How international Is your word?

Johan Derks was born in 1940 to Dutch middle-class parents in Utrecht, the Netherlands. He learned Esperanto at the age of fifteen in secondary school. Johan studied theoretical physics (1957-1965) and sociology (1973-1979), and taught mathematics in Uganda and statistics in Cameroon, for a total of four years. Following his return to the Netherlands, he taught mathematics at various levels. He has been active in various fields such as the peace movement in the sixties and Amnesty International. Since 2005 he is a husband in an Esperanto-based marriage to a Serbian Esperantist, Svetlana Milanović.

Abstract

The concept of “international word” has never found any generally accepted definition. The definition may contain vague quantifiers such as ‘several’ or ‘the majority’. Its meaning may even depend on the language to which it is applied. Therefore it seems impossible to conduct any scientific research on the situations and conditions on why certain words are international and others not.

The interactive program “How international is your word?”, published by J.H. Derks on the site www.esp-evoluo.org, tries to make up for this omission by offering nine quantitative definitions which can be presented in a table with two entries. The first entry allows you to choose between three methods, i. e., counting the number of languages which adopted the word concerned, adding the numbers of native speakers or adding the “virtual academic values” of the languages concerned which entails accepting a Rawlsian definition of language value. The second entry allows you to choose an input base for the statistical calculation needed to compute the “degree of internationality” either starting from the “fifteenth rule” in the Esperanto grammar or from 28 European languages or from 51 languages in the world all over.

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