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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

450                The Loom oj Language
as Wilkinsian, and rejected both of them for not being "philosophical"
enough Since the age of nineteen he had dreamed of a language which
was to be "an algebra of thought" in the service of science and philo-
sophy He had little concern for its value as a medium of international
communication His own efforts to collect all existing notions, analyse
them, reduce them to simple elements, and arrange them in a logical
and coherent system is of no interest to people who hve in the twentieth
century It was another wild-goose chase What is more significant to
our time are the conclusions he reached When he took up the task of
providing his dictionary or conceptual catalogue with a grammar, he
broke new ground
Unfortunately he never put his views into book form They remained
unnoticed by all his successois with the exception ofPeano> a twentieth-
century mathematical logician who also invented Interhngua What puts
Leibniz far in advance of his time is that he recognized the scientific
babis of intelligent language-planning What the inventors of Volapuk
and the Esperantists never grasped, Leibniz saw with Leibmzian
luadity The factual foundations of language-planning must be rooted
in comparative analysis of natural languages, living and dead From the
data such analysis supplies we can learn why some languages are more
easy to master than others The versatile linguistic equipment of Leibniz
supported him well in the task He could learn lessons from the lingua
franco,) a jargon spoken by sailors and street urchins of the Mediter-
ranean ports, and he had an experimental guinea-pig to hand The
guinea-pig was Latin
As Leibniz himself says, the most difficult task for the student of a
foreign language is to memorize gender, declension, and conjugation
So gender-distinction goes overboard because "it does not belong to
rational grammar " Besides getting nd of gender, Leibniz advocates
other reforms Conjugation can be simplified Personal flexion is a
redundant device, because person is indicated by the accompanying
subject In all this Leibniz says nothing to startle the readers of the
Loom* though he is way in fiont of Esperanto He shoots ahead of
many of our own contemporaries—Peano apart—when he discusses the
number-flexion of the noun What he intended to substitute we do not
know, most probably equivalents to some, several,, all, etc Unlike the
Esperantist adjective, which continues to execute the archaic antics of
concord, that of Leibniz, like that of English, surrenders a battery of
meaningless terminals which accompany a Bantu tribal chant to the
corresponding noun