Latino sine FlexioneEdit
In 1903 the famous Italian mathematician G. Peano started his Latino sine flexione. This may be useful to express the abstract truths dealt with in mathematical treatises, but when it is claimed that it can be used also in other sciences and in practical everyday life, the matter is much more doubtful. The idea is to take the ablative of each Latin noun and one simple form of each verb to be used practically everywhere. This "interlingua" is now employed in the publication of Academia pro Interlingua, which purports to be a continuation of the Volapük "Kadem" of 1887; anyone can become a member in consideration of a modest subscription, and members are free to use what dialect they choose of this Latino - and there are several, though superficially different writers seem to write the same language. Some use que only as a conjunction ("that"), where others say quod, some also as a relative and interrogative pronoun and for "than" (que de melio que libertate?); ut is found for "in order that" and in other writers for "as" (ut seque, ut normale); lege in one writer means "law," in another "read," etc. Some use more or less self-made inflexions (veniva preterite, veniri future), while Peano himself, who has a curious predilection for etymology, expresses the former tense by a preposed e (the Greek augment, which has never existed in Latin), and the latter by a i (the Latin root "go", which has never been used for that purpose in any language), thus e i "went," i i "will go" (or perhaps e ire, i ire). It makes a curious impression in the midst of this dead speech material to come upon modern words like utiliza and hazarda: if their number is not greater, this is due to the subjects treated and the necessarily stiff style in which everything is written: there is in this periodical nothing of the freedom and ease of expression found in other recent interlanguages.
Nevertheless the experiment is interesting and has taken the fancy of some scientists who have not entirely forgotten the Latin they were taught at school and who now rejoice to find that they can read most of this Latin without being bothered with irregular verbs and difficult rules of syntax. The facility, however, with which this Latin is read is largely a delusion: for myself, though I have read a good deal of Latin in my life, I have found sentences which I could not make out except by translating them into the mother-tongue of the writer, Italian or French, and others which I was not able to understand even in that way. "Illo es nunc facto plus facile gratias ad factos" - does that mean "this is now an easier fact," or "more easily a fact," or "made easier"? I suppose the last. "Cresce impossibilitate de resana et illo procedi usque ad securo morte"; in the next following sentence "nam Volapük more tunc certo" I first took more to be "custom," but then discovered that it was Latin morior, and that the mark of past time was left out in consequence of the adverb tunc, so that the whole meant "V. died certainly."
This, or rather most of this, may be all very well for those who have learnt Latin, even if they have forgotten most of it; but what about the majority who have never had the benefit of a classical education? It is said that they can understand this Interlingua by means of a Latin dictionary - but how are they to know that when they see more, they are sometimes to look under mos, and sometimes under morior? Or where to look for homine, pote ("can"), etc.? It is, of course, much worse when it comes to writing (or speaking!) the language oneself: what is the use of telling a man who has learnt no Latin grammar that he is simply to take the ablative, when his dictionary gives him only the nominative and genitive? The interlanguage of the future must necessarily be autonomous and have its own grammar and dictionary: it cannot be dependent on reminiscences of other languages - though it may, and must, turn to account the fact that the majority of users have at any rate a smattering of some language or languages besides their own.
Peano is quite right in saying that when we say "Two boys came yesterday," we express both the plural and the time idea twice, and that it would be just as clear to say "Two boy come yesterday," but this is not the same as saying that a sign for the plural and for past time is generally, or even always, superfluous. Peano's ideal would be no grammar, or what he thinks is the same thing, the Chinese grammar; but no language can do entirely without grammar, however true it is that the grammar of an interlanguage can be made much simpler than that of our usual languages. Chinese grammar is simplicity itself, in so far as it has no inflexions of the European kind, but it uses other grammatical means, as when wang with one tone means "king" and with another tone "to be king," or when the rules for word-order show whether ta is to mean "big," or "bigness," not to mention the numerous particles used for grammatical purposes. In imitating the latter feature, and in using word-order to distinguish subject from object we are in perfect agreement with the whole trend of the development of West-European languages.