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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

454               The Loom oj Language
for the needs of international scholarship, the needs of international trade
and internationally oiganized labour became tenfold more clamoious
Humanitarian sentiment reinforced more material considerations
The inventor of Volapuk, and many of its aident advocates, regarded
linguistic differences as fuel for warmongers and hoped that an inter-
lingua would help to seal the bonds of brotherhood between nations
In fifty odd ephemeral auxiliaries which cropped up during the second
half of the nineteenth century, several common features emerge With
few exceptions each was a one-nian show, and few of the showmen were
sufficiently equipped for the task With one exception they were
Continental Europeans bemused by the idiosyncrasies of highly inflected
languages such as German, Russian, or one of the offshoots of Latin.
Each of them created a language in his own image They did not look
beyond the boundaries of Europe If the inventor was a Frenchman the
product must needs have a subjunctive; and when the Parisian votaries
of Volapuk objected to Schleyer's a, 0, and u, their Teutonic brothers
in arms took up the defence with a zeal befitting the custody of the
Holy Grail of the Nordic Soul
The nineteenth-century pioneers of language-planning did not
appreciate the fact that China's four hundred millions contrive to live
and die without the consolation of case, tense, and mood distinction,
indeed without any derivative apparatus at all Why they ignored
Chinese and new hybrid vernaculars such as Beach-la-Mar> Creole
Ftenck, and Chinook^ etc, is easy to understand What still amazes us
is that they could not profit by the extreme flexional simplicity of
English, with its luxuriant literature, outstanding contributions to
science, and world-wide imperial status They had little or no know-
ledge of the past, and were therefore unable to derive any benefit
from research into the evolution of speech Almost alone, Gnmm saw
what lessons history has to teach A few years before his death, Grimm
recanted his traditional loyalty to the flexional vagaries of the older
European languages, and laid down the essential prerequisites of
intelligent language-planning. The creation of a world-auxiliary is not
a task for peremptory decisions:
there K only one way out to study the path which the human mind has
followed in the development of languages But in the evolution of all civilized
languages fortuitous interference from outside and unwarranted arbitrariness
have played such a large part that the utmost such a study can achieve is
to show up the danger-rocks which have to be avoided
Wise words 1