International Auxiliary Languages and Wikipedia

by Alexis Ulrich

International Auxiliary Languages have found on Wikipedia a new space to expand their reach and keep proving their practicality and usefulness since the apparition of the encyclopedia in January 2001. If Esperanto and Volapük are the most used IAL, Ido, Interlingua, Interlingue, and Novial are also present in the picture. Let’s see their publication rate over the years to get a better feeling of their progression.


One of the most renowned international auxiliary language, Esperanto has been created in the early 1880s by Dr. Ludwik Łazarz Zamenhof as a bridge to create more harmony between people from different countries.
It predates the other languages covered by this article data by nearly one year with the first thousand articles published on Wikipedia in Esperanto in April 2002. The progression of Esperanto was quite slow at the beginning, reaching 30,000 articles in January 2006, but the effort gained strength as in one year, their number doubled. However, since January 2007, the progression remains slow albeit regular, with 100,000 articles in January 2008, and 200,000 in January 2014.
Even if we try to focus on the progression in official number of articles here, the scale factor is really impressive for Esperanto. For comparison sake, the Danish language counted about 212,000 articles on Wikipedia in November 2015, with 5.5 million speakers.


Volapük dates from 1880 like Esperanto. It has been devised by the German Roman Catholic priest Johann Martin Schleyer. While it gained a huge popularity with one million adherents claimed in 1889, it has been phased out by Esperanto later on.
With a late entrance on Wikipedia in December 2006 with its first thousand articles, hence about four year and a half after Esperanto, Volapük had already exceeded 111,000 articles in September 2007. More spectacularly, its number of articles was multiplied by 22 in only five months, between May and September 2007. Nevertheless, the progression nearly halted then with “only” nine thousand new articles published in eight years.
Volapük presence on Wikipedia is on par with Greek with its 112,000 articles in November 2015 for a speaking population of 14 million people.


Created in 1907, Ido is a reformed version of Esperanto, with a more regular grammar, orthography and lexicography. Promoted by the French mathematician Louis Couturat, it gained some popularity but declined sharply after the death of its inventor before World War I.
The first two hundred Ido articles were published on Wikipedia in July 2004. While 2,000 articles were already published in January 2005, the publication rate got stronger that year, especially in September, as the 10,000 articles threshold was attained in early October. Since then, the progression slowed down but kept its pace, with 20,000 articles in August 2010 and nearly 27,000 in November 2015.
In number of articles, Ido compares with Sicilian with its 25,500 articles in November 2015 and its 4.7 million speakers.


Interlingua is a naturalistic International Auxiliary Language, an auxlang derived from natural languages, mostly Romance ones, which makes it easier to understand for their speakers. It has been developed between 1937 and 1951.
With its first hundred articles published on Wikipedia in February 2003, the Interlingua corpus grew quite steadily until August 2011 with its 5,600th article, then reached 13,300 articles in January 2012 with a medium publication rate of 1,500 articles per month. Since then, the publication rate became nearly flat with about a hundred new articles published every five months.
Interlingua has a Wikipedia presence similar to Egyptian Arabic with its 14,500 articles in November 2015 and its 55 million speakers.


Created in 1922 by the naval officer and teacher Edgar de Wahl, the planned international auxiliary language Occidental was very popular in Europe before World War II. It later changed its name to Interlingue and was finally outrivalled by Interlingua.
Its first ten articles appeared in September 2004 on Wikipedia, and there were already 120 one month later. The thousand threshold was broken in June 2008 with 1,080 articles, the two-thousand one in January 2013 (2,020 articles), and 3,030 articles were published on June 2015.
If Interlingue was a natural language on Wikipedia, it would be Friulian with its 3,290 articles in November 2015 for 300,000 speakers.


Invented in 1928 by the Danish linguist Otto Jespersen, a former supporter of Ido, Novial is based on the Germanic and Romance languages and its grammar on English. It did not take momentum and mostly disappeared after Jespersen’s death in 1943.
Fifty Novial articles appeared on Wikipedia in January 2006. There were 990 in February 2007 and 1,370 two years later. The progression slowed down to ten new article every few months interrupted with periods of up to 10 months with no addition.
Novial has roughly the same footprint on Wikipedia as the Tuvan language from Siberia with its 283,000 speakers.

Data source: Wikipedia
Number of speakers from Ethnologue