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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

Pioneers of Language Planning          453
pictographic symbols for about a quarter of a million pure substances
now known
The efforts of the catalinguists were nQt stillborn They continued to
stimulate other speculations for fully a century Diderot and D'Alem-
bert, joint editors of the French Encyclopedic^ allotted an article to the
same theme The author was no less a personage than Faiguet, Trea-
surer of France Its title was Nouvelle Langue (1765) Though merely a
sketch, it anticipated and outdistanced proposals of more than a hun-
dred years later Like his forerunners in England, Faiguet recognized
the wasteful and irrational features common to Western European
languages, and had enough historical knowledge to notice the analytical
drift in the history of his mother tongue The outcome was a highly
regularized skeleton of grammar for a universal a posteriori language,
i e one which shares features common to, and draws on, the resources
of existing languages In contrast to Faiguet's mother tongue, the New
Language had no article and no gender-concord The adjective was to
be invariant, as in English, or, as the designer says, a sort of adverb
Case-distinction, which has disappeared in nouns of French and other
Romance languages, made way for free use of prepositions
In all this Faiguet had a far better understanding of what is and what
is not relevant than the inventor of Esperanto with its dead ballast of a
separate object case (p 463) and its adjectival plural Perhaps because
his own language gave him little guidance, Faiguet made no very
radical suggestions for simplifying the verb system It was to consist of
a single regular conjugation without personal flexions This cleansing of
Augean stables was offset by the terminals -a for the present, -u for
the future, -e for the imperfect, -* for the perfect, and -o for the
pluperfect In addition there were three different infinitive forms
(present, past, future), and a subjunctive which was indicated by an
-r added to the indicative Still, it was not a bad attempt for its time
Perhaps Faiguet would have used the axe more energetically if he had
been inspired by the needs of humanity at large Like his predecessors
he was chiefly at pains to provide "the learned academies of Europe"
with a new means of communication
Faiguet did not compile a vocabulary, and none of his contemporaries
took up the task Alertness to the waste and inconvenience of language
confusion was still confined to the scholarly few It did not become
acute and widespread nil steam-power revolutionized transport, and the
ocean cable annihilated distance Language-planning received a new
impulse in a contracting planet Where the single aim had been to cater