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Occidental 1922 by Edgar de Wahl (EN)

Page history last edited by Valdemar 11 years, 6 months ago


Occidental (1922) by Edgar de Wahl


 H. Jacob:

A planned auxiliary language London, 1947


1. History


Edgar de Wahl was born on 11th August 1867 in Olwiopol (Ukraine). He studied Volapük in 1887 and took up Esperanto a year later only to give it up again and to begin his independent studies in 1894. He turned his interest to a naturalistic solution of the problem and collaborated in 1906-7 with Rosenberger, the then president of the Kadem bevünetik volapüka, later the Akademi Internasional de lingu universal. In 1907 he submitted to the Délegation pour l'adoption d'une langue auxiliaire internationale a memorandum on the construction of an auxiliary language without submitting a complete language. The principal ideas in his memorandum were,


   1. that none of the existing systems is satisfactory;

   2. that the international language to be constructed, be founded on the international linguistic material;

   3. that such project should have its own system of word formation, i.e., really international words should be obtained through a number of rules formulated for that purpose;

   4. that it should possess a grammar which produces no unnatural forms, i.e., forms deviating from the ethnic languages; and

   5. that it should possess an international orthography.


By "natural" or "international" de Wahl meant to describe those forms which are already known through various European languages. These ideas were not accepted by the Délegation to which they were submitted and de Wahl proceeded to elaborate his own system until, in 1922, he published them as his own language Occidental, in his paper Kosmoglott, later to be named Cosmoglotta. He restated his principles in a conversation with Jespersen in 1935 (Novialiste, No. 6) and required of an international language that each artificial language should respect the common laws of ethnic languages, i.e.:


   1. It should be an organic, autonomous entity, living and growing according to its own laws, harmonizing and assimilating new elements, and not be a conglomeration of different words put together at random.

   2. For our special purpose it should be based on the international forms common to the European languages in phonetics, spelling, and mode of expression.


To further its introduction it should also have the following qualities,

   1. it should be comprehensible at first sight and without previous instruction to all civilized Europeans,

   2. it should not shock the public through incomprehensible forms but should have the aspect of an almost natural language, and

   3. to secure adoption and use it should not only be easy to read, but also easy for practical use, and easy in its grammatical structure.


Since 1922 the theories of the Wahl have attracted serious minds and have influenced Jespersen and his Novial to some extent. IALA (The international Auxiliary Language Association) has classified it as one of the systems of demonstrated usefulness.


2. Grammar


The alphabet comprises 26 letters, y fulfilling a double rôle as consonant and vowel. The vowels are a [pr. as in father], e [fête], i [machine], o [most], u [rule], y [F u, or D ü]. The 21 consonants are b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, v, w, x, y, z. Several consonants have two pronunciations [c hard as "k" before a, o, u, or any consonant; soft as "ts" before e, i, y; g hard as in gold before a, o, u, or any consonant, soft as in general before e, i, y; t as "ts" before ie, ia, io].

The stress falls on the vowel before the last consonant. The plural endings [-(e)s] and the adverbial endings [-bil, -ic, -im, - ul, -um] remain unstressed. Further exceptions not falling under any of these rules are marked with the accent [´, or `]. The length of the vowels varies. Unstressed syllables have the short vowel [a in fan, e in bend, i in fit, o in drop, u in full]. Stressed vowels followed by two consonants are short. The rest are long except in some short words, mainly prepositions.

Occidental has four diphthongs, au, ay, ey, oy, as well as eu in D ö.

The definite article is li for all genders and numbers. The indefinite article is un; lu may be used for as an article if an adjective is used alone as an abstract conception.

The singular noun has no specific grammatical ending. The plural is formed by adding -s to the words ending in vowels, or in -c, -g, -um; -es to words ending in other consonants. An exception, however, is -e, -o, -a, respectively used to distinguish neuter, masculine, and feminine [camarad/e, /o, /a].

The pronouns are yo, tu, Vu, il, illa, it; noi, vu, ili. the reflexive pronoun is se.

The possessive pronouns are mi, tu(i), su; nor, vor, lor.

The verb in the infinitive ends in -r [ama/r]. The present indicative is obtained by removing the infinitive ending [yo ama, tu ama, il ama].

The imperative form is the same as the present indicative, followed by a mark of exclamation [!]. The composite imperative is formed with ples plus the infinitive [audi! ples audir].

The past tense is obtained by adding -t to the present tense [yo ama/t].

The future tense is formed by employing the auxiliary va where English used either "shall" or "will" [yo va ear = I shall go].

The conditional is formed by employing the auxiliary vell where English used either "should" or "would" [illa vell ear si yo vell consentir = she would go if I should consent].

The optative is distinguished from the imperative by using mey with the infinitive [que il mey trovar it = that he may find it]. The hortative is formed with the word lass and the infinitive [lass nos ear in li cité].

Two auxiliary verbs are used, ha/r (an abbreviation of have/r), and esse/r, for the latter the abbreviated form es as an auxiliary and for the present tense.

The perfect and pluperfect are formed by the auxiliary verbs preceding the past participle [yo ha amat = I have loved].

The passive voice is formed with the verb esse/r [yo es vocat, yo es videt = I am seen; yo esset videt = I was seen].

The conjugation of esse/r = to be is:



present tense

past tense

future tense

yo es (esse)

yo esset

yo va esser

tu (Vu) es (esse)

tu (Vu) esset

tu (Vu) va esser

il es (esse)

il esset

il va esser

illa (or ella) es (esse)

illa (or ella) esset

illa (or ella) va esser

it es (esse)

it esset

it va esser

noi es (esse)

noi esset

noi va esser

vu es (esse)

vu esset

vu va esser

ili es (esse)

ili esset

ili va esser


The present participle is essent; the past and passive participle is esset.

The adjectives are invariable in number and gender [litt, bon, micri].

The adverbs have no one grammatical ending. Some adjectives may be used as adverbs without alteration [tó esset bon fat = that was well done]. The adverbial endings -men, -li, -ú may be used, but a number of adverbs have no particular grammatical ending.

The cardinal numbers are: un, du, tri, quar, quin, six, sett, ott, nin, deci, deci-ún or úundeci, deci-dú or dúdeci; duant = 20, triant, quarant; cent, ducent, sixcent, etc.

The ordinal numbers are formed by the use of the suffix -esim [unesim, duesim, etc.].

The degrees of comparison are bon, plu bon, max bon; bell, minu bell, minim bell.

In word derivation Occidental accepts both the principle of direct and indirect derivation. Direct derivation is limited to certain cases which are indicated in the complete list of affixes below. For direct derivation we must apply the three rules of the Wahl. To form nouns from verbal roots we detach the infinitive -r or -e/r [vid, vid-e/r] to obtain the perfect stem.


    * Rule 1: If, after removing the grammatical ending [-r, -e/r] the stem ends in a vowel, add -t or change -y into -t [crea/r, crea/t, crea/t/or; atiny-e/r, atin/t, atin/t/ion].

    * Rule 2: If the final consonant of the stem should be either d or r, the letters are changed into -s [decide/r, deci/s, deci/s/ion].

    * Rule 3: In all other cases, except those especially cited below, the removal of the infinitive -r (or -er gives the required perfect stem [duct/e/r, duct-, duct/ion].


The six exceptions are cede/r, perfect stem cess-; sede/r, sess-; move/r, mot-; tene/r, tent-; verte/r, vers-; veni/r, vent-.

To form verbs from nouns and adjectives, we remove the endings and obtain the perfect stem. By adding -r or -er we will obtain, in most cases, the verb [decora/t/ion, decora/t, decora/r].


Syntax: The ordinary word order is subject-verb-object. [li monument es plazzat avan li palazzo = the monument is (placed) in front of the palace]. Short adjectives generally precede the noun [un bon idé = a good idea]; long adjectives may follow the noun [li lingue international = the international language]. The interrogative phrase begins with esque [esque vu va promenar? = are you going to walk?] or any other interrogative pronoun or adverb [qui, quo, quande]. Inversion may be used without the interrogative esque [have vu li libre? = have you the book?]. The negation is indicated by the word ne [il ne ha fat it = he has not done it].


4. Vocabulary

The vocabulary is preferably based on the Romanic languages. De Wahl has preserved, wherever possible, the known international forms, and has adapted the rules of derivation for that purpose. Where no common root existed in the chief European languages, a word of Latin origin was chosen as the new root [E eye, F oeil, D Auge; international words of Latin origin in E ocular, F oculaire, D okular], Occidental word oculist, oculiste; de Wahl has endeavoured to maintain the international forms of spelling wherever possible [causa/r, curt, poc, senioretta, chambre, distinye/r, bote = boat, botte = shoe]. In some cases double consonants may, or may not be used, the Occidental-English Dictionary (by Federn, Kemp, Haislund) gives both forms [a(c)conosse/r, a(c)quisite/r, a(p)pere/r, a(t)tac(c)a/r]. The principle of derivation modelled on the ethnic languages and historic spelling have not, however, always led to the known international word forms, as a look through the dictionary will show [scrition, descovrition].

5. Comparative texts

(The Emperor's New Clothes, by Hans Christian Andersen) "Domine Deo!" il pensat, "esque do yo es stult? To yo nequande ha pensat, e to null hom deve saver! Esque yo ne es habil por mi oficie? Ne, it vell esser insuportabil dir que yo ne vida li textage!"

"Nu, Vu ne dí necos pri it!" dit un del textores.

"O, it is bellissim! vermen charmant," dit li old ministro e regardat tra su ocul-vitres, "ti dessin e ti colores! Yes, yo va dir al imperator que it plese me mult!"

"Nu, to injoya nos!" dit ambi textores, e illi nominat li colores per lor nómin e li strangi dessine. Li old ministro escutat atentmen, por posser dir lu sam, quande il retrovenit al imperator, e tamen il fat.

(Comparative Texts, International Auxiliary Language Association (IALA).) (A text, written by the author, Edgar de Wahl (Cosmoglotta, November 1938, XVII, 5).) Part of the article "Pri li decisiones ortografic del francés academie."

Si on fixa un ortografie, to deve esser fat secun un general e unitari principie, talmen, que chascun mey strax posser saver quel form usar. On posse comprender que che nos li absolut fix ortografie del Occidental ancor ne es introductet. Plures usa li tal nominat historic ortografie, altres desira un simplificat tal secun clar regules. Proque it ne es possibil postular de omni aprendentes qui (que?) illi mey conosser li latin etymologie, on deve certmen introducter un ortografie simplificat, quan possibil regulari, fonetic e etymologic (in regard de Occidental, naturalmen, e ne del Latin!). Pri ti problema nu labora nor academie, til que un vermen bon e unitari systema va esser elaborat, it recomenda se tolerar un libertá. On forsan reprocha a nor Occidental-Academie laborar tro lentmen. Ma noi lassa guidar nos del principie trovar li ver unitari metode, que vell satisfar tam li scientic e systematic postulationes quam li regualaritá e unitá de procendenties. Noi ne desira far un tal decretiv e defectiv labor quam li Academie Francés. Pro to noi peti nor coidealistes have ancor patientie...

6. Commentary

The most important characteristic of the structure of Occidental is the endeavour to obtain natural forms, i.e., word forms identical to those of the great ethnic languages, and thus to secure immediate comprehensibility. The list of affixes of Occidental should be studied from that point of view. The rules of derivation and the variety of affixes formulated and selected by de Wahl serve to analyse existing forms rather than to derive autonomically new words from international roots and affixes. According to their definition, the suffixes -ario, -ero (-a), -ist, should be interchangeable in the sense of "profession," and we should be able to form dent/ero or dent/ist, and secret/isto, as the etymological origin is no longer common knowledge in the everyday use of the word. To avoid the pitfall of unfamiliar formations and the difficulty of synonymous suffixes, Ido and Novial have accepted a number of so-called international words in their complete form without deriving them [sekretari/o] and by using suffixes for one meaning only, -ist for occupation or profession [dent/isto, labor/isto]. This difficulty has been frankly admitted (Cosmoglotta 76) by the Wahl. He said that the majority of suffixes with their defined meaning of derivatives do not exist in Occidental in order that anybody may compose new words for general use, but rather so that one may understand the meaning of derivatives used in our standard literature. The good examples of our writers should be followed. Jespersen remarks in An International Language (Allen & Unwin) that the much praised immediate comprehensibility of Occidental mainly applies to people who are already familiar with two or three of the great European languages. The autonomists (Esperantists and Idists) maintain the generally recognized principle that an auxiliary language should make the compulsory study of different ethnic languages superfluous and should be easy for those who knew no other language but their mother-tongue.

According to its rules, Occidental uses the preposition in with the meaning "in, into" as a prefix. The prefix ín- indicates negation and is written, for the sake of differentiation, with the accent. Jespersen(Int. Language, p. 123) gives an example where both elements could easily be confused [ínscrit = unwritten, inscrit = written in]. A prefix which leads to such confusion is a badly selected one, particularly if we consider that the ethnic languages have a variety of negative prefixes out of which a better one might have been chosen. A selection of English negative prefixes will prove the point: mis- as in misunderstood, in- as in incomplete, un- as in unmistakable, im- as in impossible, il- as in illogical, ir- as in irregular, dis- as in distrust, de- as in decontrol, non- as in non-existent.

The suffix -tá expresses quality, while -té expresses collective totality [homan-i/té = humanity; homan-i/tá = human kindness]. Clearly the definition "quality" cannot express "kindness" as well. Only usage has attributed this sense to the word "humane". To derive homanitá logically with a qualitative suffix and the root hom- does not lead to the meaning it is supposed to have. This view is confirmed if we examine another root [soci/o = fellow, member; soci-e/té = society; soci-e/tá = society, social structure].


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