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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

Pioneers of Language Planning           449
by forty signs, consisting of circles and dots for particles, and hooks,
loops, etc, for terminals For the tune, this was thrifty Where the
dictionary form of an English verb such as fear has only three deriva-
tive forms (fears, feared, fearing), a single Greek verb may appear in
over two hundred, and a Latin one in over one hundred costumes The
forty grammatical categones of all sorts in the Philosophical Language
are a sufficient indictment of the irregularities, anomalies, and super-
fluities of the two classical languages
Though less interested in mere talk, Wilkins had the ambition to
make his language audible To do this he apes Dalgarno's plan, in his
own way Each of his forty classes or genera has a simple sound-com-
bination consisting of an open syllable of the Japanese sort The fifth
major class (God) is labelled by the "root" Da, the thirteenth (shrub)
by Gi, the thirty-mnth (naval) by So, and the last (ecclesiastical') by Sy
Subdivisions follow the same plan To form those of the first order we
have to add a consonant to the root Thus we get words such as Bab,
Bad, Bag, etc If you want to understand what is hitting your eardrum,
you must therefore be aufait with the whole classificatory set-up You
may then have no difficulty in diagnosing De as "elementary," Det as
"meteor,," and Deta as "halo "
To attack the Bishop's project ID the light of our incomparably
greater scientific and linguistic knowledge would be equally fatuous
and unchivalrous The great defect of it is not that it imposes on the
memory the almost superhuman burden of the Chinese characters
That would be bad enough Its greater weakness is at the base, the
catalogue of human knowledge A Dalgarno or a Wilkins can construct
such a catalogue only in the light of information available to his own
contemporaries Thereafter any addition to knowledge, a single dis-
covery, a fresh interpretation, calls for a complete overhaul of the
catalogue. The reference symbols of "each thing and notion" specified
after the item added to it would call for revision Had Wilkins's plan
come into use among scientific men, science would have been fossilized
at the level it had reached in 1650, as Chinese culture was petrified in
a logographic script several thousand years before Wilkins wrote.
With all his awareness of what is "improper and preternatural" in
Latin, Wilkins failed to apply to its grammatical categones the test of
functional relevance So he never grasped the simplest grammatical
essentials of effective communication His continental contemporary
Leibniz, famous for introducing the modern symbolism of the infini-
tesimal calculus, did so. Leibniz knew something of Dalgarman as well