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A Grammar of Interlingua

Alexander Gode & Hugh Blair IALA 1951

Grammatical Words



Note: The spheres of grammar and vocabulary overlap in that both are concerned with those "little words" which are needed to express the relationship between the words or phrases making up a complete statement. These words are grammatical functionaries (here conveniently labeled "grammatical words"), and as such they are generally classed not in a special category of their own but as prepositions, conjunctions, pronouns, adverbs, and the like.

From the point of view of Interlingua "grammatical words" do, however, form a group of peculiar significance because their international range compared with that of the bulk of Interlingua words is fairly restricted. For most users of Interlingua the "grammatical words" constitute the one and only serious learning obstacle.

The restricted international range of "grammatical words" is due to the fact that their counterparts in the various national languages are so closely associated with matters of basic grammatical structure that they seem to be prevented from invading the realm of other languages on a large scale. A French word like cigarette has turned English without much trouble; the French word sans as used in English retains its foreign flavor after these many centuries.

To illustrate further: The speaker of another language - let us say a Frenchman - may find it difficult to understand the simple English statement: "Our guests started coming in right after we got back from town." He may be helped by the version: "Our visitors began to arrive right after we returned from town." And as a last resort there is still the possibility that he may understand the version: "Our visitors commenced to arrive immediately after we returned from the city."

The first version is composed of peculiarly English words. The last version uses instead as far as possible the English variants of international words which the Frenchman understands because they occur - in slightly different, that is, peculiarly French forms - in his own language.

With a greater or lesser degree of artifice it is possible to speak and write any one of the Western languages in words which are almost entirely national variants of material represented in the international vocabulary. But there remains in all cases a substantial body of words which resist this trick of internationalizing a national language. In the example just used this body of recalcitrants is represented by words like our, to, after, we, from, and the. All of them are grammatical words although some of them, as after and we, combine a grammatical function with a clearly palpable meaning.

The Interlingua-English Dictionary (IED) includes a very liberal supply of grammatical words. In addition to those which happen to be international in accordance with the Dictionary's working definition of the term, there are numerous forms which seemed compatible with the general character of the international vocabulary so that their inclusion could serve to broaden the appeal and usefulness of the Dictionary.

A minimum list of grammatical words follows. It is restricted to items considered indispensable for the operation of the language and may be enlarged by further material - especially phrases with grammatical functions - drawn from the IED. A number of words which the IED lists in two equally correct forms appears below in one alternate only. This does not imply that the second is considered less desirable. The pairs in question are: alicun - alcun; aliquando - alquando; aliquanto - alquanto; alique - alco; a pena - apena; depost - depois; haber - haver; hic - ci; illac - la; illa - ella; ille - celle; jam - ja; pauc - poc; secundo - secun; semper - sempre; si non - sinon; subinde - sovente; tanto - tan; vice - vece.

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