Interlinguistics is the study of various aspects of linguistic communication between people who cannot make themselves understood by means of their different first languages. It is concerned with investigating how ethnic and auxiliary languages (lingua franca) work in such situations and with the possibilities of optimizing interlinguistic communication, for instance by use of international auxiliary languages, such as Esperanto or Interlingua. These are languages that are created by an intentional intellectual effort, usually with the aim of facilitating interlinguistic communication, but there are also interlanguages that have arisen spontaneously. These are called pidgin languages.


  • Field of studies 1
  • Kinds of interlanguages 2
  • See also 3
  • Notes 4
  • References 5

Field of studies

The term Interlinguistics can be interpreted in at least two ways:

  1. Study of interlinguae, i.e., of interlanguages that serve for interlinguistic communication - not to be confused with the interim languages of language learners, which also came to be called ”interlanguages” by some authors.
  2. Study of phenomena that can be observed inter linguae 'between languages'.

Among these interpretations, the first one is by far the most well established, while Mario Wandruszka had only the second one in mind.[1]

The term appears first to have been used in French (interlinguistique) by Jules Meysmans in 1911 in a text concerning international auxiliary languages.[2] It became more widely accepted subsequent to an address by the Danish linguist Otto Jespersen to the 2nd International Congress of Linguists in 1931. According to Jespersen, interlinguistics is ”that branch of the science of language which deals with the structure and basic ideas of all languages with the view to the establishing of a norm for interlanguages, i.e. auxiliary languages destined for oral and written use between people who cannot make themselves understood by means of their mother tongues”.[3] According to this definition, investigations that are useful for optimizing interlinguistic communication are central to the discipline, and the purpose may be to develop a new language intended for international use or for use within a multilingual country or union. Research of this kind has been undertaken by the International Delegation, which developed Ido (1907), and by the International Auxiliary Language Association (IALA), which developed Interlingua (1951).

Valter Tauli considered interlinguistics as a subdiscipline of language planning.[4] The principles recommended by him for language planning applied to the guided development of national languages are also, and more liberally so, applicable to constructed interlanguages. It is noteworthy that these principles have close counterparts among Grice’s conversational maxims. These maxims describe how effective communication in conversation is achieved, and in order to function well, a language must be such that it allows respecting these maxims, which languages not always do.[5]

Most publications in the field of interlinguistics are, however, not so constructive, but rather descriptive, comparative, historic, sociolinguistic, or concerned with translation by humans or machines. As for Esperanto, which is the most widely used constructed interlanguage, there is a relatively abundant literature about the language itself and its philology (see Esperantology).

Only a few of the many constructed languages have been applied practically to any noteworthy extent. The most prosperous were Volapük (1879, Johann Martin Schleyer), Esperanto (1887 Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof), Latino sine flexione (1903, Giuseppe Peano), Ido (1907, Louis Couturat), Occidental-Interlingue (1922, Edgar de Wahl) and Interlingua (1951, IALA and Alexander Gode), with Esperanto being the only one still gathering a considerable community of active speakers today. Here, the Bliss symbols (1949, Charles K. Bliss)[6] deserve also to be mentioned. These were intended for international communication, but have found their field of application elsewhere, namely as an aid for persons who lack an adequate ability of using ordinary language, because of motorical or cognitive handicaps.

Kinds of interlanguages

The following table lists only one representative for each type explicitly.

Spoken language only Spoken and written language Written language only Gestural language Multimedial language
Spontaneous Russenorsk and others Tok Pisin and other stabilized pidgins Classical Chinese (used interlinguistically) Plains Indian Sign Language[7]
Constructed Damin (not interlinguistic) Esperanto and others Bliss symbols and other pasigraphies Gestuno (for the deaf) Solresol

Among constructed languages, it is usual to distinguish between a priori languages and a posteri languages. The latter are based on one or, more often, several source languages, while this is not evident for a priori languages, e.g., the philosophical languages of the 17th century, Solresol and the logical languages of the 20th century, such as Loglan and Lojban. Spontaneously arisen Interlanguages are necessarily a posteriori or iconic (using imaging or imitating signs).

See also


  1. ^ Mario Wandruszka: Interlinguistik: Umrisse einer neuen Sprachwissenschaft. (’Interlinguistics: Contours of a New Linguistic Discipline’) Piper Verlag, 1982, ISBN 3-492-00314-1
  2. ^ Jules Meysmans (1911-12): Une science nouvelle. In: Lingua Internationale (Bruxelles). 1, Nr. 8, 14-16.
  3. ^ Herbert N. Shenton, Edward Sapir, Otto Jespersen (eds.): International Communication: A Symposium on the Language Problem. Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., London 1931.
  4. ^ Valter Tauli (1968): Introduction to a theory of language planning. Uppsala: Almquist & Wiksells, S. 167.
  5. ^ Hartmut Traunmüller: Conversational Maxims and Principles of Language Planning PERILUS XII, pp 25-47, Department of Linguistics, Stockholm University, 1991.
  6. ^ Charles K. Bliss: International semantography: a non-alphabetical symbol writing readable in all languages Institute of Semantography, Sidney 1949
  7. ^ William Tomkins: Universal Indian Sign Language of the Plains Indians of North America, San Diego, California, 1927.


  • Gode, Alexander, Interlingua: A Dictionary of the International Language. New York: Storm Publishers, 1951.
  • Interlinguistic Standardization, Historia de Interlingua, 2001, revised 2006.
  • Jespersen, Otto, Interlinguistics, International Communication, 1931.
  • Schubert, Klaus (Ed.): Interlinguistics. Aspects of the Science of Planned Languages. Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1989.
  • Кузнецов, С.Н. (1987). Теоретические основы интерлингвистики. Москва: Издательство Университета дружбы народов. [Kuznetsov, S.N. (1987). Theoretical Foundations of Interlinguistics. Moscow: University of peoples friendship]