limited vocabulary, he will have to learn all the meanings in current use. This manifold multiplication of meanings would do away with the apparent advantages. This method does not point the way to a solution of the problem. Further down Jagger states another interesting fact, "... we possess a great number of partial synonyms, the profusion of which has rendered our tongue very hard for a foreigner to learn to use as we ourselves do, although a rudimentary command of it is soon acquired, because its structure is simple. Easy and comfortable to us who have spent our lives threading its infinite paths, our vocabulary is a bewildering labyrinth to the stranger."
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