The UTL language


The Universal Translation Language is an artificial language intended to express any kind of linguistic content in an unambiguous and computer-tractable way. Using this language in combination with the corresponding translation software would make it possible for users to write in languages they don't know.

UTL is based on Esperanto, a language which due to its simple and regular grammar is quite friendly to automated analysis and machine translation. In fact, UTL can be described as variant of Esperanto where a few modifications have been introduced to optimize its performance in this regard.

There are plenty of books and webpages about the Esperanto language. Here we will comment just on some of the differences UTL features with regard to Esperanto.

UTL: an expanded Esperanto

Perhaps the main difference between Eo and UTL languages is the latter's possibility of using words imported from other languages. This means the user can introduce words from his or any other language, as long as it has been implemented in the translation software. These words must be followed by its corresponding Esperanto-UTL grammatical ending (with hyphen), like "explanation" in the following sentence:

    "Via explanation-o klarigis niajn dubojn."

The ability to import any open-class word from any language implemented makes it possible that any language's vocabulary (including specialized terminology) can be adapted into and used within UTL. The "importing" function is a specially handy feature for beginners, but it should be used with care: homonymic words should be avoided.

Besides the importing feature, the differences between UTL and Esperanto have to do with removing ambiguity in some functional words (prepositions, determiners, etc.) and in some syntactic structures. Here are a few of those as a sample:

>>> Both interrogative and relative words share in Esperanto a common form: kiu, kio, kial, kie, kiam... In UTL they must be distinguished in some manner. The solution adopted has been to write relative forms with "j" instead of "i": kju, kjo, kjal, kje, kjam...

Example: Ili demandis al mi kiu estis la filmo kjun mi plej shatis.

>>> In Esperanto, like in many other languages, the adjunction of prepositional phrases can be ambiguous sometimes. Let's consider the two following sentences:

(1.) Ni diskutis vian planon por eskapi.

(2.) Ni diskutis vian planon por plibonigi gxin.

In the first sentence, "por eskapi" is a complement of the noun "planon", whereas in the second sentence, "por plibonigi gxin" is a complement of the verb "diskutis".

In order to avoid ambiguous analysis, in UTL every prepositional complement of a noun must be introduced by preposition "de". This rule applied to sentence (1.) renders:

"Ni diskutis vian planon de por eskapi."

>>> An atypical case of homonyms in Esperanto is present at the "kiu, tiu, chiu, etc." forms, which can be applied either to people ("who...") or to one element in a group ("which one..."). In UTL, to avoid this confusion, a new row has been added to the table of correlatives, using the suffix -ulo: kiulo, kjulo, tiulo, neniulo, etc.

A few other differences have been introduced in the language in order to avoid ambiguities. Some of them have been inspired by those proposed in other projects (e.g. DLT). In general, the new elements have been based on Esperanto's own linguistic resources, in order not to depart from traditional Esperanto more than strictly necessary.

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(c) Marcos Franco, 2003