NOTE: Because of the difficulty of showing Esperanto's special accented letters, where a letter which in Esperanto should carry a circumflex it is shown here followed by a circumflex (^), and where the letter 'u' should carry a breve it is followed by a tilde (~).

The idea of using a constructed language as a medium of international communication - not replacing existing languages but supplementing them - is far from new. The first such language to achieve widespread success was Volapük - the name itself means 'world speech'. Volapük was devised in 1879 by Father J.M. Schleyer, who was said to know fifty languages. Text-books for the new language were published in many countries, and societies for it started in all continents. In 1889 a congress was held in Paris, at which Volapük was the only language employed. But although simple in comparison with French and German, Volapük was still unnecessarily difficult. For various reasons the movement fell apart, and the first widespread experiment in using an invented language ended. There are still a few people who practise Volapük, mainly with the aim of conserving the interesting history and records of this first artificial language.

Volapük was in its heyday when, in 1887, Dr Lazarus Zamenhof published his project for a universal language which later became known by his pseudonym, Esperanto, a word which (in this language) means 'person who is hoping'. Esperanto was a great improvement on its predecessor, and Zamenhof evidently thought that he was right to reject proven success in favour of future promise. Esperanto spread very slowly at first, and at one stage nearly disappeared, but within twenty years it had largely replaced Volapük. Indeed Esperanto has survived to this day as the best known and most widespread such language.

At the beginning of this century a number of people realised that while the world needs just one international language (already dozens of projects had been published), it was important for that language to be scientifically developed so as to be really suited to its special function. In January 1901 the Delegation for the Adoption of an International Auxiliary Language was founded. After six years of preparatory studies, a committee was elected and it met for 18 long sessions in October 1907. This committee was composed of ten people from six different countries - seven of them university professors - and it included the president of the Esperanto Language Committee.

Many of Esperanto's supporters confidently expected that their language would be chosen from among the many different invented tongues examined. However, the members of the Committee were particularly impressed by two languages - Esperanto and Neutral - although they found faults in both of them. Accordingly, the Committee's unanimous decision was that none of the existing invented languages could be adopted in its entirety and without changes. The Committee decided in principle to adopt Esperanto, but with various changes which were to be carried out by a sub-committee, the Permanent Commission. Despite this emphasis on Esperanto, the majority of Esperantists were unhappy that their language had not been accepted without qualification, and refused to recognise or accept this decision.

The Esperanto movement had built up a fervour which gave it a quasi-religious quality. The basic grammar and vocabulary of the language were treated as 'untouchable', and anybody who questioned their sanctity was regarded as a heretic! Thus an unfortunate rift developed between those who were devoted to the original Esperanto, and those who accepted the decision of the international Committee and thus the reformed Esperanto. The improved version of Esperanto became known as Ido. One group concentrated on spreading Esperanto, while the other group concentrated their efforts on developing Ido as a language more fit for the purpose for which it was intended. Within a few years the first world war disrupted both movements. Ido lost perhaps its greatest inspirer, Professor Louis Couturat, who died in a car crash in 1914.

The Esperanto movement has done much to demonstrate to a disbelieving world the possibility and to a degree even the practicality of a constructed international language, and this is to its credit. However, Esperanto has serious flaws and these are partly responsible for having turned many people away from the idea which Esperanto is seen to represent. Zamenhof himself rejected Volapük, despite its relatively widespread acceptance at the time, because he thought that the world deserved and needed something better. Zamenhof was right in this respect. An invented language for universal use must be nothing less than the best available for the purpose. We cannot wait for perfection, but neither should we accept evident faults. We should adopt and promote that which best meets the need.

Ido has been developed by linguists and scientists including Dr Louis de Beaufront (at one time the leading advocate of Esperanto in France), Professor Louis Couturat (a philosopher and mathematician whose correspondence with Bertrand Russell was discovered recently), Professor Richard Lorenz, Professor Wilhelm Ostwald (Nobel prizewinner for chemistry), Professor L. Pfaundler, and Professor Otto Jespersen (the famous Danish linguist). Some of the improvements made to Esperanto in developing Ido were, however, proposed at one time by Zamenhof himself in the light of experience with using his language (but not accepted by his followers). To a significant extent, therefore, Ido is directly or indirectly the work of Dr Zamenhof.

It is ironic that, apparently partly due to a misunderstanding by Zamenhof of the word 'primitive' - intended in the sense of 'original' but interpreted by him as meaning 'crude' - in connection with his (original) Esperanto, he took offence and refused to accept the Committee's unanimous verdict.

Support for Esperanto has to a large extent been support for the idea of which it is the best known representative, rather than an informed choice of Esperanto in preference to Ido. Indeed, most people who have studied both languages - the original and the improved Esperanto - are in no doubt that Ido is superior, as indeed it should be, considering all the added work which has gone into its development. If the Esperanto movement and the Ido language (both of which, as we have seen, owe much to Dr Zamenhof) could come together, better progress could be expected for both. Among the advantages of Ido are those described briefly in the following paragraphs.

Adjectives in Ido do not 'agree' with the nouns they qualify but are invariable, as in English. In Esperanto adjectives have to be varied according to the number and the case of the noun. This adjectival agreement is very rarely of any use. It is an unnecessary complication in a language intended to be simple to learn and to use, and Zamenhof himself acknowledged that it is superfluous.

Another feature of Esperanto is the obligatory use of the accusative ending -n in the majority of cases where a verb has a direct object. There is more justification for this, inasmuch as every language must use some method to distinguish subject from object. However, many languages, such as Chinese, Danish, English, French, Italian, Malayan, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish, do not have separate endings for nominative and accusative nouns (or adjectives). They use instead the order of the words to distinguish subject and object. Even German, Latin and Russian do not have separate accusative endings for many of their nouns.

Moreover, Esperanto exempts numerals and certain idiomatic expressions (such as 'multe da sablo' and 'kiom da homoj') from carrying the supposedly necessary accusative ending and, partly for this reason, has to depend at times on a normal word order to clarify meaning. Ido allows optional use of the accusative ending (-n) so as to permit flexibility of word order - sometimes useful for emphasis or in poetry - while recognising that the normal word order (subject - verb - direct object) does not need to be reinforced by constant addition of the ending -n to every direct object.

Ido is also not encumbered by the peculiar idiomatic uses of the 'accusative' ending which occur in Esperanto (for example: la duan fojon, tagon post tago, unu matenon, iri Parizon) and which add unnecessary complication to that language. In these cases the ending -n does not indicate an accusative! In Ido, a preposition is used where appropriate (for example, 'ye la lasta foyo').

Esperanto does not use the letters q, w, x and y, but does have the inconvenience of six accented letters - c^, g^, h^, j^, s^ and u~ - which (with the possible exception of the last) are not used in any other language. Because they are peculiar to Esperanto they have to be specially provided just for printing Esperanto. Although the problems this causes are not insuperable, the accents remain a nuisance in various ways, and hinder acceptance of Esperanto. Theoretically the circumflex can be replaced by the letter h, but Esperantists themselves use this alternative very reluctantly, as the result looks very 'heavy' and unattractive.

Ido sweeps away these problems by making full use of the basic letters which are common to most countries using the Latin alphabet. There are, as in many languages, two digraphs (ch and sh); g^ and j^ are replaced by j, and y replaces j. Ido can therefore be typed, printed or used on a computer without the slighest difficulty.

The pronunciation of Ido is simpler and easier than that of Esperanto which has several sounds and combinations of consonants which cause unnecessary difficulty for people whose languages do not have these sounds or clusters. For example, h^oro, funkcio, punkto, konscienco, eksciti, ekzemplo, eksedzo. The distinction between the sounds g^ and j^ is not known in many languages so Ido replaces both with j.

The basic words for people and animals in Ido are almost all neutral as regards sex (instead of masculine or vaguely unspecified as in Esperanto), and words for the masculine and feminine are derived by use of the appropriate suffix. Thus the basic Ido words for pilot, nurse, cousin, child, spouse, bee, elephant, cat etc are general rather than specific, and it is not necessary to imply male or female, although it is of course possible to do so where required. This method is much better than that in Esperanto (which only has a feminine suffix), as Zamenhof himself acknowledged.

The plural ending of nouns in Esperanto is -oj which is derived only from some nouns in ancient Greek. Ido has -i, which is a plural ending in Italian, Rumanian, and Russian as well as other Slav languages. Infinitives in Esperanto end in -i, for no good reason, whereas in Ido they end in -ar which is recognisable to speakers of Catalan, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish.

Many words in Esperanto are either not international or have been unnecessarily deformed. The following examples illustrate this.

Esperanto - Ido
bubalo - bufalo
c^elo - celulo
c^irkau~ - cirkum
dedic^i - dedikar
edzo - spozo
ekspozicii - expozar
elasta - elastika
estonteco - futuro
konversacii - konversar
lernejo - skolo
limo - limito
mac^i - mastikar
mencii - mencionar
nacio - naciono
penti - repentar
sperta - experta
tac^mento - detachmento
vipuro - vipero

The names of countries are also more internationally recognisable in Ido. As proper names they do not have to end in -o like other nouns.

Esperanto - Ido
Anglujo or Anglio - Anglia
Britujo or Britio - Britania
Hindujo or Hindio - India
Germanujo or Germanio - Germania
Gvatemalo - Guatemala
Italujo or Italio - Italia

All pronouns in Esperanto end in -i, with the result that they can easily be confused when heard against background noise or by telephone (particularly mi and ni). In Ido the pronouns are less similar to one another, so that they are less likely to be misheard. In addition Ido has a very useful extra pronoun, lu, which is used (like hän in Finnish) whenever the sex of a person is either irrelevant or perhaps unknown to the writer or speaker. Many people have felt the need for such a pronoun in English ('s/he' is sometimes used in writing). It is much more surprising if an invented language cannot meet such a need!

The derivation of words from 'root' words is very confused in Esperanto, and only superficially simple. For example, the suffix -ad- means one thing if added to a verbal root, and another if added to a noun root (compare 'pafado' and 'kronado'), although this was not originally intended but came about because these details had not been adequately thought out. Again, whether a verb can be derived from an adjective without using an affix, and if so what it means, are difficulties about which Esperantists have disagreed.

The prefix mal- in Esperanto is particularly inopportune because in several languages 'mal' means 'bad' or 'wrong' (as in English 'malformed', 'malodorous' etc). Ido has the international prefix des- (similar to English dis- as in 'disappear'). Although such a prefix is very useful, Esperanto uses it to excess, so making many very common words unnecessarily long.

Esperanto - Ido - English
malbona - mala - bad
malfermas - apertas - open(s)
malgranda - mikra - small
mallonga - kurta - short
malmultekosta - chipa - cheap
malrapida - lenta - slow
malsupreniras - decensas - descend(s)
maltrankviligas - trublas - trouble(s)

The use of the adverb in Esperanto in phrases such as 'danci estas facile' (literally 'to dance is easily') is idiomatic and illogical but is probably due to the influence of Slav languages. It ignores the substantival character of the infinitive, with which Ido correctly uses the adjective.

The vocabulary of Esperanto contains a number of words which are ambiguous and can cause misunderstanding and mistranslation. Here are some examples.

Esperanto - Ido (English)
antau~ - avan (in front of) or ante (earlier than)
atendas - expektas (expects) or vartas (waits for)
de - di (of) or da (by) or de (from)
eble - posible (possibly) or forsan (perhaps)
neebla - negebla (deniable) or neposibla (impossible)
nombras - kontas (counts) or numerizas (numbers)
povas - povas (can) or darfas (may)
senkulpigas - exkuzas (excuses) or absolvas (exonerates)

Many Esperantists have yet to discover Ido. We hope that they will consider Ido, without prejudice, as seriously as they wish the world to consider Esperanto. If this summary of the advantages of the improved Esperanto has been of interest, the following publications will be found useful in studying the benefits of Ido further.

The Problem of an International Auxiliary Language - L.H. Dyer.
A Planned Auxiliary Language - Henry Jacob.
Ido for All - Nik ap Glyn.
Complete Manual of the Auxiliary Language Ido - Louis de Beaufront.
Ido-English Dictionary; English-Ido Dictionary - L.H. Dyer.
Lexiko di Ido-Japoniana-Esperanto - Kuriyama Hitosi.
Esperanto-Ido Lexiko - Henry Jacob.
In Esperanto:
Internacia Lernolibro por Esperantistoj - Henry Jacob.
In Ido:
Dicionario di la linguo universala Ido - Marcel Pesch.
Historio di nia linguo / History of our language - Otto Jespersen.
Kompleta Gramatiko Detaloza di Ido - Louis de Beaufront.

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