Novial

Novial was a planned international auxiliary language devised by the Danish linguist Otto Jespersen. Jespersen was firmly convinced of the need for, and drew on his knowledge of the history of, planned international auxiliary languages to devise an improved one. (See also this link for relevant information.) As Henry Jacob has stated, Novial falls between the extremes of schematism (as represented by Esperanto) and naturalism (as represented by Interlingua ). It was first presented to the world in Jespersen's 1928 book An International Language. Jespersen saw significant objections to Esperanto, and Novial was his attempt to cure the problems. I am putting these pages up on the Web because I feel that this language is the best example I have seen so far of a language designed for international use, far better than the Esperanto that, in many cases, is the only one people have heard of.

All information on these pages relates to the version of Novial described in the 1928 edition of An International Language. The text of that book may be read in detail if you wish, but a summary is given here. There were some subsequent recodifications. The first such was represented by the 1930 Novial Lexike. It was reported that there had been a 1934 update of An International Language, though sources differ. Rather, in 1934, what we do have evidence for is an article in "Novialiste" describing a "plubonisat Novial." And further revisions are documented in the 1948 book listed below. The 1930 modification seems to have been an improvement, but the 1934 modifications seem to be a mixed bag, and later modifications appear less desirable. Many of these later changes were not even Jespersen's own, but suggested by the other contributors to Novialiste. In fact, his own comments in Novialiste show that he agreed with some and disagreed with others. A 1948 book describing Novial, however, has been excerpted here. (For another summary of Novial grammar, based on the 1930 description in Novial Lexike, see this link.)

Novial took from general Romance the endings -o,-a,-e for masculine, feminine, and epicene. It is therefore much more balanced than Esperanto's use of -in for feminine (and -a is a better feminine ending than -in anyway), with no distinction between masculine and epicene. It used the same endings on the pronoun of the 3rd person.

A few additional endings are -um for abstract nouns, -i for adjectives, -u for adverbs derived from prepositions, and -im for adverbs derived from adjectives (actually, this includes the -i of the adjective, so the actual "adverb" ending is -m). It might seem strange to have two "adverb" endings, but they are different, and I think a case can be made for separating them (they REALLY don't function alike, even if both are called "adverbs" in traditional grammar). In our project to update Novial, however, we have unified these kinds of adverbs anyway. (For the complete set of Novial endings, see the sections of AIL entitled Number, Sex, Neuter, Adjectives, and Adverbial Suffixes.)

Novial used particles (analogous to the English auxiliary verbs "did" and "will": in fact "did" is used in Novial) to mark verb tense. An alternative past tense modeled on Eng. existed: me protekted = me did protekte. Some people have suggested that this might be left out of a new version; however, as a contraction there is a good case for retaining it. A case could be made either way. Details on Jespersen's thoughts on the verb system can be found in excepts from An International Language on the infinitive and imperative, the present and past, the future and conditional, the perfect and pluperfect, and the passive.

Here is material on the pronouns in Novial. Details on Jespersen's thoughts on pronouns can be found in excepts from An International Language on pronouns.

Novial gains much flexibility by using a set of prefixes and suffixes, which can be used to form derivative words. The ones specifically listed by Jespersen are listed here. For more details you may want to read the excepts from An International Language on prefixes, substantival suffixes, verbal suffixes, adjectival suffixes, general suffixes, numeral suffixes, and adverbial suffixes.

Objection can be taken to some of the forms in Novial - verbs end in vowels, which can be confused with the -a or -e of feminine or epicene nouns, and some verbal nouns end in -o instead of the -um that Novial generally uses for abstract nouns, for example. This could have been remedied if further development had proceeded, and some changes were made in later publications that have not been made available to me to include in the summary, but appear to have addressed these problems. And, of course, our project to update and revive Novial has addressed these issues.

Jespersen's criteria for word selection are stated in a chapter of An International Language, excerpts from which are given here. Other sections of An International Language, many demonstrating Jespersen's reasons for the decisions which he made, are given here. The preface to the 1930 Novial Lexike is also available on the Web.

Some samples of Novial running text from An International Language have been posted elsewhere. Other Novial text has been posted on this site as well as on this site. And a passage in Ido as well as 1930 Novial has been put up here, to allow comparisons of the two languages. Another site has also been established here.

More information, originally posted by James Chandler, is available here.

You may find small dictionaries from Novial to English and vice versa online. These actually include both 1928 forms and later 1930 modifications.

Some of us who are interested in Novial have begun a movement to revive Novial with some updates that will improve it over the version described in these pages. The group which I co-chair, which we call the Novial Revision Group, has set up an official NRG home page. Other efforts have been made by others, and their projects can be compared by consulting the Novialide Home Page.

We now have a listserver for the NRG mailing list, so subscribing can be processed automatically. To subscribe, send e-mail to the listserver with the words SUBSCRIBE NOVIAL-REV. There is also another list on the same server for Novial and all the various Novial-based IALs currently being developed. For that one, send e-mail to the listserver with the words SUBSCRIBE NOVIAL.

Since more and more web materials on Novial are being posted, you may want to search for "Novial" which you can do by clicking on the link.



This page was originally a part of my site on Geocities, maintained until 1998. The last edit on the Geocities page was made on Apr. 13, 1997. The pages on Geocities could not be edited between 1998 and 2009, and were preserved as they were, until download in preparation for migration to this site took place on May 22, 2009.
Please inform me of dead links and any other problems.




Last modified by B. R. Gilson (brg1942@gmail.com) June 28, 2010.



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