A Grammar of Interlingua

Alexander Gode & Hugh Blair | IALA 1951

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Spelling & Pronunciation


The LETTERS used are the conventional twenty-six letters of the Roman alphabet. There are no extra signs and symbols to indicate stress and pronunciation.


The NORM OF PRONUNCIATION is "continental." The sound values of the various letters are fluid within type limits. They may be naturally influenced by neighboring sounds as also by native habits of individual speakers. For instance, the sound of u - described in the phrase, "like u in 'plural' " - may well be pronounced like oo in 'good' or in 'loom' but not like u in 'stutter' or in French 'lune.'


The tendency of English speakers to obscure unstressed vowels, making them all sound like a in 'China,' should be guarded against. This applies particularly to final e. No sound, final or otherwise, unstressed or stressed, should be unduly slurred over.


The normal English pronunciation agrees with that used in the Interlingua for the letters b, d, f, k, l, m, n, p, ph, qu, v, w, and z. The remaining letters are covered by the following rules and observations:

is always pronounced like a in English 'father';
before e, i, y is pronounced like ts in 'hats' (or, optionally, like c in 'city'); otherwise like c in 'cats'; ch like ch in 'echo', 'chrome';
always like e in 'met' or, better, like é in French 'risqué.'
like g in 'good';
as in English (or, optionally, silent); after r and t, silent;
normally like i in 'machine'; when unstressed before a vowel, like i in 'onion' or in 'phobia'); e.g. bile, biliose, varie;
like z in 'azure' (or, optionally, like g in 'gem' or like y in 'yes');
always like o in 'obey';
like rr in 'merry' or, better, like r in Spanish 'caro';
like s in 'stay'; between vowels, the same (or, optionally, like s in 'these'); e.g. sparse, abstruse, accusativo;
as in English; ti before vowels, unless stressed or preceded by s, like tsy in 'he gets you' (or, optionally, like sy in 'we pass you' or like ty in 'we let you'); e.g. actor, garantia, question, but action, reverentia;
normally like u in 'plural'; when unstressed before a vowel, like u in 'persuade' or in 'superfluous'; e.g. plural, persuader, superflue;
like x in 'fox'; between vowels, the same (or, optionally, like x in 'exact');
unstressed before vowels, like y in 'yes'; otherwise like i in 'machine'; e.g. Yugoslavia, typo.


In DIPHTHONGS the vowels retain their independent sound values. The diphthong ai is pronounced as in 'kaiser,' au as in 'kraut.' Stressed e and i are separated by a syllabic break from a following a, e, o; e.g. mie, io, spondeo, via, bastardia. Unstressed i and u turn into semiconsonants before a following vowel; e.g. Bulgaria, filatorio, persuader.


DOUBLE CONSONANTS merge in pronunciation. The double consonant ss is always voiceless like ss in 'miss.' The sounds of g and k assimilate a preceding n as in English. Note that the double consonant cc is spelled c at the end of a word (siccar but sic).


Pronunciations deviating from these norms are indicated in the Interlingua-English Dictionary by a system of respelling in which the letters have the same sound values as in Interlingua. The digraph ch stands frequently for the sound of sh in 'English' and is respelled as sh; e.g. choc (sh-). The combination gi often represents the sound of z in 'azure' and is respelled as j; e.g. avantagiose (-ajo-). Simple g has this sound and hence this respelling in the suffix -age; e.g. avantage (-aje).


On orthographic changes in derivation, see §137.


Unassimilated "GUEST WORDS," that is, foreign or borrowed words which are identified in the Interlingua-English Dictionary as to their origin, retain the pronunciation and spelling of the language of origin. The original diacritical signs are omitted when the resulting simplified spelling suffices to suggest the intended pronunciation; e.g. defaite for French défaite, but kümmel as in German.


The main STRESS is normally on the vowel before the last consonant. The plural ending does not change the original stress of the word. Adjectives and nouns ending in -le, -ne, and -re preceded by a vowel have the stress on the third syllable from the end; e.g. fragile, ordine, tempore. In words formed with the suffixes -ic, -ica, -ico, -ide, -ido, -ula, and -ulo, the stress falls on the syllable preceding the suffix. The suffixes -ific and -ifico are stressed on the first i.

Deviations from this stress system are covered in the Interlingua-English Dictionary by respelling with stress marks. Most of these deviations might be covered by additional descriptive rules. For instance, the suffixes -issim-, -esim-, -ifer-, and -olog- are stressed on the first vowel. The suffixes -ia and -eria, in so far as they correspond to English -y and -ery, are stressed on the vowel i; etc.

Note: Words without consonant or without a vowel before the last consonant are stressed of necessity on the first vowel; e.g. io, via, and certain present-tense forms, as strue, crea, etc. But construe, procrea, etc. and also diminue, substitue, etc. follow the standard rule and have the stress on the vowel before the last consonant.


The importance of stress regularity should not be exaggerated. The effort involved in acquiring an unfamiliar stress for an otherwise familiar word seems often inordinate. This does not, of course, imply that Interlingua words may be stressed completely at random but merely that a word like kilometro remains the same international word whether native habits cause a speaker to stress it on the second or on the third syllable.


Native habits may likewise be allowed to prevail in questions of INTONATION, SOUND DURATION, and the like. It is suggested, however, that the sequence of a final and an initial vowel, both unstressed and not separated by a pause in intonation, be pronounced as a combined glide; e.g. le alte Ural almost as though it had the four syllables le-ál-teu-rál.


SYLLABIFICATION follows pronunciation. Single consonants, except x, belong with the following syllable. Consonant groups are divided but l and r must not be separated from preceding b, c, ch, d, f, g, p, ph, t, th, and v. The combinations qu, gu, su behave like single consonants.


CAPITALIZATION differs from English usage in that within the sentence upper-case initials occur exclusively with proper names but not with derivatives from them.

In Francia le franceses parla francese ab le initio de lor vita
'In France the French talk French from the start of their lives'

Le piscatores del Mar Morte cape haringos salate
'The fishermen on the Dead Sea catch salt herrings'

Le ver stilo shakespearean se trova solmente in Shakespeare
'The true Shakespearean style is found only in Shakespeare'

Since sacred terms, the names of religious and other holidays, designations of movements, eras, doctrines, etc. may be considered proper or common names, they are capitalized or not, depending on the meaning intended.

Le romanticismo de Hollywood es subinde insipide
'The romanticism of Hollywood is often insipid'

Le philosophia del Romanticismo cerca le reunion de scientia e religion
'The philosophy of Romanticism seeks the reunion of science and religion'

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