[I worked on Simpenga from December, 1995, to March, 1996. This was one
of my early attempts at an IAL, when I was overly concerned about phonetic
simplification. Simpenga is a dead project, as I now believe a basic phonology
has as many disadvantages (loss of recognizability) as advantages (ease
of pronunciation). - Jeffrey
Simpenga is pronounced /sim-PEN-ga/ and is a contraction of Simpela
Engelisa, "Simple English." Simpenga is a proposed international
auxiliary language (IAL) based on the following premises:
- Those individuals most likely to learn a world auxiliary language
will already have made an effort to learn a second language. They will
most likely speak English, since English is spoken by between 300 to
900 million people as a second language, having a greater population
of second-language speakers than any other language. Therefore, an IAL
should be based on English.
- Basic English is the most well known IAL based on English, providing
an 850-word subset of English. Unfortunately, Basic English presents
serious learning difficulties to speakers of other languages, including
an arbitrary orthography (system of spelling), a difficult phonology
(sound system), a complex grammar, reliance on idioms and a paucity
of verbs. An IAL should have a completely regular orthography, a simple
phonology, a completely regular grammar, defined idioms and as many
verbs as appropriate.
Simpenga is the first IAL that will meet all these objectives:
- Easy To Read - Simpenga words are easily spelled, with a one-to-one
correspondence between each sound and letter.
- Easy To Say - Simpenga words are easily pronounced, with the
language using just the five basic vowels (compared to English's 20
or so vowels) and 15 of the most common consonants (vs. English's 24),
and with a very simple syllable structure (English _stretched_ /stretsht/
would be pronounced as /setereteta/ in Simpenga, one syllable becoming
- Easy To Use - Simpenga's grammar is regular, with few rules
to remember; Simpenga does without grammatical number, articles, declensions,
inflections, and pronouns with gender distinctions.
- Easy To Learn - Simpenga will have a basic vocabulary of 1000
words, all based on English, with many words being compounds (e.g.,
"there" is _dati'wera_, literally "that place").
Simpenga permits neologisms but no extensions to the basic vocabulary;
all neologisms must be compounds, for easy learning.
Simpenga contains five vowels:
/a/ (as in father)
/e/ (as in bear)
/i/ (as in beat)
/o/ (as in boat)
/u/ (as in boost).
The language has 15 consonants:
/p/, /b/ /t/, /d/ /k/, /g/
/w/ /l/, /r/ /j/ /h/
Where Esperanto has 23 consonants, Simpenga has only 15 of the most-common
consonants, a subset of the 20 most-common consonants identified in the
UPSID (UCLA Phonological Segment Inventory Database) survey of 317 languages.
Anyone who knows how to speak English will not have to learn any new sounds
to speak Simpenga; those who do not speak English may have to learn a
handful of new sounds, depending on their linguistic background.
Because Simpenga makes comparatively few distinctions between consonants,
most consonants have allophones, of which only the principal ones will
be mentioned here. The phoneme /f/ has allophones [f] and [v], and /s/
has allophones [s] and [z] (similar to Old English).
The phoneme /r/ includes any retroflex or any alveolar flap or trill.
As with Esperanto, the accent of a word in Simpenga is always on the
Every word is spelled phonemically. There is a one-to-one correspondence
between letters and phonemes. The alphabet is as follows:
The following letters are not used: j, k, q, v, x, z.
The letter 'c' always represents the phoneme /k/; 'y' represents the
The roots of a compound word are separated by an apostrophe (e.g., _wati'wera_,
"what place (where)").
Phonotactics is the sequential arrangements of phonemes that are possible
in a language. Every syllable in Simpenga follows this pattern:
[C] V [N]
[C] - is an optional non-nasal consonant:
/p/, /b/ /t/, /d/ /k/, /g/
/w/ /l/, /r/ /j/ /h/
V - is a mandatory vowel: /a/ /e/ /i/ /o/ /u/
[N] - is an optional nasal: /n/ /m/
Syllables in Simpenga may not begin with a nasal; thus, English man
becomes Simpenga eman. This is necessary to eliminate ambiguity.
If /n/ or /m/ could begin a syllable, a rule would have to be created
to define the syllabification of words in ambiguous circumstances, like
*mama (/MAM-a/ or /MA-ma/) or animala (/an-im-A-la/, /a-ni-MA-la/,
Simpenga has a comparatively small range of syllables, with just 210
(15 x 5 x 3) possible syllables, where Esperanto theoretically has over
ten thousand possible syllables. (The exact number is impossible to determine,
since Esperanto's vocabulary is not closed and its phonotactics has not
been explicitly defined.)
Simpenga's morphology is designed to eliminate complex consonant clusters
(e.g., /str/, /bl/, /pr/, /sp/), which are difficult for many speakers
of Asian and African languages to pronounce.
When a word is borrowed into Simpenga, it must conform to its phonology
and morphology. Thus _English_ is borrowed as _Engelisa_.
For simplicity, the grammar has been designed to eliminate most features
that are not universal to analytic languages. Simpenga lacks number, articles,
declensions, inflections, and pronouns with gender distinctions.
The language has neither a definite article (_the_, Esperanto _la_) or
an indefinite article (_a_, _an_). Nouns are not inflected for plural,
gender or case. The relationship of case is expressed by prepositions.
Personal pronouns are not inflected for number, gender or case. The first
person pronoun ("I, me, we, us") is _emi_ (EHM-ee), second person
("you") is _yu_, and third person ("he, him, she, her,
they, them, it") is _di_. All possessive pronouns (e.g., _mine_,
_yours_, _his_) are formed by appending /n/ (e.g., _emin_, _yun_, _din_);
possessive pronouns are treated as adjectives. The reflexive pronouns
(e.g., _myself_, _yourself_, _himself_) are formed by appending _selifa_,
"self", to the possessive pronoun: _emin'selifa_, "myself";
_yun'selifa_, "yourself, yourselves"; _din'selifa_, "himself,
herself, itself, themselves".
Adjectives precede the noun they describe. The comparative is always
made by using the word _emore_, the superlative by _emosete_. There are
no irregular comparatives (English _good_, _better_, _best_ become Simpenga
_guda_, _emore guda_, _emosete guda_). With the comparative, the conjunction
_dan_ is used (e.g., _emore dan_, "more than").
The verb undergoes no change with regard to person or number or tense,
which are instead conveyed as necessary through context. The verb in each
clause is preceded by the word _do_. The passive is rendered by preceding
a verb with _be_. The verb _be_ is also used for "am, is, are, was,
were, to be".
Adverbs follow the verbs they modify.
Esperanto's correlatives are concise but hard to remember. Simpenga instead
uses compound words, which provide greater clues for remembering. Thus
Esperanto _kiu_ [< _ki-_, "which" + _u_, "one"]
becomes Simpenga's _wati'won_. Sample correlatives are _dise:dinga_, "this
thing"; _dati:cinda_, "that kind of"; _som:wera_,
"somewhere"; _ano:waya_, "no way"; and _ala:caza_,
"for every reason".
A correlative consists of a modifier followed by a context. The six possible
_wati_ "what, which"
_ala_ "each, every, all"
The 9 possible contexts are:
_wera_ "where, place"
_caza_ "reason, cause"
_amonta_ "quantity, amounta"
Correlatives total 54 different words.
Constructs with an unreferenced subject pronoun ("It was",
"There are") are not acceptable and such sentences have to be
rephrased. "It is raining" becomes "See the rain",
_Do si rin_.
Sample text: A translation of the Babel Text is available.
The Basic English lexicon would need
to be modified to fit Simpenga's phonology.