Esperanto and its Critics - An Examination of some Idist Objections

Original paper by William E Collinson (1889 – 1969), sometime professor of German at Liverpool University, England


The object of this short tract is to show that the confident claims of Ido to be in all respects an improvement on Esperanto are, from the linguistic point of view at least open to question and in the writer’s opinion in several important particulars absolutely devoid of foundation.

The reluctance of Esperantists to throw open their periodicals to linguistic controversies, and thus give a gratuitous advertisement to their detractors, has frequently been misinterpreted as due to timidity or to a feeling of misgiving as to the adequacy of the language they advocate. A sufficient answer to this criticism is to be found in the detailed comparisons of Esperanto and Ido made by prominent Esperantists like Kotzin with his Geschichte und Theorie des Ido (Ader & Borel, Dresden), Aymonier in Essai sur la dérivation comparée (Paris, 1921), Autour de l’Esperanto, and M. C. Butler in a succinct but informative pamphlet published by the British Esperanto Association; to all of these I acknowledge my indebtedness.  It is true that Esperantists as a body have not taken much interest in these controversies, for experience has taught them the efficiency of Esperanto for the purposes of everyday life.

The history of Esperanto as compared with that of its competitors shows a faith in natural evolution as against forced growth by successive inoculations.  The Idists, on the other hand, have profoundly modified their draft scheme as the result of a series of linguistic discussions in Progreso, and by reference to an academy which, in the course of a few years, promulgated over 800 separate decisions.  The discussions are not without value, but the fiats of the academy are vitiated by its non-representative character, particularly in respect of philology; its one distinguished philologist, Professor Jespersen, was not infrequently out-voted, and finally the arbitrariness of many decisions led to secessions.  It was then felt necessary to stereotype Ido for a time even in an admittedly imperfect form, and so a period of stability was instituted.  This is important, for it shows Ido forced by the logic of events into the position of setting up a canon — here the Ido of 1913 — a case almost precisely analogous to the voluntary acceptance by Esperantists of the much maligned  Fundamento.  This Fundamento, the firm bond of union of the Esperantists, is in the strictest sense the base or foundation, not the whole edifice.  Upon it already a considerable superstructure has been reared, and gradual alterations have been effected to meet varying conditions.  New affixes like -aĉo, -ismo, (scientific) -oza, -iva, have come into use, some like mis- and -enda are struggling for recognition; or again it has been found necessary to make more precise distinctions (prononci as against elparoli) or to eliminate national peculiarities (aspekti for elrigardi).  Even in the phonology we find that the relatively difficult sound ĥ (German sound in ach) is to a certain extent finding a competitor in k.  Several lists of new words have been published officially by the Linguistic Committee — but only after they have become truly international in usage and shown to supply a strongly felt need.  Some might quarrel with the rate at which this registration work is accomplished, though it may be said that great circumspection is essential; but evolution in actual international practice would surely seem to be preferable to constant interference with the works from without.

De Beaufront, the originator of Ido and leader of that movement, has not followed up this peaceful and constant evolution, and so the comparative lists of Esperanto and Ido words in his virulent pamphlets are very misleading. In not a few cases Esperantists already make full use of the international root or form given in the Ido column, and in many other cases the addition of an extra root (from one or more of the Romance languages) is avoided so as not to add new burdens to the nations of Eastern Europe and Asia. Lorenz holds up to ridicule a sentence embodying an assertion on some technical matter, stated to have been composed by an Esperantist (in the early days) entirely out of the roots contained in the Fundamental Dictionary. But Esperantists have long ago ceased to indulge seriously in such tours de force and now adopt whole-heartedly the neatest international stems available. And here I would add that Esperanto is prepared to utilise the experience gained by the other projects — Ido, Esperantida, Occidental, etc.  Why not?  No International Language has sprung fully armed from the head of Zeus — it is more like the infant Herakles, and should be well fed to enable it to perform its manifold labours.

The most insidious danger to the early progress of an International Language is dissipation of energy and disintegration into dialects.  The crew must work together until the ship is brought safely to port — then, and not until then, the thorough overhauling and repainting can begin.

In the following paragraphs certain disruptive criticisms of Esperanto will be examined.  An endeavour will be made to present the facts and principles dispassionately and objectively.  Such a pamphlet as De Beaufront’s Facilité respective de l’Esperanto et de l’Ido cannot serve as a model in this respect, for its heated presentment, its all too tendentious collection of isolated facts and its deliberate glossing over the existence in Ido itself of certain forms and functions’ which it sharply attacks in Esperanto, put it out of court as an instrument of scientific inquiry.

The Alphabet

The chief point of attack here is the use of circumflexed letters in Esperanto.  Ido has no supersigns; Esperanto and Occidental have a few. The punctum saliens is the value to be given to j.  Esperanto, like the alphabet of the Société Phonetique Internationale and all the languages of Central and Eastern Europe, employs j with the value of consonantal or semi-consonantal i. The drawback of not having supersigns is that it leads Ido to perpetrate forms like yuro, yusta; kajo, sonjo, jemar, which are less transparent than juro, justa; kaĝo, sonĝo, ĝemi. 

 Neither Esperanto nor Ido deem it necessary to sacrifice in every case practical convenience to phonetic rigour — both, for instance, use the single symbol to represent the phonetic combination ts. 

 But Ido goes much further: having already given a precise phonetic connotation to and to h, it has chosen to represent the phonetically simple consonant [S] by sh and the group [tS] by ch.

 Ido thus infringes an important principle, that of maintaining unimpaired the phonetic value of a symbol once definitely chosen. Esperanto’s choice of ŝ for [S] is justified on the analogy of s, and the choice of ĉ for [tS] on the analogy of for [ts]. Of course this same argument might be applied to justify the Ido use of for [ks] and [kz],

 Esperantists might well consider the possibility of tolerating the use of this international symbol side by side with its present digraphs.  However, the Idist objection to ks and kz on the score of the difficulty of keeping them apart is not borne out in actual experience, and the differentiation between a voiceless element [s] and a voiced element [z] in this combination corresponds to a distinction observable in “natural” languages (English exert compared with exercise).  Against the Ido sh it may be urged specifically that this is not an international letter-group (German sch, French ch).  Moreover, ch also has variant values in English, French, and German.  The Esperanto supersigns no longer offer any serious difficulty to the printer, if we may judge from the large and increasing number of printed publications (over 4000 to date), and they confer a certain individuality upon the written form of the language and save no small amount of valuable space.  If there were a widespread and insistent desire for their supersession, the orthographic reforms, though considerable, should not involve much more recasting than the comparatively recent reforms in German and Welsh.  De Saussure’s Esperantida (1924) would appear to point to a better way of reforming the alphabet than the Idist manipulations. 


De Beaufront says that ojn, ajn cannot be pronounced without dislocating the jaw.  The truth of the matter is that the digraphs aj, oj, and uj are pronounced as diphthongs, i.e. combinations of two vowels, or of a vowel and semi-vowel, whereas in the French –aille quoted by him we have a combination of vowel and open consonant.  Aj is pronounced as in English “die” and oj as in “boy.”  At the beginning of a syllable j may be pronounced either as a semi-vowel like English y in “yes,” or with rather stronger friction as in German “ja.”  The “sc” group is kept in Esperanto for the sake of the written form scienco, sceptro, etc.  Its pronunciation (s- ts) is familiar to Russians and Germans (latter not mentioned by De Beaufront);  it is quite readily learnt by English students, for it occurs in beasts, rusts, etc.  If assimilation sometimes occurs in rapid conversation, no bones will be broken.  But it is not easy to get to like the Ido forms cienco, ceptro, ecitar (to excite), konciar (to be conscious).


Esperanto invariably stresses the penultimate syllable (like Polish and in most cases Welsh).  No monotony results, for as the words contain a varying number of syllables, the intervals between two consecutive stresses vary also.  It is mere bluff on De Beaufront’s part to suggest that Esperanto breaks this rule when it permits the elision of the final “o,” as in famili’ for familío (replaced by an apostrophe) in poetry. E Almost from the start, Ido showed one exception to this rule of penultimate stress, viz. in the infinitive of the verb.  After much fumbling it has introduced further complications:  thus we find  muzéo  but  ménuo omnadía but  lúndia, and we get very unfamiliar stressing in  révuo , rendévuo , egóismo (apparently pronounced with  oy ), enérgio — surely an effective “tu quoque” argument to meet the Idist criticism of the Esperanto familio, sekretario, pronounced with the regular penultimate stress.  In De Beaufront’s Manual of Ido the English word vein is translated veino, but no indication is given in the alphabet that ei is to be pronounced as a diphthong and not as two separate syllables.


It is hard to convince Idists that Esperantists do not spend most of their spare time twittering phrases like ĉiuj tiuj kiuj, but I have never yet met an unbiased listener who found a speech or song or recitation in Esperanto other than very euphonious. The prevalence of the Greek finals oj and aj the easy rhythm produced by the penultimate stress, and the profusion of full-toned vowels contribute to this favourable acoustic impression.  Esperantists are fully justified in adducing the testimony of Italian speakers of Esperanto as to its phonetic richness and sonority.  Still more striking is the skilful adaptation of the intricate Welsh “cynghanedd” metre to Esperanto verse by no less an authority than Professor T. Gwynn Jones in the March number of Literaturo (1923), the effect being achieved with great success.

Ido, on the other hand, has a stressed infinitive ending, which makes it somewhat jerky, and throws the emphasis on to the relatively unimportant part of the word.  A more serious defect is the superabundance of sibilants in such words as exkuzez, desavantajizata, rekonstitucesez, limitizesir, desespereskis.  Neither Esperanto nor Esperantida show these monstrosities.  

The Article

Neither Esperanto nor Ido employ an indefinite article.  Esperanto has only one invariable definite article, la, whereas Ido has, in addition to la, the forms lo (as in lo bona = the good, in contradistinction to la bono = the good man, q.v. infra) and le to express the plural before an adjective unaccompanied by a noun (Ido having gradually “reformed away” the adjective inflexion).  This multiplication of the Ido article is a striking example of the process of “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”  Simplification of grammatical inflection has very definite limits, and it is always well to count the cost.  

The Accusative Case

It is quite true that the use of the accusative requires some study on the part of the English, Scandinavians, Romance nations, and the Chinese, and that the ending is sometimes inadvertently dropped in conversation.  But the issue between Esperanto and Ido is not as to the absolute desirability of having the case, but simply as to whether it is better to lay down a rule of universal application (Esperanto standpoint) and tacitly condone minor breaches in colloquial speech, or provide for the use of the inflection only in a specified contingency (Ido).  It is not fair of De Beaufront to claim that the accusative makes Esperanto harder than Ido, while he still retains the case at all — at any rate it is just as hard for an Englishman to grasp the use of the accusative before the noun as after.  On the whole — for the written form at any rate — the balance of advantage would seem to be with the regular employment of the accusative.  In Esperanto it forms a most convenient general oblique case, applied like the Latin, Greek, and German accusatives to define periods or points and more especially direction in space.  Esperantisms like domen, “homewards,” anglen, “into English,” are very neat and concise, like the Latin Romam ire, etc.  Its use does away with the necessity for clumsy compound prepositions like the Ido adenF

The general question of the use of the accusative is closely bound up with that of word-order.  Experience has shown what a precious boon to the speaker and writer an elastic word-order is.  A certain irreducible minimum of inflection is not too heavy a price for a privilege which enables a writer to give more relief to his leading ideas and to attain more satisfactory rhythmic effects.

The Personal Pronoun

In one pamphlet De Beaufront twits Esperanto because its personal pronouns mi, vi, li, etc., have the same ending i as the infinitive.  This is a mere quibble, for mi is itself a ” root,” not a root + ending.  The Esperanto pronouns have the great advantage of uniformity of character — a boon to the speaker.  Ido may possess a certain advantage (with its variety me, vu, ni, etc.) to the listener if his interlocutor is an indistinct speaker.  Esperanto, while possessing a 2nd person singular ci, commonly employs (like English, French, German) the plural pronoun vi even to denote a single individual.  Ido definitely employs vu for the singular and vi for the plural, making use of the circumstance that i is its common plural mark.  Experience shows that the employment of a single form like vi for both numbers leads to no more ambiguity in Esperanto than the use of you in English — and Esperanto has in addition the safeguard of a plural inflection to be added to any noun or adjective referring to the pronoun.  Ido has a convenient form for the notion which is expressed in English by he or she, i.e. a sexless personal pronoun — possibly Esperanto might some time evolve a form should the need become acute.   Some speakers of Romance languages seem to miss in Esperanto any equivalent to their 3rd person plural feminine pronouns, like elles, etc.  This is a gender distinction foreign to the Germanic, Celtic, and Finno-Ugrian languages, but no doubt such a form could, if desired, be added to the Esperanto system.  De Saussure’s suggestion for using iŝi (as a feminine) is worth considering.

The Ido rule concerning the use of the accusative ending with the pronoun (lin me vokis but me il vokis, both in the sense of “I called him“) is too finicking for an International Language, which should rather proceed on broad and sweeping lines.

The Inflexion of the Adjective

Esperanto, in common with most of the European languages (Latin, Greek, Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Rumanian, German, Dutch, Danish, Russian, Polish, Celtic, Finnish, and Magyar), requires concord of the adjective with the substantive qualified.  While it is perfectly true that from the point of view of strict logic there would not seem to be any necessity to repeat in the adjective the expression of grammatical function already embodied in the noun, cases may easily arise where adjectival inflection is the best means of avoiding ambiguity.  The English phrase, “The French (sing. or plural) and German (sing. or plural) handbooks, approved by the Academy,” may be taken as typical of such ambiguities, which in Esperanto are removed by the use of a singular or plural adjective to express the idea intended.  In spite of its vaunted precision Ido is helpless here, and in other cases has either to adhere to a strict word-order or use a specific form of the definite article. H

The Numerals

The Ido habit of intercalating the conjunction (= and) between the units and tens, hundreds, etc., does not appeal to Esperantists, especially when it results in the perpetration of such objectionable conglomerates as mil-e-oka-cent-e-dua-dek-e-tri.   Presumably the use of in dek-e-tri, “thirteen,” is due to a desire to knit the two numerals closer together.  But Esperanto need not fear any ambiguity by preserving its simpler form dek tri for “thirteen,” for this would be differentiated from “ten, three” in writing by the omission of any mark of punctuation, and in speech either the dek or the tri would be given a preponderating “unifying” stress when the combination denotes “thirteen,” whereas both dek and tri would be pronounced with equal or level stress if they were simply co-ordinated.

The Infinitive

Esperanto has but one ending, -i; Ido has three (according to tense), -ar, -or, -ir.  Ido has the advantage of a certain conciseness in its expression of the future and past infinitive, but it is questionable whether this complication is worth while.  The future infinitive is mostly superfluous — when used after verbs of hoping, expecting, etc., it is particularly so, for the idea of futurity is already contained in the verb, and in other cases (not frequent) the Esperanto use of the auxiliary verb with participle (like English, French, German, etc.) is more natural to the majority.  Esperanto might perhaps with advantage permit the use of the infinitive after such prepositions as post, sen, antaŭ, per  — a tolerance which would not offend any principle of the Fundamento.

Additional Synthetic Tenses in Ido

The short Ido forms amabis, “I had loved,” amabos, “I shall have loved” — passive amesas, etc. — are innovations worth consideration for use side by side with the periphrastic (and more exact) forms.  A synthetic passive form in ati, iti, has been advocated by some Esperantists, but not adopted.   It is significant, however, that De Beaufront himself warns Idists against using –ab and –es together, e.g. amesabos, “shall have been loved.”

The Correlatives

The classification of the correlative particles (like where, there, everywhere, nowhere, etc.) into a regular system, by virtue of which the learner of Esperanto can, by combining five initial syllables, ki-, ti-, i-, ĉi-, neni-, with nine final syllables, -a, -e, -o, -u; -al, -am, -et, -es, -om, rapidly acquire a precise knowledge of forty-five words, once called forth the unstinted praise of the French philosopher Couturat in his unregenerate pre-Ido days.  The attacks made by the Idists upon this system have been concentrated mainly on the following points: — 

(1) That such a system is essentially artificial and does not conform to international usage, wherefore Ido has recourse to forms like kande and ube for when and where; 

(2) that the outward resemblances of the systematised forms would lead to confusion in practice, and that greater acoustic differentiation is necessary; 

(3) that in any case –e, being the generalised adverbial ending, should stand for the notion of “manner” and not “place.” 

Taking these points seriatim, Esperantists could reply: (1) That Dr. Zamenhof is merely — as in the selection of the endings –and –for the substantive and adjective (a procedure adopted by Ido as well) — generalising and standardising tendencies already at work in “natural” languages (Lat. quum, tuum; ubi, ibi; Engl. when, then; where, there, etc.), and that after all neither kande nor ube exist in those actual forms in any language outside Ido;   (2) that in practice confusions are practically unknown, and the forms are easily assimilated and properly classified by the memory;  (3) that it is true that in kie, etc., Esperanto has limited the general adverbial significance of -e to one particular adverbial relation, viz. place, just as Ido (in common with Esperanto) would not hesitate to use a form like hejme for “at home.”  On the positive side Esperantists have abundant evidence of the facilitation of study by these regular series, which are stated to appeal especially to students in the Far East. L

Perhaps a word might be apposite here in criticism of the argument of “artificiality,” which is frequently raised like a smoke-screen to keep at a distance all advocates of neutral languages.  Words are essentially conventional marks — their connection with the thing designated is indirect, in so far as what they symbolise is the thought or idea of the thing.  In the “natural” languages no difference in treatment is accorded to words (like gas) which we can trace to a single originator and to those whose origins are lost in antiquity.  Thus we form gasefy, gaseous, the German vergasen, entgasen, etc.  To the vast majority of Esperanto students it does not matter at all whether the syllable ĉi– in the correlative series is artificial or not — it is at any rate shorter and neater than omni.  All that can be legitimately demanded of an International Language in this connection is that it should make use of such mnemonic aids as it finds will help a considerable number of its students.

Use of Affixes as Independent Words

In English we sometimes speak of the -isms and -ologies;  Esperanto generalises this usage to include all affixes.  But it is quite beside the mark when De Beaufront, in his very disingenuously compiled comparative lists, tries to make it appear that Esperantists are obliged to use these highly generalised and often make-shift words in lieu of international roots.  Esperanto can say both eco (suffix of quality used independently) and kvalito, inda and digna, etc.   Why the Idists should go out of their way expressly to forbid the independent use of the affixes is not clear, for they are ready to hand and easily remembered.

Principles of Derivation

De Saussure and Aymonier have demonstrated the groundlessness and practical inconvenience of the fundamental postulate of word-building in Ido, viz. the principle of reversibility.  Esperanto forms from the root kron, “a crown,” the verb kroni, just as English forms “to crown,” French “couronner,” and German “krönen.”  Ido will not permit the direct derivation of a verb kronar; on the ground that, if one reconverts the verb into a substantive, the latter must bear the meaning of the action expressed by the verb, viz. “coronation.”  In consequence of this “logical” demand, which has no warrant in the facts of the living languages, Ido is driven to such clumsy expedients as kronizar, adresizar, sudorifar, martelagar, as against the simple and more eloquent kroni, marteli, etc.  Esperanto quite legitimately expresses “coronation,” “hammering,” by kronado, martelado, using for the purpose a suffix indicating action. 1

Ido has further raised gratuitous difficulties for itself by its refusal to accept the easy Esperanto mode of forming adjectives direct from substantive roots by the simple addition of ‘a‘.  In Esperanto one need never hesitate as to which suffix to employ: thus “theatrical” is “teatra,” “harmonious” is “harmonia,” “rocky” is “roka.”  Ido insists upon tacking on –ala, –oza-, or –iva to derivative adjectives, providing subordinate rules for special cases.  While one may readily admit the value of such suffixes for scientific purposes (Esperanto has already widely adopted –oza and –iva in technical terminology), the continual and compulsory use of these elements renders Ido intolerably stilted and pedantic as a medium of everyday conversation, and the precise connotation of these suffixes is a matter of such extreme delicacy that Idists make frequent mistakes in their employment, and on one occasion at any rate even Couturat was at a loss.  Moreover, Ido is not consistent in itself, for if ruina = “that which is a ruin,” then mea ought to be “that which is I.”  But mea is used, as a matter of fact, for the possessive adjective “my,” which by the rules of Ido, if logically applied, should certainly be rendered by the ludicrous form meala.

The one case in which Ido dispenses with a suffix and Esperanto uses one is to the disadvantage of Ido.  In Esperanto la bono means “the good,” a meaning logically deducible from the combination of the adjective root bon and the substantive ending –(which in its general meaning denotes any “entity” or “fact”).  To Ido la bono means “the good man” — an altogether arbitrary restriction of the function of the ending -o to the sense of “person.” N

The Context

The gibe that Esperantists appeal to the context when challenged as to the precise meaning of a term is beside the point, when it is realised that no language (Ido included) could possibly express every component of an idea without becoming intolerably clumsy.  A “steamship” in both Esperanto and Ido is a combination between “steam” and “ship,” leaving to the hearer the task of establishing the exact relation of “steam” to “ship”;  it would be foolish to insist upon vapormovŝipo.  Economy of means is surely laudable if the effect is satisfactory.  In the spoken language especially the “context of situation” is a very relevant factor.

The Vocabulary

Ido certainly possesses a bigger stock of root-words than Esperanto,  but in many cases is swollen rather than enriched by its additions.  Kotzin instances a number of hardly distinguishable synonyms employed, e.g. docar, instruktar; silencar, tacar; lular, bersar ; rivero, fluvio, and many more.  Esperanto prefers on the whole to express its nuances by judicious combinations of its elements, in a manner analogous to Greek and German.  The Oriental in particular appreciates a language in which from knowing, say, the root for “good,” he can form “bad,” “evil,” “to improve,” etc.  The “contrary ” words (Esp. mal) may not be inviting at first sight, but they are a good labour-saving device.  Ido looks easier to read for the Western European with some knowledge of more than one language, but we must not forget that the International Language must help the non-linguist and non-European as well.

According to Rule 15 of Zamenhof’s Grammar, any demonstrably international  word can be admitted into Esperanto, provided that it is assimilated to Esperanto orthography, so that no objection need be raised on principle to a number of Ido neologisms which are not yet in current use among Esperantists.  Such Ido roots as ariv-, important, asembl-, etc., might well be considered for use concurrently with the ordinary Esperanto derivatives and new shades of meaning distinguished.  But in view of the frequency of “overlapping” of synonymous renderings in different languages and the comparative rarity of actual equivalence of definition, great caution is required in expanding the present very handy vocabulary. P 

General Considerations

Esperanto has the advantage over Ido in so far as its grammar consists of clear-cut rules of universal application.  Its retention of an accusative or oblique case and of adjectival concord give it a freedom of movement paralleled only in the classical languages.  Ido, while professing to simplify its grammar by the elimination of inflections, lets these in by the back door by legislating for particular cases. Ido would seem at first sight to have a more convenient though by no means perfect alphabet, and wears a more familiar look — to the Western European, especially if he knows Latin.  But Esperanto imposes a far lighter burden on the non-linguist in Central and Eastern Europe and the races of the Far East.  That the Ido vocabulary is 91 per cent French is of little aid here — far better the Esperanto principle of efficiency with economy, or of multem in parvo, i.e. the fullest employment for ordinary purposes of a comparatively small stock of easily memorised and easily managed elements.  Ido has certainly been far too apt to forget the man in the street while catering for the scholar. That Esperanto may be further refined and enriched no thoughtful Esperantist would deny.   In the preface to his Fundamento Dr Zamenhof pointed the way when he said: “If any authoritative central institution finds that this or the other word or rule in our language is too inconvenient, it must not remove or change the said form, but may propose a new form which it will recommend to be used parallel with the old form (until usage decides).”  That is the way of sanity and sound evolution.  To attempt to impose the Ido reform scheme upon the thousands of people who in their daily lives use Esperanto easily and fluently and find it answers all the purposes for which they require it would be a patent absurdity.  What Esperanto can learn from Ido it will learn and assimilate for its own purposes;  but in the writer’s view such adjustment is not likely to touch the bases of the language at all.   In important particulars Ido is retrograde, and careful examination of both languages does not lend support to the view that, as a whole, Ido represents an advance upon Esperanto.  From the point of view of the International Language movement generally the launching of Ido and the manner of its presentment to the public have been a psychological blunder of the first magnitude.  Until something much better than Ido comes their way, Esperantists will not be tempted to desert a language for which they have conceived a real affection and which they have learned to handle with skill, grace, and power.


 It has been remarked that from a musical point of view this compares very favorably with the Ido i

 In Esperanto: mil okcent dudek tri.

 De Saussure has pointed out that ad is used in two ways: (a) With a verbal root to express duration: skribi, skribadi; (b) with a substantival root to express the verbal idea: krono “crown”; kroni, “to crown”; kronado, “coronation.”  Perhaps its function may best be grasped if formulated in a negative way;  according to this view, ad expresses rather the imperfective “aspect of verbal action”, whereas the “inchoative” affix is –, the “ingressive” is ek-, the “effective” is el-, or is inherent in the verbal root itself (cf. dormadi, dormiĝi, ekdormi, eldormi).

 The criterion of internationality should be applied with greater caution than is sometimes the case in the word-lists of Ido and Occidental.  In the first place, a distinction should be made between Latin, Greek, and other derivatives which are in daily use in most European languages (telephone, menu, etc.), and those which are familiar to a small group only (concinnity, syncretism, etc.).  Obviously there is a place for both classes of words in an International Language, but the second class had better be adopted in their technical senses and not used as a basis for the roots in everyday use.  Secondly, the same basic word may occur in a number of different languages, but in such widely variant phonetic forms as to deprive its internationality of any particular mnemonic value.  Thirdly, where the same word has acquired widely different senses in different languages, its adoption as a root in an International Language may create new difficulties.  Esperanto has the advantage of being in the main the product of an individual mind which, while taking full advantage of the international roots available, did not proceed on rigid mechanical lines, but selected and assimilated those elements which were susceptible of combination into an artistic and harmonious whole.

Comments by Don Harlow

 In my personal opinion, the absolute value of this criticism is suspect, and it is deserving of use only at those times that your friendly neighborhood Idist chooses to criticize Esperanto’s vocabulary on such grounds as that of “crippling” (i.e., losing an unnecessary vowel or syllable) — a “tu quoque”, as the author later classifies such arguments. 

 It is necessary to point out here that in both Esperanto and Ido represents a single phoneme, not a combination of two separate phonemes. 

 Again, the sound represented in Esperanto by ĉ and in Ido by the digraph ch is a single phoneme, not a combination of two separate phonemes. 

 Note, however, that [ks] and [kz], unlike [ts] and [tS], are in fact in each case two phonemes pronounced sequentially. 

 The elided final -o may be considered a “silent” vowel. 

 It is worth noting that doubled prepositions are not uncommon in Esperanto, where the use of the final -N is inappropriate; e.g. elinter.  In Esperanto, the -N of movement after a preposition of location (e.g. en) can also legitimately be replaced by a compound preposition (alen), but this, perhaps for reasons of economy or efficiency, is never done. 

 Collinson here overlooks the fact that the third person neuter pronoun ĝi also fulfills this purpose, possibly because there is no similar custom for using it in English. 

 Collinson wrote this pamphlet long before Claude Shannon’s Information Theory had made the term ‘redundancy’ popular. The Esperanto adjective agreement restores redundancy lost because of the invariability of the verb form in each tense (cp. English is vs. are);  Ido suffers a similar loss of redundancy in its verbs, but makes no effort to restore it elsewhere. 

 Such usage is not unusual in the year 2001. 

 The forms mentioned by Collinson (sometimes referred to as “synthetic verb forms”) have not been advocated but are inherent in the structure of Esperanto.  That they are rarely used is primarily due to a lack of perceived need for them. 

 Dr. Zamenhof did not, after all, invent the correlative table, but simply completed it;  similar tables exist, usually in incomplete form, in most ethnic languages.  I was surprised to find, in YAMASAKI Seikô’s Enkonduko en la japanan, that the first appendix consisted of … the Japanese table of correlatives … 

 Worth mentioning here is Thorndyke’s experiment at Columbia, under the auspices of the International Auxiliary Language Association, which demonstrated that, at least for active use, Esperanto’s tabular system was significantly easier to learn than Ido’s more “natural” system.

 For the record, given these choices eco is used at least as much as kvalito, and digna is very rare indeed compared to inda. Given the option, actual speakers of the language seem to prefer the shorter, affix-based terms.

 These and similar considerations lead me to the conclusion that, where the terms “noun, adjective, verb root” in Esperanto simply describe the semantics of the root, the same terms with respect to Ido describe the intended function of the root — a much more restrictive and less flexible system overall.

 Whether this remains true in 2001 is open to question; see e.g. the Plena Ilustrita Vortaro de Esperanto.  The number of official roots and particles in Esperanto, however, remains relatively small, at about a quarter the content of the named volume.

 Of the three possible borrowings mentioned by Collinson, neither ariv- nor important– is used, even at this late date;  asembl– does find some use, but in a context that Collinson could not have foreseen, i.e. among programmers of computer “assembly language”.

 As of 2001, Ido’s influence on Esperanto appears to consist of a small number of words adopted officially in the 1960s or 1970s, a perhaps somewhat larger number of neologisms proposed by certain authors but not used by anyone else, and the now official suffix -end.  The influence of Ido, as Collinson predicts, does not appear to have affected the basic structure of Esperanto.

Article originally published on the net in 2002 by Don Harlow (1942-2008)