II. Ido (1900-1907), Linguo Internaciona di la Delegitaro, by Louis de Beaufront assisted by Louis Couturat and finally formulated by the Délégation pour l'adoption d'une langue internationale

5. An experiment in double translation

As a test of the precision of Ido, Louis Couturat translated a few paragraphs from The Laws of Habit by Professor William James (New York, H. Holt & Co., 1907) into Ido, which were then retranslated into English by P. D. Hugon without previous knowledge of the original. This short example shows that the planned language is capable of expressing and retaining the precise meaning of the original. The words of the retranslation are slightly different, but the meaning has remained identical with the original. I believe that most systems that are serious competitors for use as planned auxiliary languages are able to prove the same as Couturat has proved for Ido. This would confirm the general opinion among interlinguists that the problem of creating a planned language is no longer a question of the genius of a single inventor, but is simply the problem of coordinating the efforts of linguists and interlinguists on scientific lines.


By Professor William James


I believe that we are subject to the law of habit in consequence of the fact that we have bodies. The plasticity of the living matter of our nervous system, in short, is the reason why we do a thing with difficulty the first time, but soon do it more and more easily, and finally, with sufficient practice, do it semi-mechanically, or with hardly any consciousness at all. Our nervous systems have (in Dr Carpenter's words) grown to the way in which they have been exercised, just as a sheet of paper or a coat, once creased or folded, tends to fall for ever afterward into the same identical folds.

(From Talks to Teachers on Psychology, New York, H. Holt & Co.)


Traduko en Ido da L. Couturat

Me kredas, ke ni esas submisata a la lego di la kustumo per konsequo di la fakto, ke ni havas korpi. La plastikeso di la vivanta materio di nia nervala sistemo, esas, abreviite, la kauzo ke ni facas un kozo desfacile la unesma foyo, ma balde plu e plu facile, e fine, kun suficanta praktiko, ni facas ol mi-mekanike, o kun preske nula koncio. Nia nervala sistemi kreskis (segun la vorti di Dr Carpenter) en la voyo en qua li esas exercita, exakte quale folio di papero, o vesto unfoye faldita o shifonigita, tendencas falar sempre pose en la sama identa falduri.

(Some words and grammatical forms have been slightly adapted to conform to the decisions of the academy and the present usages of Ido.)


Retranslated into English by P. D. Hugon

I believe that we are subject to the law of habit in consequence of the fact that we have bodies. The plasticity of the living material of our nervous system is, to put it briefly, the reason why we do a thing with difficulty the first time, but soon more and more easily, and finally, with sufficient practice, we do it half mechanically, or almost without any consciousness. Our nervous systems have grown (in Dr Carpenter's words) in the way in which they were trained, just as a sheet of paper or a garment, once folded or crumpled, tends to fall ever after in the same identical creases.

(The translator was unacquainted with the original before doing the retranslation.)

Reference has already been made to the importance of vocabulary selection and an experiment, made with Ido, may briefly be mentioned. Vocabulary selection means the choice of the most important words for the purpose of teaching them as the first step towards the learning of the complete language, not a restriction or limitation of that language. The selected vocables should be the same in all countries to enable students to make use of them and profit by them on an international level from the very beginning.

The Teacher's Word Book by Thorndike, the Carnegie Report on Vocabulary Selection (King, London 1936), the Semantic Frequency List by Helen S. Eaton (University of Chicago Press) and other counts are valuable as a basis. The system by Palmer and Hornby Thousand Word English (Harrap, London 1937) has been translated into Ido (Mil Vorti Ido, London 1939). The authors divided all words into three groups, (1) names of species and things, (2) verbs or verbal roots, and (3) grammatical words. It was impossible to translate more than the primary and essential meanings of each word as otherwise we would have obtained a thousand-word list multiplied by all the possible significations of each word, that is an infinitely larger list than was wanted. Therefore a process of sifting was called for in which (a) all duplications of meanings, and (b) secondary meanings not part of the thousand most frequent terms were eliminated. Equally, compounds were divided into their component parts, and affixes were treated as countable units as they can be regularly combined with an almost unlimited number of verbal or substantival roots in Ido.

It was recognized that the difficulties of language learning are the difficulties of vocabulary rather than of grammar which can only be partially overcome by mnemonic aids. The deliberate reduction - as the first stage - can further minimize the effort in the use of a planned auxiliary.

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James Chandler 1997.