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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

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IN the remaining chapters of the Loom we are going to look at language
as a man-made instrument which men and women may sharpen and
redesign for human ends Before we can take an intelligent interest in
the technique of language-planning for a society which has removed
the causes of war, it is helpful to recognize the defects and merits
inherent in languages which people now use or have used in the past.
The aim of this chapter is to give relevant information about some
languages which have been mentioned in passing elsewhere, and about
others which have been left out in the cold
In their relation to the progress of human knowledge we may divide
languages into two groups. In one we may put those which have a
written record of human achievement extending back over hundreds,
if not thousands, of years To the other belong those with no rich or
time-honoured secular literature which could be described as indi-
genous The first includes representatives of the Hamitic, Semitic and
Aryan families, Chinese and Japanese The latter is made up of the
Bantu languages, the Amerindian dialects, and members of the Malayo-
Polynesian group Though many of them are by now equipped with
scripts through the efforts of Buddhist, Moslem, and Christian mis-
sionaries, such literature as they possess is largely sacred and derivative
Till quite recently the same remark could have been made with more
or less justice about Finno-Ugrian* Turhshs Mongolian, Caucasian,
and Basque After the Revolution of 1917 the educational policy of the
Soviet Union made script a vehicle for secular knowledge among
Mongols, Mordvmians, Turco-Tartars, Caucasians, and other non-
Aryan speech communities
The 2,000 million people on this globe speak approximately 1,500
different languages. Only about thirty of them are each spoken by
more than 10 millions The daily speech of nearly half of the world's
population belongs to the Indo-European family, within which its
Anglo-American representative takes first rank Anglo-American is
now the ffzctffor-language of over 200 millions, not to mention those
who habitually use it as a means of cultural collaboration or rely on it
for world communication If we add to the figure for Anglo-Amen-