Notes to the summary

12, 17 and

Exhibe or exhibi?

How found?

When writing my Summary of the Introduction to the IED (Interlingua-English dictionary), I wanted my own bilingual Introduction within easy reach. My model, on the site of the Finnish Interlingua organisation, is no longer accessible, and the Wayback Machine snapshot that is still available, is very slow. The alignment between the two languages (original English and translated Interlingua) in this version isn’t optimal anyway.

So I extracted the separate texts from the UMI site, English and Interlingua, and combined them to have each paragraph in the two languages in a table row of its own, for perfect alignment.

To guard against errors, I spellchecked all material. Indeed I found some errors that were clearly due to overlooked OCR faults. I reported those to the UMI.

A more interesting word that the spelling checker for Firefox rejected, was “exhibe”, in the following context: “[...] le forma resultante ancora non continerea un diphthongo proque tres linguas – espaniol, francese, italiano – exhibe un simple -o-.” The spelling checker says “exhibe” should be ‘exhibi’. Who is right?

Control languages

The translation of the Introduction was done by Karel Wilgenhof, and checked by Piet Cleij and Bent Andersen – all three men with a very good reputation where it comes to writing correct Interlingua. So was this a simple typing error, or a concious decision? Indeed when we consult dictionaries, we see a clear divide: The IED has exhibir, inhibir, prohibir, but in the dictionaries by Piet Cleij (ia>nl, nl>ia, fr>ia) there is a consistent exhiber, inhiber, prohiber.

Arguments can be given for both. As usual, let’s look at the origins of the words, and what those resulted in in the control languages, the source languages of Interlingua.

Latin Italian Spanish / Portu­guese French English Inter­lingua
exhibēre esibire exhibir / exibir exhiber (exhibit) exhibir? exhiber?
inhibēre inibire inhibir / inibir inhiber (inhibit) inhibir? inhiber?
prohibēre proibire prohibir / proibir prohiber (prohibit) prohibir? prohiber?

The English words were borrowed from the Latin perfect passive participles, ‘exhibitus’, ‘inhibitus’, ‘prohibitus’, not from the infinitives, like in the case of the other languages. Therefore in the table I put them between parentheses. As I understand the Introduction, that means that English does help establish the status of belonging to the international vocabulary, but the language should be disregarded when determining its Interlingua form. Or maybe it should be taken into account too, that makes little difference in this case.

We see ‑bir in two out of three control language units, namely Italian and Spanish/Portuguese. French, with ‑ber, is the exception. So from the “tierra” example, where Spanish was the exception, I should think we should ignore French and follow the majority, so Interlingua has exhibir, inhibir, prohibir. This is indeed what is in the IED, the first and basic dictionary of Interlingua.

On the other hand, there is a clear tendency that verbs that had ‑ēre infinitives in Latin, have ‑er in Interlingua. So then French is regular here, and the other languages have special, unusual traits, those should be ignored when determining form? I don’t know the reason for this different pattern. It may be because these words are later ‘learned’ borrowings from Latin, and not the result of natural language evolution.

It seems Piet Cleij had followed the second reasoning, and so arrived at Interlingua verbs exhiber, inhiber, and prohiber.

It must be noted however, that in the most recent working documents for the Interlingua-Dutch dictionary, dated 30 December 2014 and 3 January 2015, the verbs are consistently ‘exhibir’, ‘inhibir’ and ‘prohibir’. This is also already the case in back-up files dated 27 May 2014, but not in files for Dutch-Interlingua (8 April and 12 October 2014) and French-Interlingua (6 April 2014). Considering that Piet Cleij died on 7 January 2015, and he wasn’t in good health some time before that, it seems he eventually changed his mind, and these were among the last corrections he was able to work into his dictionary, but he didn’t have time left for all.

Conclusion: exhibir, inhibir and prohibir are the correct forms.

Verbs ending in ‑are, ‑ere and ‑ire?

A quote from the Introduction:
The prototype procedure outlined above would yield infinitives in ‑are, ‑ere, and ‑ire.

As I read it, that procedure would instead result in ‑ar, ‑er and ‑ir already. That makes this whole paragraph unnecessary and superfluous. It defends a result that was already there, falsely pretending a different result to start with. Not logical.

Back to my summary of the Introduction.


Let’s take a closer look at the etymologies of the words for ‘hering’ in Romance languages. My basis is Wiktionary, as consulted on 17 August 2020.

Note that the forms listed for Old High German and for Proto-Germanic are not the same in all etymologies given. Perhaps this is due to errors. Or maybe different reconstructions are actually possible and/or such words have existed.

Normally Interlingua words that end in ‑o also have that final vowel in the Romance source languages, which goes back on an Latin words with a nominative in ‑us or ‑um. Here however only the French etymology mentions a Medieval Latin word hārengus. Yet, the Interlingua word is haringo, even though the ‑o appears is none of the Romance source languages.

Wiktionary on hārengus says that this Latin word also gave rise the Occitan word, which would strengthen the role of Latin in the overall etymology, instead of consisting largely of direct loans from Germanic into Romance languages.

I don’t know what’s right, and I don’t know a better Interlingua form than haringo. And even if I did, I would still follow the IED and Piet Cleij, because constantly challenging the correctness of existing words only creates confusion and unrest. On the other hand I do like to understand why words are what they are.

Back to my summary of the Introduction.

Carrafa or carafa?

The Introduction says the Interlingua word is carrafa, with a ‘c’, because all control languages except Spanish/Portuguese have a ‘c’, not a ‘g’. My question then is: why does Interlingua retain the double letter ‘rr’, although it too occurs only in Spanish/Portuguese, all other languages having a single ‘r’? I think in Interlingua it should be either carafa or garrafa, not carrafa and not garafa. But it is carrafa, decided Alexander Gode, allegedly following a systematic and scientific method. What is the logic behind that?

In Arabic, Spanish and Portuguese, the difference between a single and double r is phonemic: all Arabic consonants can be geminated, are then pronounced longer, and such gemination actually occurs in the grammar.

An extra complication is that an actual Arabic word gharrâf or gharrafa(t) is not listed in Hans Wehr’s Arabic-German and Arabic-English of MSA (Modern Standard Arabic), although the root does have meanings that fit. However, those dictionaries were published in 1952 and 1961 respectively, so in 1951 and earlier the IALA research team cannot have had them available.

Moreover, although MSA overlaps to a considerable amount with Classical Arabic, both are not identical with dialects that might have been spoken in the then Islamic Iberian peninsula at the time the Spanish and Portuguese words entered those languages (or Mozarabic).

So we just don’t know exactly.

Back to my summary of the Introduction.