Jayeless.net

Occidental

Occidental/Interlingue is a constructed language first published as “Occidental” in 1922 by Edgar de Wahl. The language was renamed to “Interlingue” in 1949 so speakers in the Eastern Bloc could continue to speak it without arousing suspicion that they were Western spies or something (I doubt this worked). Modern speakers mostly refer to it as Occidental.

Occidental was designed to be a naturalistic IAL based mostly on the Romance languages with some English and other Germanic influence, but was still considerably more regular than the similar Interlingua which came out in 1951. This was thanks largely to its invention and use of de Wahl’s rule, which outlined how to derive nouns, adjectives, etc. from verbs in a mostly-regular way (with six exceptions):

Flow chart illustrating how Occidental forms nouns from verb roots

Image by Mithridates on Wikipedia, licensed under the CC-BY-SA-4.0 licence. Original found here(external link).

Occidental draws on regular word endings, many of which were later also borrowed by Novial:

  • -e is the general ending for nouns. It seems like it can be dropped if it is not needed to make the sentence’s meaning clear.
    • -o can be used instead to form an explicitly masculine noun.
    • -a can be used to make an explicitly feminine noun.
  • -i is the general ending for adjectives, and can be dropped in similar situations as the -e for nouns.
  • Verbs can end in -ar, -er or -ir.
  • Derived adverbs are made by adding -men (cf. French -ment) to another word. You can just use the adjective if the meaning is clear though. Primary adverbs, which are not derived from other words but are basically their own roots, have no particular ending.

Verb conjugation in Occidental is very regular, and uses a combination of word endings (for the past tense) and auxiliary verbs (for the future and conditional).

Tense Ending Examples
Infinitive -ar / -er / -ir amar, decider, scrir
Present -a / -e / -i* ama, decide, scri
Past -t amat, decidet, scrit
Future va + inf. va amar, va decider, va scrir
Conditional vell + inf. vell amar, vell decider, vell scrir
Imperative -a, -e, -i* ama, decide, scri

* = The present-tense form of esser “to be” is irregular es. However, the imperative form is the regular esse.

The perfective aspect can be added with auxiliary verb har (e.g. ha amat “have loved”, hat amat “had loved”, va hat amat “will have loved”, vell hat amat “would have loved”). There is also a future in the past, e.g. vat amar “was going to love”. There are three more auxiliary verbs that are considered to form compound tenses:

  • Precative (ples + inf.): Ples amar “Please love!”
  • Hortative (lass + inf.): Lass nos amar “Let us love!”
  • Optative (mey + inf.): Yo mey amar “May I love” (think like in “May the force be with you”)

Finally, you can form the present participle by adding -nt (-ent for -ir verbs) and the gerund with -nte (-ente for -ir verbs) to the present-tense form of the verb.

There are a number of affixes, mostly based on Romance language affixes, that can be added to words to expand their meaning.

The table of correlatives is based on the Romance languages and as such has some overlap with Ido:

qu- (inter.) t- (demon.) alqu- (undef.) nequ- (neg.) -cunc (indef.) Ø (collec.)
-i (people)1 qui (who) ti (that person) alqui (someone) nequi (no one) quicunc (whoever) omni (everyone)
-o (things) quo (what) to (that) alquo (something) nequo (nothing) quocunc (whatever) omno (everything)
-el (both) quel (which) tel (such) alquel (any)2 nequel2 quelcunc (whatever) chascun (each)
-al (quality)3 qual (which, what a) tal (that) alqual (any kind) nequal qualcunc
-am (way, mode) quam (as) tam (so) alquam (somehow) nequam quamcunc (however)
-ant (quantity) quant (how many) tant (so much) alquant (somewhat) nequant quantcunc (whenever)
-ande (time) quande (when) tande (then) alquande (some time) nequande (never) quandecunc (whenever) sempre (always)
-u (place) u (where) ci (here) / ta (there)4 alcu (somewhere) necu (nowhere) ucunc (wherever) partú (everywhere)

Correlatives can also take the plural ending -s/-es.

I’ve been learning Occidental since June 2022. My own view is that it’s very easy to pick up, at least if you already have some similarity with at least one Romance language and English. It’s especially easy to read, because it resembles existing languages closely enough that it’s mostly intelligible based on that, and the things that are different (like the auxiliary verbs – which make Occidental’s verb conjugation system almost the same as English, just with no irregularity) are very very simple and quick to learn. That said, understanding it spoken is harder.

Don Harlow criticised Occidental on the basis that de Wahl and his original adherents in the 1920s and 30s were racist. Apparently, they were only interested in attracting Europeans and “Europeanised” Asians to their movement (according to him). His citation was a broken link, but I have also seen 21st century Occ­i­den­tal­ists sharing (in horror) some of the comments early Occidentalists made about Asian cultures (e.g. that they were primitive). So, that history is bad, but it would definitely seem unfair to say that modern-day Occ­i­den­tal­ists are racist, or that the language is inherently racist and therefore not worth learning.

Resources

Here’s a few great links you might be interested in if you want to find out more about (or even start learning!) Occidental:

  • Occidental, li lingue commun del occidente(external link): This is a one-page site that gives you a brief overview of the language and links to a ton of other useful things (study resources, dictionaries, reading material, online communities, etc.)
  • Salute, Jonathan!(external link): An online book that teaches Occidental through the “natural method”, i.e. it is written entirely in Occidental, starts with extremely basic language (the first sentence is Li mann sta in un cité.) and gradually adds more and more vocabulary and grammar until you’re just fluently reading a story in Occidental. It’s heavily based on the story of Dracula.
  • Unofficial Duolingo Stories in Occidental(external link): This website is about providing unofficial translations of Duolingo stories for languages that don’t have them officially, and here someone has translated several into Occidental. There is audio but I believe it’s autogenerated from an Italian TTS, so not 100% accurate.

  1. This series also has optional accusative forms ending in -em, like quem “whom”. ↩︎

  2. Alcun “some” and necun “no” are the adjectival forms of alquel and nequel↩︎ ↩︎

  3. The -al series requires -men added to the end to make them “adverbs”, so qualmen “how” (not sure how this is an adverb though) and talmen “that way”. ↩︎

  4. These particles can also be added to the demonstrative ti, for ti-ci “this thing” and ti-ta “that thing” (cf. French and how it has ce, ceci and cela which I probably spelt wrong but w/e) ↩︎

Did you know? I’ve posted other content tagged ‘Occidental’! If you want to see what else I’ve written on this topic, you can do so here.