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Occidental (1922) by Edgar de Wahl

1. History

Edgar de Wahl was born on 11th August 1867 in Olwiopol (Ukraine). He studied Volapk 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 bevnetik volapka, later the Akademi Internasional de lingu universal. In 1907 he submitted to the Dlegation 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 Dlegation 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 rle as consonant and vowel. The vowels are a [pr. as in father], e [fte], i [machine], o [most], u [rule], y [F u, or D ]. 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 .

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 cit].

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 [t esset bon fat = that was well done]. The adverbial endings -men, -li, - 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-n or undeci, deci-d or ddeci; 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.

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 id = 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].


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