Enkomputiligis Don HARLOW

A Few Comparisons of Affixes in Occidental and Esperanto

by William Gilbert

translated into English by Donald J. Harlow


Gilbert, former Occidentalist, contributor to Cosmoglotta, member of the Occidental Senate, at the beginning of the 1950s decided to cast his lot with Esperanto. The following originally appeared as Chapter 11 (pp. 41-48) of his book Planlingvaj Problemoj, published in 1962.

The Occidentalists claim that their language is perfectly regular, even more regular than Esperanto. Let us now touch on the essential problem, i.e. derivation, and this deserves serious examination.

I shall first make a few comparisons between the affixes in the two languages.

1. FAMILI/ARI, in O. (Occidental), is formed from the root famili- (E. [Esperanto] famili/o, family) and the suffix -ari. It corresponds to familiara in E. First observation: the suffix -ara does not exist in Esperanto. The word shown immediately above is, then, a regular derivation in O., not in E. Second observation: -ari in O. means, according to the grammars: responding to, concerning, conforming to, utilizing to ... Familiari, whose meaning is approximately "intimately non-ceremonious," has a very nebulous relationship to these definitions. It is regularly derived, yes, but only formally and quite illogically. The derivational system is, in this case, a hindrance, because it risks causing misunderstandings, and in the end it is necessary to check in a dictionary to find the correct word with its correct meaning.

2. POPUL/ARI, in O. is derived from popul- (E. popol/o, [a] people) using the suffix -ari and corresponds to E. popola, relating to a people, and populara, popular. In this last case, the meaning of -ari more clearly appears than in familiari. But if O. also uses the suffix -al "related to" with the root famili- (famili/al = E. famili/a), it ignores it with popul- (E. popol/a should be popul/al in O.). This is confirmed by the Complet Gramatica de Occidental by E. Janotta, who simply observes that it is necessary to use -ari (instead of -al) after noun roots ending in -l! Unfortunately, the same grammar does not give the same meaning for -ari and for -al. Additionally, the language is deprived of a necessary nuance in the case of populari just because of the need to imitate the Romance languages.

3. LABOR/AT/OR/IA, in O., corresponds to E. laboratorio. It derives from labor (O. laborar = E. labori, to work; O. labor/at/or = E. labor/isto, worker; O. -ia indicates the location). Laboratoria should then be the place where there are workers, in the most general sense, and the rules of derivation cannot explain why this refers only to a location for experiments or scientific research. E., more logically, simply and regularly forms the word labor/ejo, workplace, for the general notion and has separately adopted, with its special meaning, the internationally and globally known word laboratorio. And so there is no chance of misunderstandings.

4. O. has two related suffixes: -isar ( = to cause) and -ificar ( = to cause scientifically). But to imitate French and English, O. says just/ificar instead of just/isar ( = to justify) or petr/ificar instead of petr/isar ( = to petrify), although we seek a scientific meaning in these terms in vain.

5. From the root melior- ( = better) we do not derive melior/isar ( = to improve), as might be logically expected. Shall we they say melior/ificar, by analogy with justificar and petrificar? Wrong! A third character enters here, the prefix a-, and the correct word is a/melior/ar ... also in order to imitate French and English.

6. Let us examine three other suffixes in O.: -ion (action), -ida or -da (continuing action) and -ura (result of action). From the roots scrit- and strukt- we might and should form: scrit/ion, scri/da, scrit/ura, con/struct/ion, con/struct/ida, con/struct/ura. (1) These forms are grammatically correct and logically conceivable but demand analytical labor practically impossible, because the nuances are often scarcely perceptible at first sight. In fact, the official meanings of the suffixes are not of much use, because the Romance languages are blindly imitated, with the use in almost all cases of the words scritura and construction, sometimes scrition, rarely constructura and never scrida, constructida. We will say, for example: Yo videt un bell construction, though here constructura is more correct.

7. No rule in O. can explain why we say yun/esse (youth) and bell/ità (beauty), if not by analogy with French jeunesse and beauté. Nevertheless, beauty is a "striking quality," which should require, according to Von Wahl's grammar, the suffix -esse instead of -ità.

8. Once again the suffix -(i)da (continuing action). The manufacture of any object goes on for quite a long time, generally, to justify a derived word such as fabrica/da. But in O. only the derivation fabrica/t/ion is used. On the other hand, we must say promena/da, curr/ida, vola/da, etc. (strolling, running, flying), which are, of course, correct, but no more so than promena/t/ion, curs/ion, vola/t/ion, almost never used. Why volada and fabrication, why not volation and fabricada? The derivational system cannot explain; only the dictionary remains to issue decrees.

9. -ACI = E. ema, tending to, e.g.: cred/aci (E. kred/ema, credulous). But for E. toler/ema, tolerant, in O. we use the so-called "present participle": tolera/nt (French tolérant). But the meaning of this word generally demands the form toler/aci, which is never used.

Error leads to error: Because tolerant is unsuitable, the corresponding noun, toler/ant/ie (tolerance), is no better. According to the O. grammars, the "suffix" -ntie (i.e. -nt + -ie) presents "a permanent state." But tolerantie is quite simply a quality, which requires the suffix -ità ( = E. -eco). The derivation toler/ac/ità, by analogy with ver/ac/ità or viv/ac/ità (truthfulness, vivacity), would be much more logical than tolera/nt/ie.

10. E. KOMERCISTO (businessperson) becomes COMERCI/ANT in O., by analogy with French commerçant. This derivation is constructed with the aid of the "present participle -nt," which should present a simple, non-professional act, i.e. E. komercanto, a person currently engaged in some act of business. After learning O.'s derivational system, we should say comerci/ero, comerci/ist or comerci/at/or, by analogy with libr/ero/ lav/era, ocul/ist labor/at/or (book vendor, washerwoman, oculist, worker).

11. For the above reasons, we risk using, at any moment, forms in O. that are theoretically correct but bad in practice. One might quote an endless list of examples:

MOV/I/T/ION, MOV/IDA, instead of MOV/E/MENT (E. movado, motion)
FEMIN/AL, FEMIN/IC, instead of FEMIN/IN (E. virina,feminine)
POPUL/IC instead of POPUL/ARI (E. popola, having to do with the people)
NETT/ISAR, NETT/IFICAR, A/NETT/AR, instead of NETT/AR (E. purigi, to clean)
CARBON/I/FICAR, IN/CARBON/AR, instead of CARBON/ISAR (E. karbigi, to carbonize)
TRIST/ISAR, TRIST/IFICAR, TRIST/AR (by analogy with nett/ar), instead of A/TRIST/AR (E. mal°ojigi, to sadden)
OCULI/CO, OCUL/ERO, instead of OCUL/IST (E. okulisto, oculist)
BIBLIOTE(K?)/IST, BIBLIOTE(K?)/ERO, instead of BIBLIOTEC/ARIO (E. bibliotekisto, librarian)

It is scarcely necessary to remind you that in E. no doubt can arise for forming the corresponding combinations.

12. Five suffixes form adjectives, generally without any other meaning then that of a simple relationship with the root, despite the official meaning indicated in the grammars: -al, -ari, -in, -ic, -tic: (2) INSTRUMENT/AL, CONSUL/ARI, MAR/IN, TELEFON/IC, PROBLEMA/TIC (E. instrument/a, konsul/a, mar/a, telefon/a, problem/a; instrumental, consular, marine, telephonic, problematic).

In Occidental six resources are used to express the notion E. -igi ( = cause), as is proved by the following examples: A/TRIST/AR, IN/BELL/AR, REAL/ISAR, PAN/IFICAR, NETT/AR, PERFECT/ION/AR (E. mal°oj/igi bel/igi, real/igi, pan/igi, pur/igi, perfekt/igi; to sadden, to beautify, to realize, to turn into bread, to clean, to perfect).

There are at least five methods for defining a person who practices a craft, e.g.: BARB/ERO, INSTRUCT/OR, OCUL/IST, FIS/ICO, COMERCI/ANT (E. barb/isto, instru/isto, okul/isto, fizik/isto, komerc/isto; barber, teacher, oculist, physicist, businessman).

The suffix -or can present a person or a machine. As a result, ASCENS/OR (elevator) should also mean "elevator operator."

At least four suffixes can express quality: -ità (-tà or -età, depending on the phonetic appearance of the base word), -esse, -ie, -(e)nt/ie. E.g.: YUN/ITÀ, LIBER/TÀ, PROPRI/ETÀ, POLIT/ESSE, ELEGANT/IE, TOLERA/NT/IE (E. jun/eco, liber/eco, propr/eco, °entil/eco, elegant/eco, toler/em/(ec)o; youth, freedom, property, politeness, elegance, tolerance).

The suffix -ion, which is the most important in O., is also the most fantastic. It expresses an act in ACT/ION (action), the result of an act in PROPOS/IT/ION (a proposition), a location or collection in REDACT/ION (editorial staff, editorial office), a thing, an action, or the result of an action in CONSTRUCT/ION (the process of building, a building), a state of mind in INTENT/ION (intention), etc. ...

13. Prof. Waringhien (Lingvo kaj Vivo) quotes interesting examples: CIRCUM/STA/NT/IE (circumstance), DIS/POSI/T/ION (arrangement, disposition), PRE/JUDIC/IE (prejudice), SUR/VIGILA/R (to check up on), etc. ..., which should mean respectively: "the quality of standing around," "the action of placing in various directions," "the characteristic of being a practitioner of being before a judge," "to stay awake on...", if one has faith in the derivational system.

Of course, many other words can be quoted whose formation does not correspond at all to the given meaning: PER/MISS/ER (to permit), PRO/VID/ER (to provide), MOBIL/IS/AR (to mobilize), CON/CLUD/ER (to conclude) etc. ..., which should respectively correspond to: "to send completely," "to see ahead," "to cause to be movable," "to close together..."

The root MOBIL-, in E. Von Wahl's project, gives birth to a list of words regularly and logically formed: MOBIL/ITÀ (mobility), IN/MOBIL/ITÀ (immobility), IN/MOBIL (immobile), etc. ..., but also purely formal derivatives such as MOBIL/ISA/R, MOBIL/ISA/T/ION, MOBIL/ISA/BIL ... (is IN/MOBIL/ISA/BIL "non-movable" or "non-mobilizable"?). On the other hand, a second root is used to express the idea of movement: MOV-, which gives birth to more or less irregular and analizable derivatives: MOV/E/MENT (motion), MOT/OR (motor), MOT/IVE (motive), E/MOT/IV (emotional), E/MOT/ION (emotion), whose common link is purely etymological and very difficult to perceive. Which goes to show ...

14. It must then be concluded that the affixes in O. must be used very carefully:

a) The majority are "non-productive", although the opposite is written in the grammars: -isar, -ificar, -(i)da, -esse, -(i)tà, etc. ... cannot be always used, when you can't say in practice: PETR/ISAR, MELIOR/IFICAR, SCR/IDA, BELL/ESSE, RICH/ITÀ ...

b) Every affix in O. gives birth to derived words with a definite nature: -ach, -ade, -age ... form nouns only, -aci, -al, -an, -ari ... form adjectives only, -ar, -ear, -ettar ... form verbs only. Contrariwise, in E. the suffixes generally give birth, at will, to nouns, adjectives, verbs or adverbs, thanks to the characteristic endings, on condition that they correspond -- obviously -- to notions with real meaning: E. kler/ig/o, kler/ig/a, kler/ig/i, kler/ig/e; promen/ad/o, promen/ad/a, promen/ad/i, promen/ad/e (resp. education, educational, to educate, educationally; a walk, having to do with a walk, to take a walk, while taking a walk).

c) We find 82 affixes in the tiny 20-page brochure: L'Occidental en cinq leçons by R. Berger, and only 45 in the most complete E. courses. A large part of the suffixes in O. have a definition that is very imprecise, is poorly constrained, or presents a nuance that is too abstract or too subtle for practical use.

d) Some suffixes follow the verb roots (REALISA/BIL, "realizable"), but others follow after a special form of the verb, the so-called "supine" of the Latinists: REALISA/T/ION, VIS/ION (realization, vision). On the other hand, the suffix -bil follows the supine in some cases: VIS/IBIL (visible). In vis/ion and vis/ibil, the verb root is vid-. Vider (to see).

e) There are no affixes in O. to indicate several very useful relationship, just because they do not exist in the Romance languages. For example, "because French, Spanish and Italian do not have a common suffix of augmentation in general use, (3) we may perhaps speak in O. about PLUVI/ETT (E. pluv/eto, drizzle) ..., but it is quite impossible to speak about E. pluv/ego (downpour) and we have to be satisfied with PLUVIE BATTANT (which is not the same thing!) ... This is why our (E.) suffixes -ind (deserving of) and -ebl (able to be) are translated by the single -bil, so that I would never dare whisper to a young lady Occidentalist (if such exist) that she is AMA/BIL, for fear that she would understand only that I found her susceptible ...". (4)

f) Rigorous use of the affixes according to their official definitions, supposing that their meaning is well understood in every case, very often leads in O., as we have seen, to derived words which in fact cannot be found in dictionaries and are never used. Inversely, many derivations are completely incorrect according to O.'s own rules of derivation. It is true that they are supposedly "international," so already known by almost all peoples. O.'s author believed that OCULIST, CONSTRUCTION, POPULARI, VERIFICATION, etc. ... are sufficiently recognized. It is immediately understood that such "internationality" is very limited. In fact, O. blindly imitates the Romance languages and does not respect its own rules about the meaning of the affixes at all. It is a very interesting and sagacious system for explaining the etymological mechanism of the western languages. But it would be more honest to admit that the regularity of derivation is not a trustworthy aid in building needed words, that in the end it is better to check out a dictionary to be certain of the generally accepted forms. It would be more honest to admit that for the great majority of peoples O. is much more difficult than E., although it is obviously easier than the national languages.

The above remarks are, of course, even more applicable to Interlingua, since that system is much more complicated and has almost no derivational system. At least it seems that Interlingua's supporters do not present their project as a model of simplicity and regularity.


Author's Footnotes

(1) -(i)da follows the root; -ion and -ura follow the "supine" (see "Von Wahl's Rule").
(2) After words ending in -ma, the suffix -ic becomes -tic.
(3) -issim, in O, forms only adjectives.
(3) From Lingvo kaj Vivo (Language and Life).