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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

Language Planning for a New Order     507
A universal alphabet of five vowels and of eight or nine consonants
would allow for between 1,500 and 2,000 pronounceable roots made
up of open syllables like the syllables of Japanese, Bantu, and Poly-
nesian words Supplemented with forty-five monosyllables and a
limited number of trisyllables, this would supply enough variety for a
maximum vocabulary of sufficient size. The word material of a lang-
uage constructed in accordance with this principle would be univer-
sally, or well-nigh universally, pronounceable and recognizable without
special training of ear or tongue It would offer none of the difficulties
with which the French nasal vowels, the English th and ; sounds, or
the German and Scots ch confront the beginner Against these ad-
mitted merits we have to weigh the fact that a language so designed
from whole cloth would perpetuate one of the greatest of all obstacles
to learning a new language The beginner would have to wrestle with
the total unfamihanty of its word material. Each item of the vocabulary
would be a fresh load with no mnemonic associations to give it buoyancy
Grammar and memorization of the word-list are the two main
difficulties of learning a new language, and the only way of reducing
the second to negligible dimensions is to make each word the focus of
a duster of familiar associations like the root tel common to telegraph,
telescope, telepathy. We have seen that scientific discovery is solving
this problem for mankind by distributing an international vocabulary
of roots derived from Latin and Greek Anything we can do to simplify
the phonetic structure of a satisfactory Interlanguage has to get done
within that framework The framework itself is exacting because Aryan
languages in general are rich in variety of simple consonants and of
consonantal combinations—Greek more than most Thus the greatest
concession we can make to the phonetic ideal is to weigh the claims of
equivalent Latin and Greek roots, with due regard to ease of pro-
nunciation and recognition, when both enjoy international currency
While it would be foolish to deny the difficulties of achieving a
universal standard of pronunciation for an Interlanguage based on
Latin-Greek word material, and therefore on sounds and combinations
of sounds alien to the speech habits of Africa and the Far East, it is
possible to exaggerate this disability. People who indulge in the witless
luxury of laughing at the foreigner who says sleep instead of slip con-
done equally striking differences between the vowel values of London
and Lancashire, Aberdeen (Scotland) and Aberdeen (South Dakota).
Although obliteration of the distinction between the p> *, ft,/, and the
by dsg, v series makes homophones of such couplets as pup—pub, write—