Novial Word Formation

The original guidelines for choosing vocabulary are best expressed in OJ's original words (An International Language, pp. 162 ff.):


As already remarked, a would-be international language must be built up as far as possible on that word material which is already international, i. e. known all over that part of the world where European civilization has penetrated. The form may vary little from country to country, but there are thousands of words that are already common to practically all nations, thanks to the sameness, or at any rate similarity, of material and spiritual culture in modern life.

(some examples omitted)

But there are, of course, numerous notions for which no such completely international name exists. The task then is to find the most international name and use that, even if there may be countries where it is unknown. It is always a question of degree, but how are we to measure the degree of internationality where two or more names are found? The authors of Idiom Neutral were the first consciously to carry out the principle of choosing everywhere the most international word -- for, as already remarked, Zamenhof and others had applied it only instinctively and haphazardly -- but the procedure of Idiom Neutral was somewhat superficial, for in each particular case they calculated the number of languages to which a given word was common, including in their calculations Latin, which should not be placed on a par with living languages. Now the essential thing is not the number of languages, for languages are not organisms possessing an individual existence apart from those human beings who speak them. The proper rule, therefore, for determining the internationality of a word or a stem is to count the number of people who know it from their mother-tongue -- a simple consequence of the fundamental principle of the greatest facility for the greatest number. It is only natural that each person would prefer to find in the I.A.L. as many words as possible that are already familiar to him, and so, to be impartial, we must attach the same importance to the natural preferences of each of the 150 or 160 millions who speak English [Note: OJ was writing in 1928; these figures are obviously very outdated] as to each of the 120 millions who speak German, or the 90 million Russians, the 60 millions who speak Spanish or French, the 40 million Italians, etc. ....


For more on the Novial vocabulary, click here. Some of the material duplicates what is posted at this site, but you are welcome to compare the two.
This page was originally a part of my site on Geocities, maintained until 1998. The last edit on the Geocities page was made on May 24, 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.
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