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With the Memex, er, i mean, the internet, English is progressing to become the de facto lingua franca — the universal language. Isn’t that a good thing®? Now, all you need to do is write in English and everyone in the world can read your ideas.

Unhappily, not. No matter how diffused a language is, it is never universal. Or how easy it is, there will always be someone who does not get it. Esperanto should teach us this lesson.

The danger is the attitude towards (any) language becoming something like “once it is known in China, it is known everywhere in the world it is worth being known in”. It is a kind of reverse NIH effect, where one automatically disregards any idea Not Invented There, not expressed in English. Which is all too well, until the next big thinker gets born in a place that speaks the most untranslatable gibberish.

One approach to the problem of universal translation is creating an semi-language, used as a tool to specify meanings in such a way as to make them easily translatable. This is INTERLINGO®.

Given one text written in Interlingo, it must be automatically (and cheaply) parsed and transformed into a text with equivalent content in any previously lingoed language.

Equivalent content means that the objective denotations of the original text must be completely preserved and that there must be no objective denotation in the new text that contradicts any denotation of the original. The connotations of the original text should have as little importance in the new text as possible.

That means that Interlingo is expressive but not impressive. It is meant to convey content, but not the impression such content does impact in the reader. Therefore, Interlingo is not suited for translation of poetry, and should be used to translate literature with the most care.

Lingoing a dialect is an idiom for creating a module to the translation system that permits outputting text in that language. The input of text is not part of the automatic system.

Interlingo is in some ways equivalent to a system of formal logic, in that it is a standardized way to express meanings. But it has no care for precision of the concepts expressed, no intention of making ideas evaluable to Truth-False values — this worry is left to the authors. Therefore, the expressiveness of the Interlingo should be much richer than formal logic systems.

Interlingo is a symbolic system, using a formal ideography instead of readable sentences. A text in Interlingo resembles more a chain of mathematical expressions than a straightforward text.

Interlingo is also closely related in concept to programming languages, as it is intended to be mechanically parsed. But it is not a algorithm description system — to describe adequately algorithms is a concern left to authors.

One of the traps that Interlingo avoids is to be itself a usable, everyday language. It is expected that with the widespread adoption of the systems, each community shall develop it’s own inter-speak, a transliteration of Interlingo into a speakable, understandable sub-language, but those dialects will not be supported, endorsed or relied upon by the Interlingo systems.

The primary set of Interlingo symbols is called LINGOMARKS. Each character is designed to imply specific, restricted syntatic relations. Those form a basic meta-grammar. Conceptually, this resembles latin inflections or nihon-go particles. Examples include the IS_SUBJECT, HAS_PROPERTY, EXCLUSION or IMPLIED_UNCERTAINTY. One good way to think about this set is as a big superset of punctuation. (As a side note, LINGOMARKS are created in a way that permits a simple ASCII character set to pass by as proper Interlingo, although strictly they would need to be converted before being processed by the systems.)

A secondary set of Interlingo symbols defines a basic vocabulary, properly called the BASELINE_DICTIONARY. This vocabulary consists of a reasonably big set of words, but words chosen for concision and precision, so that in fact the dictionary does not have semantic richness. The baseline dictionary will resemble a encyclopaedia of mundane and simplistic things, actions and qualities. The basic dictionary will borrow from many sources, not only in the words themselves but also in the character set and the basic taxonomy of the terms. Needless to say, the system will attempt to be as international and unbiased as possible.

One important characteristic of the Interlingo systems is that dictionaries are closed. Words cannot gain usage in Interlingo texts without prior definition. A mechanism for proper definition is part of the LINGOMARKS symbol set. But definition in the Interlingo systems does not refer to a process of ascribing fundamental characteristics to the thing (in the sense of telling the truth about it), and neither to a exhaustive compendium of information about any given thing or idea. Instead, a definition in the Interlingo systems is merely a tool for proper identification of concepts.

This sense of definition is much more throughly inspected in the main Interlingo system references. In fact, the very method is the core idea behind the Interlingo Dictionaries, and is central for all the usage of the Interlingo process.

As no word can be used without proper definition, it is very natural that many rich and complex sets of definitions will surface with time. In fact, the Interlingo systems not only provide convenient ways to use expressively many different sets of words, it also tries to make available appropriate dictionaries for many realms of human knowledge, from the social sciences to sports, from mathematics to religions.

The systems could never work without further collaboration from around the world, and therefore the developers of the Interlingo Systems are from the beginning committed to be as open and responsive from all interested parties.

The only sad part is that we will probably have to enter a legal battle to buy off interlingo.nl…

One Comment

  1. Just came across the wikipage of Lojban and it made me wonder whether it could be used as a basis for the creation of Interlingo. Does anyone out there speak Lojban?


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  1. […] i proposed in interlingo, there is an alternative approach, but it subverts the rules of this game. It does not exactly […]

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