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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

Introduction                          17
nigh inexhaustible supply of inflammable material which warmongers
can use for their own evil ends Some knowledge about the languages
people speak is therefore one prerequisite of keeping the world's peace
Keeping the world's peace is everybody's proper business, but keeping
the world's peace is not the only reason why study of languages concerns
all of us as citizens. Linguistic differences lead to a vast leakage of
intellectual energy which might be enlisted to make the potential
plenty of modern science available to all mankind
Human beings are unique in two ways Man is a tool-bearing animal
and a talkative animal In the pursuit of their tool-bearing activities,
men and women have learned to co-operate on a planetary scale; but
such co-operation is perpetually thwarted by local limitations of their
speech habits What is> characteristic of the intellectual achievements of
mankind in the age of hydro-electricity., magnesium-aluminium alloys,
broadcasting, aviation, synthetic plastics, and chemotherapy is a com-
mon possession of all nations which encourage scientific research, but
nations have no common idiom through winch workers by brain or
hand can communicate results of research or collaborate in applying
them to human welfare Modern technology is a supcrnational culture
which ministers to the common needs of human beings, while language
limps behind the human endeavour to satisfy needs which aU human
beings share.
To canalire the interest of intelligent men and women into the
constructive task of devising or of adopting an auxiliary medium to
supplement existing national languages is therefore one of the foremost
needs of our time This concerns us all, and it calk for a lively
knowledge of the limitations imposed on languages by the laws of
their growth It will therefoie be one of the tasks of The Loom of Lan-
guage to trace the history of the languages in which the technical
resources of our age have been recorded. It will not be a record of
deliberate and intelligent prevision It is partly a story of confusion
resulting from a continuous record of slovenliness and of obstinate
complacency towards the mistakes of our grand-parents. It is also a
story of ancestor-worship, and of makeshifts to conserve die ineptitudes
of a supposedly heroic past It affects us more intimately than the
fate of the Dinosaurs* It unearths remains not less dramatic than the
jaw-bone of the ape-man of Java, It points the way down dim paths of
prehistory from which we return with imagination fired by a vista of
future possibilities.
This does not mean that The Loom of Language is first and foremost