Considerable ignorance seems to exist as to the extent to which Babel actually prevails.
There are approximately 1,500 languages at present spoken (differing as much as, say French, Spanish and Italian) by approximately 1,800 million people. Only 29 are spoken by more than 10 millions ; of these, seven account for half the total population. The seven according to a recent French estimate are :1 --
----- 1 . The 2002 New York Times Almanac numbers are:
Though approximately one person in three throughout the entire globe speaks English or is under English administration, probably less than one Englishman in a thousand could guess more than half the languages at the top of the list (i.e., those spoken by over ten million people). Of one-third he would be unlikely even to recognize the names.
It is worth noting that in Europe only 120 of the 1,500 languages are represented ; and though twelve of these are in the first twenty-nine, less than forty are spoken by more than a million people.
. . . (more) p 42 - 140
----- 1 . List of Nations with English 2. The British Empire and the United States together are given a total of 540 millions, apart from foreigners who speak English. But English appears as the ' mother tongue ' of only 170 millions.
3. The population of China is 430 millions. ' Chinese ' is given as the ' mother tongue ' of 400 millions -- but there are no figures to show ow far these can understand one another, or how far understanding is base on the spoken or the written word.
4.The Spanish Ambassador, however, gave the Spanish total as 80 millions (March, 1931). See p. 114 infra. 5. See, for example, Karigren, Sound and Symbol in Chinese (1923), where China's population is estimated at between 300 and 400 millions, with the remark (p. 5) that "the rough estimates of recent years have given very different results".
6. See, for example, J. C. Fernald, Historic English (New York, 1921), pp. 286-7.
A CURRENT LEGEND
THE CLAIM OF CHINESE
THE CASE FOR ENGLISH
. . .
Professor R. G. Kent thus summarized the ideas put forward a the English Language Congress in Philadelphia, held under the auspices of the Sequi-Centennial Exhibition :--
" That the language used as the International Auxiliary Language must be devoid of emotional connotations, and
devote itself to the denotations only ; that the greatest obstacle to the use of English as to the use of English
as the IAL was the lack of regular relation between the pronunciation and the spelling ; that if this were remedied by the
adoption of a simplified or phonetic spelling, English was well qualified to be the IAL by the internationality of its
vocabulary and the the extreme simplicity of its grammatical structure, as well as by the wide use which it already has ;
that a simplified spelling will come as soon as it can be shown to the businessman that its use is financial advantageous ;
that English is already the international language of the Pacific ; but that a language devoid of connotations is
psychologically almost impossible, and only extensive employment in international business will establish an IAL, whatever language it may eventually be". -60-
In estimating the value for Basic as a solution it is always desirable to bear in mine the needs of the
smaller countries of the world. Their disadvantages have never been more clearly summarized than by Mr. H.G. Wells in the
following passage which is to be found in his Anticipations :-- " The native of a small country who knows no other language than the tongue of his county becomes increasingly at a disadvantage in comparison with the user of any of the great languages of the Europeanized world. For his literature he depends on the scanty writers who are, in his own case and write, or have written, in his own tongue. Necessarily they are few because necessarily with a small public there can be only small subsistence for a few. For his science he is in a worse case. His country can produce neither teachers nor discoverers to compare with the numbers
of such workers in the larger areas, and it will neither pay them to write original matter for his instruction nor to translate what has been written in other tongues. In the matter of current intelligence the case of the speaker of the
small language is still worse. His newspaper will need to be cheaply served, his -61-
home intelligence will be cut and restricted, his foreign news belated and second hand. Moreover, to travel even a little distance, or to conduct anything but the smallest business enterprise will be exceptionally inconvenient to him. The
Englishman who knows no language but his own may travel well nigh all over the world and everywhere meet someone who can speak his tongue. But what of the Welsh-speaking Welshman ? What of the Basque and the Lithuanian who can speak only his mother tongue ? Everywhere such a man is a foreigner, and with all the foreigner's disadvantages. In most places he is for all practical purposes deaf and dumb. The inducements to an Englishman, Frenchman or German to become bilingual are great enough nowadays, but the inducements to a speaker of the smaller languages are rapidly approaching compulsion. He must do it in self-defense. To be an educated man in his own vernacular has become an impossibility. He must either become a mental subject of one of the greater languages or sink to the intellectual status of a peasant".
It is not surprising that so practical a prophet regards the emergence of a simplified form of English as inevitable. In a characteristic passage dealing with -62-
the Council of the World Republic of the future, he remarks that it was not until the end of the first year of their
administration, and then only with extreme reluctance, that they would take up the manifest need for a linguafranca for the world :--
" They seem to have given little attention tot he various theoretical universal languages
whichwre proposed to them. They wished to give as little trouble to hasty and simple people as possible, and the world-wide distribution of English gave them a bias for it from the beginning. The extreme simplicity of its grammar was also in its favor".
He proceeds to outline the changes which he regards as probable :--
" It was not without some sacrifices that the English-speaking peoples were permitted the satisfaction of hearing their speech used universally. The language was shorn of a number of grammatical peculiarities. The distinctive forms for the subjective mood, for example, and most of its irregular plurals were abolished ; its spelling was systematized and adapted to the vowel sounds in use upon the Continent of Europe, and a
process of incorporating foreign nouns and verbs commenced that speedily reached enormous proportions. . . . A man of 1900 would h ave found considerable difficulty in reading an ordinary newspaper. On the other hand, the men of the time could still appreciate the older English literature".
2 . RADIO, CINEMA, AND THE TELEPHONE - - page 71
So far we have considered the question of Debabelization only as it presents itself to the publicists, the linguist, and the statistician. But the past ten years have introduced a new voice into all discussions of the international future. It is the business of the Inter-linguist to bring it home to the world that the electrical engineer has to-day brought the World into the home. International Radio, international Cinema, and international telephone -- these are to be the decisive factors in this coming century.
3 . NATIONAL PRIDE - - page 107
The objection that many Frenchmen and Indians would not be in favour of the adoption of any form of English as an auxiliary language, is not more serious than the objection that many diplomats and military men are not in favour of peace -- as an argument against international arbitration.
Another war may be necessary to persuade many Europeans that nationalism can only lead to a further outbreak of hostilities. . . .
In the case of China or Japan, . . .