International Auxiliary Culture

We have established the feasibility of a new approach to the IAL problem, but what about the cultural barriers that hinder different peoples from wishing to communicate at all? These barriers are familiar enough: prejudice of belief, race and nationality, exacerbated by linguistic difference. An IAL must take them into account.

We may suppose that these barriers are disappearing in the modern world, but if so that is a fairly recent event: historically speaking, international contacts that progressed as far as the initial "jargon" stage of the JPVP have been the exception rather than the rule; the usual pattern has seen the stronger culture and its language supplanting the weaker: the sword has spoken and no common language has been required.

Even religion was often promoted through war of course, though under the Qur'an this was only permitted in self-defence. But whether through military defeat or peaceable submission many tribes and peoples were co-opted under the banner of Christianity or Islam in the West, as in former times under Hinduism or Buddhism in the East. And given the primacy of religious belief in all aspects of life the result was a common mother-tongue, such as Latin or Arabic, rather than a common auxiliary language.

But language is always dependent upon culture, so when supranational religious cultures eventually weakened through strife and division their common tongues began to divide also. And however much bolstered by kingship and courtly tradition, and by law and constitution, not even external enemies could maintain internal unity after the common belief had sundered. The disintegration witnessed within the Hindu and Buddhist empires of the East later visited Rome and saw Latin split into regional vernaculars, expressing a like return to mundane attachment.

The same process is now visible within an Islam long weakened by theological splits and consequent political divisions, with Arabic having frayed at its margins into mutually-incomprehensible vernaculars. And since the zenith of the British Empire in the mid 20th Century the English language has been invaded by other tongues, even in its heartlands, and seems to be gradually disintegrating into "World Englishes" - even as the former metaculture of vibrant but unstated Christianity has lost much of its power.

At some point the realisation that violence and enforced tribute tended to provoke continual rebellion caused a shift towards persuasion through educational systems and trade. Indeed, this new modus operandi has allowed nations to co-exist peacefully and establish long-term contacts - even to the extent of sharing the beginnings of the auxiliary languages we now call pidgins. These historic localised IALs were developed in an ad hoc way for the purpose of evangelism as well as for trade; they did not develop wholly spontaneously, but to a large extent were actually taught, using linguistic elements which had proved successful elsewhere.

In this way the focus in international contact changed from an imposition of what was largely influenced and coloured by the originating culture to the establishment of a common understanding as a basis for dialogue and progress. Moreover, the "pidgin" model of "auxiliary language and culture between autonomies" remains a favoured model, especially since the world has continued to see so many negative counter-examples of one dominant culture suppressing all others. And what applies to collectives applies as much to the individuals of which the collectives are formed: a realisation which prompted Zamenhof to promote "Homaranismo".

Today we might tend to dismiss Homaranismo as "political correctness", but in the absence of general global agreement on religion, morality, politics and law, not to mention a host of supplementary issues, an absence of prejudice, however limited in scope as a concept, at least provides a platform for further progress. And the process needs to start from this kind of limited base because the prerequisites for a more sophisticated IAL are still largely absent; they may be found in some of the more socially and politically advanced countries but far from universally even there. Moreover, an IAL at this stage of history, when the world is already striving for unity in so many other ways, should begin from a simple enough level to be truly global; otherwise it would merely reproduce the linguistic division that already exists - an exercise which would seem to be more trouble than it is worth. And even sustaining a global pidgin with wide phoneme segments and the simplest rules should be regarded as a major achievement in itself, given that large bodies of opinion continue to manifest attitudes inimical to the IAL concept, whether called racial, political, class or religious prejudice, aggressive nationalism, or any other blight by which the basis of humanity and consequently of a global common language is vitiated.

Indeed, such are the hurdles to be overcome that the LangX timeline estimates a full century before a common external legal basis and set of "politically correct" principles might be sufficiently established to permit an external wholly-auxiliary "global pidgin" IAL to become "internalised", i.e. vernacularised into a mother-tongue. Progress which has taken place in the more democratic and enlightened countries under an internationalising legal standard portends this possibility.

Another way of looking at this is that the "internal" belief systems of the world - the very phenomena which determine or influence the characteristic modes of thought that exist, and consequently the grammars of languages, are in a state of disharmony. However, changing the hearts of humanity so as to end up with a common set of metaphysical beliefs would seem to be a formidable undertaking, perhaps not achievable within several centuries. Conversely, all the agencies of reason and science support the concept of a common set of legal standards and "politically correct" principles, so an "external" "wholly auxiliary" IAL based on these "external" beliefs should be much easier to implement.

Not only that, but such a "global pidgin" would - according to all the historic precedent - tend to vernacularise, exactly in concert with a gradual merging and harmonisation of ideological and religious beliefs. A parallel might be found in the cognitive transition from pre-concrete to concrete consciousness within the individual, to use Piaget's terminology. And just as Piaget started his cognitive stages at the very beginning with the babbling infant, LangX begins with the speech sounds and words that inaugurated linguistic development in every one of us.

It is perhaps worth repeating for emphasis that a "vertical" hierarchy of class languages (as exemplified to a limited degree by sociolects within existing languages) would be just as invidious to the unity of humanity - and therefore to the IAL concept itself - as the present "horizontal" pattern of geographically-dispersed languages. It is one thing to create an IAL amenable to the use of nationalities around the world, as regards phonology, syntax, prosody etc., but quite another to provide a language for the well-educated Úlite as well as for the body of non-linguists. An initiative on the JPVP model would have the capacity to pursue these two goals simultanously (as outlined on the LangX page).

A further consideration would return more explicitly to the theme that there is no language without a culture. Ergo, even though a new constructed IAL might be written down before it were spoken - a reversal of the usual order among existing languages - it would still be influenced by the culture of the people speaking it, and therefore by the source of that culture (assuming of course that the language were successful). But one can be certain that the source of the language would eventually be rejected if it represented a part rather than the whole of humanity, e.g. Asia rather than Europe, or vice versa, educated linguists rather than the mass of humanity, or vice versa, and so on. Any new constructed language without this level of impartiality would contain the inherent prejudices of existing national languages, but without their considerable natural advantages in terms of currency and user-base. Moreover, it would be impossible for a single author to create a new language without making it subject to his or her prejudices and limitations. This is why the only practicable approach is a representative International Auxiliary Language Committee (IALC) acting in consultation with all interested parties. The current LangX IALC featured on the homepage is an attempt in this direction, subject to ratification or partial/total replacement in the future.

To conclude, then, it would seems most advisable to begin an IAL project at the very beginning with the relative similarities of speech sounds and words when compared with the differences of grammars. After all, the primary object must be to foster a culture of international communication: in the absence of which no IAL could thrive anyway. Various related extra-linguistic barriers to communication across the whole of humanity, including racial, political, class or religious prejudice and aggressive nationalism, should therefore be addressed. And there should be no upper or lower limits, any more than there should be geographical limits: a culture of inclusivity, within what is right and proper, should be the sine qua non of the IAL.

For instance, the initial LangX sound system might be divided into 5 vowels and about 20 consonants, but if someone should mispronounce [l] as [r], or [v] as [w], or [b] as [p], or vice versa, or any other symbol for that matter, it should never be cause for comment. A lowest common denominator phonology - easily mastered by everyone in the world - would be unfeasibly small at present (probably with consonant phonemes in single figures). "National" problems with the articulation of certain sounds should cease with the IAL being taught in schools, if not before.

Within the culture of a common humanity and fellow feeling, as confirmed by common sense, by arts and scientific disciplines, and by the world's major religions, lies a potentially world-embracing civilisation, which seems to be slowly forming along with the skein of international agencies. A common language, developing in tandem, would be integral to an advancing global culture.

Much useful work has been done already, even outside the IAL field. For instance, UNESCO is concerned with global culture and language, and UNGEGN is creating a unified system of geographical names. The cultural aspects of the IAL would also be of interest to the Inter-Parliamentary Union or whichever official body were eventually mandated to make a decision re the IAL.

While recognising the importance of these agencies, LangX has no connection or affiliation with any organisation, religious belief or scientific philosophy. A large part of its appeal is to individual experience. Completed jargon -> pidgin -> vernacular progressions (JPVPs) express aggregate individual lingusitic development. As explained elsewhere in this site, the success of the JPVPs on the historic micro-scale invites a new start for a global IAL at the very beginnings of global culture (at the "jargon to pidgin" level) - an approach that previous IAL attempts seem to have neglected.

 

Homepage                         Next