Professor Ostwald spoke on "Eperauto, an International Language," yesterday afternoon in the large lecture room of the Jefferson Physical Laboratory.
During the Universal Exposition in Paris--1900, he said, a delegation was appointed by numerous congresses and societies to study the question of an international auxiliary language. This commission has been studying the many languages which have been invented, but as yet no definite decision has been reached. The general idea is that everyone shall not only learn his own native language, but also the universal one.
The investigating committee has decided that a universal language must conform to the following requirements: It must fulfill the needs of the ordinary intercourse of social life, of commercial communications, and of scientific and philosophic relations. It must be easily acquired by every person of average elementary education, and especially of persons of European civilization. It must not be one of the national languages.
A language that has grown naturally is always hard to learn. Is it possible to construct an artificial language? Many linguists feel that such a thing is impossible, but the international method of writing music disproves this. In all grammar there is a great deal of unnecessary repetition which makes a language likely to be mishandled. Such words as "telegraph" and "volt" can be understood in many countries at the present time. It is possible then to construct a language the vocabulary of which will already be partly understood. The present difficulty is to select one language and to make it universal. By means of such a language travellers may converse with transportation officials in any part of the world, and scientists will use the system in their international congresses.
Esperanto, the best known of the artificial languages, was invented by Dr. L. L. Zamenhof, a Russian. The Esperanto grammar can be learned in less than half an hour, and the vocabulary in a month or six weeks. Anyone reading Esperanto at sight can understand a large proportion of it. The key to the language can be mailed with a letter so that the recipient of the letter may be sure of getting its entire meaning. Over half a million people are now able to speak and write Esperanto. At a recent Congress of "Esperantists," people from 20 different nations understood one another perfectly and the system proved in every way a success.