Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Problems with Alexander Gode’s Grammar

(Language of this post: English)

Alice Morris’s family told Alexander Gode that they would no longer contribute to the Interlingua project after her death. Most likely, they considered the project to be a harmless but definitely useless personal eccentricity of Mrs. Morris’s--and certainly not a worthy philanthropic exercise. If you read between the lines of the currently available histories of Interlingua, this becomes rather obvious.

After her death, Alexander Gode had enough money to bring his dictionary and grammar into print but only if he acted quickly. While his dictionary was reasonably well prepared, he produced a grammar that was definitely suboptimal in its expository technique--quite probably because Gode knew he would have to act fast if he were to get it published at all.

Gode’s grammar is deficient in the number of sentences it presents to illustrate the syntax of Interlingua. And because of its clumsy style, it is unnecessarily difficult to translate into other languages. That is why I consider it to be of very limited pedagogical value, though, of course, I think it should remain available for consultation for those who want to refer to it.

I am convinced that it would be a good idea for us to produce another comprehensive reference grammar of Interlingua in any of its source languages. The people producing it should be aware that in time this new grammar will be widely translated, and they should carefully edit it to make future translations as easy as possible to produce.

I am quite sure that Gode could have done this himself if he had wanted to. That he did not do this is an indication of the time pressures he was under. I am glad that he published it, of course, for a even a quick and dirty job is better than no job at all. But we should consider his grammar to be of merely historical interest and should in time come up with a much more effective reference grammar for Interlingua.

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