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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"



OUR last chapter was about the diseases of natural languages. This one
is about the pathology of artificial languages To many people the last
two words, like interlanguage or world-auxiliary> are terms synonymous
with Esperanto In reality Esperanto is only one among several hundred
languages which have been constructed during the past three hundred
years; and many people who are in favour of a world-auxiliary would
prefer to choose one of the languages which a large proportion of the
world's literate population already use The merits of such views will
come up for discussion at a later stage.
Language-planning started during the latter half of the seventeenth
century. The pioneers were Scottish and English scholars Several
circumstances combined to awaken interest in the problem of inter-
national commurucanon at this ume. One was the decline of Latin as
a medium of scholarship For more than a thousand years Latin
made learned Europeans a single fraternity After the Reformation, the
nse of nationalism encouraged the use of vernaculars. In Italy, which
had the first modern scientific academy, Galileo set a new fashion by
publishing some of his discoveries in his native tongue. The scientific
academies of England and France followed his example From its
beginning in 1662, the Royal Society adopted English. According to
Sprat, the first historian of the Society, its statutes demanded from its
members a close* naked, natural way of speaking * . . preferring the
language of the artisans, countrymen, and merchants before that of mis
and scholars About thirty years later the Pans Academic des Sciences
followed the example of its English counterpart by substituting French
for Latin
The eclipse of Latin meant that there was no single vehicle of cul-
tural intercourse between the learned academies of Europe Another
contemporaneous arcurnstance helped to make European scholars
language-conscious. Since the sixteenth-century Swiss naturalist,
Conrad Gessner, had collected samples of the Lord's Prayer in twenty-
two different tongues, an ever-increasing variety of information about
strange languages and stranger scripts accompanied miscellanies of
new herbs, new beasts, and new drugs with cargoes coming back from