LangX - The World Language Dilemma Resolved
The key to the provisional LangX timeline outlined in the table above:
[Column 1] - The register in the LangX Hierarchy, according to the size of its phonology.
[Column 2] - The number of consonants in each LangX Hierarchy register.
[Column 3] - The number of vowels in each LangX Hierarchy register.
[Column 4] - The mnemonic inauguration date for each register according to the number of vowels and consonants.
[Column 5] - The projected number of first language speakers of each LangX register.
[Column 6] - The projected number of second language speakers of each LangX register.
This illustrative timescale denotes a series of steps towards a single universal language via an IAL over a lengthy period - more than seven centuries. As can be seen, the graduated program is mnemonic: Lang25 = 20 (consonants) + 05 (vowels) = 2005 AD etc. One consonant and three vowels are formally added or incorporated for each subsequent phase, with the year of official introduction corresponding to the total. The table itself gives no more than a very partial outline of LangX, with no mention of grammar or extra speech elements.
The LangX timeline was always intended to be illustrative rather than prophetic. Should it happen to work as a developmental blueprint, all well and good; if not, it might easily be modified to conform with events on the ground.
Launched in 2001, the timeline is so far running according to plan (we are now in early 2008 and two co-workers have already expressed an interest in co-founding an ILC). First stop on the way was 2005, during which a provisional worldlist was inaugurated and Lang25 was introduced to the academic community via a talk at an international conference "Language and Global Communications" at Cardiff University in Wales. Lang25 signifies an initial restriction of about 20 consonants (about 3 below the global average among all languages) and 5 vowels - as used by Spanish, Japanese etc. (and similarly about 3 less than the global average).
A number of other "worldlangs" on similar lines to Lang25 (but absent the LangX concept of upper hierarchic levels) have been inaugurated in recent years. Among these there is a wide consensus for five vowels (a e i o u) and approx. 18 - 22 consonants. Since the authors of these worldlangs are also constructing vocabularies the formation of a core global wordlist - the next stage after the definition of speech sounds - is proceeding apace from different directions.
It may be that the number of consonants will start from the Creole average of 22, with two of the letters/phonemes being reserved for Lang29 and Lang33 words. However, there shouldn't be rules against introducing phonemes, words and grammar from a higher register. The only criterion for suitability should be the capacity of the audience or readership one is addressing.
A 27 phoneme complement would not only equate to the Creole average but might make full use of the English alphabet (with the apostrophe for the glottal stop) until a new international script were devised. A new script is desirable for reasons of international acceptability, and to correct the ergonomic and display deficiencies of English script
But meanwhile here is more about the LangX timeline:
2008 Formation of an International Language Committee (ILC), subject to ratification, modification or replacement at a later date. The ILC begins to form a provisional international core vocabulary, whether by selecting words from existing lists or introducing new words - all the words being from existing languages. The ILC also starts work on a very simple and straightforward initial grammar formulated according to scientific procedures.
2011 The ILC publishes the first official international core vocabulary, with online translation to and from most languages. It also publishes a prototype initial grammar for consultative purposes. (Part 8 of the Introduction and Lang25 - The Inaugural IAL in my former website addressed this issue.)
2015 The ILC publishes the first official grammar. LangX now enters into the "international pidgin" phase. The grammar is then fixed for a generation, 31 years say, until
2046 when modifications, if any, might be effected. It is essential to note that, at this time, LangX will still be in its "international pidgin" phase. Only a negligible minority will be using it as a mother tongue. Thus, any grammatical changes should not come from experience of LangX itself, but only from continuing scientific analysis of the most efficient constructions among existing languages. Even if large numbers of people claim LangX as their mother tongue, calls for revision to be based on their usage should be resisted. LangX must be fully established as the international second language everywhere, and not just in certain countries - a situation difficult if not impossible to achieve in less than three generations. Also, the JPVP precedent suggests that LangX should go through a definite wholly auxiliary "pidgin" phase, and it would be an error to jump out of it too soon.
One reason for caution is the well-known syndrome - not unknown in the constructed language movement - where the leadership comprehends the subject, but not so much the intellectual limitations of potential followers. Language is one thing that pertains to everyone, so "vanguardism" should be an important concern, and much of the reason why an International Language Committee should contain economists, social scientists, educationalists and media experts, as well as linguists. A proper collective solution - as LangX aspires to be - should therefore advance at the pace of the rearguard (not the stragglers with special needs). A median solution - pertaining to the average - only dispossesses the extremes. (A simple median solution never works in the human realm - let's imagine, for instance, a public transport policy based only on "average sized people"!) LangX will necessarily be quite rudimentary to begin with. For centuries to come the majority of "advanced" conversations will probably have to be in existing languages, whether classed as "traditional", "national", "modern", "newly constructed" etc..
Indeed, the LangX Project will depend upon the existence of other languages, and on all manner of linguistic and pedagogical research - the results of which are likely to affect its future course and timing. All linguistic phenomena, past or present, might be seen as "beta testing" speech sounds, words, grammatical constructions etc. for possible inclusion in LangX at some stage.
LangX should also proceed very slowly because the guardians of the established languages, which are intimately connected with venerable traditions, are never going to be convinced by argument alone. Only an internationalist cause with a long record of emphasising and allowing space for traditional loyalties will overcome the suspicion - highlighted in the Onelang vs Auxlang dialogue - that the constructed IAL alternative is part of a plot to seduce populations by means of a sinister agenda.
Moreover, the demands of linguistic unity would also mean that - assuming the LangX timescale be adopted - official publication or platform should refrain as far as possible from using words or grammatical constructions beyond the confines of Lang25 until 2108 (there are plenty of other, more complex, languages that could be used meanwhile). The reason for this limitation is simply that LangX must always be inclusive (within what is right and proper) - otherwise it can have no function as a universal language. Most of us use language to exclude as well as include, but let us employ our mother tongue - or another language - if we wish to exclude, and LangX so as to include all listeners. This means that everyone should respect, as a matter of good form and manners, the phonetic and structural limits of the Official IAL - Lang25 initially - when addressing a mass international audience or readership.
Lang25 would be the Official IAL until 2108, but that wouldn't mean that the process should stop there: behind the scenes the cumulative stages of LangX should be provisionally and unofficially developed, and used as much as possible - though only rolled out in stages (Lang29, Lang33 etc.) with the imprimatur Official IAL according to the ILC's perception that a state of relative perfection had been reached, commensurate with scientific measurement of the level of general linguistic attainment in every country.
An analogy might be seen in childhood language acquisition. The same person might babble pre-verbal speech sounds after a few months, utter simple non-recursive phonetically-restricted sentences a few years later, and then progress through prosaic matter-of-fact conversation to a more layered and allusive type of speech in mature adulthood. The same language is being spoken throughout, but progressively elaborated. It would be very exceptional for the child to use the language of the educated adult.
Similarly - and however politically incorrect to state it - certain "nationalities", sub-cultures and individuals are linguistically at the stage of small children (according to the above analogy) for no reason except that their language or dialect is phonetically or grammatically restricted, relatively speaking. Consequently a unified and united "Official IAL" will have to begin at their level, and develop with them as they grow "older".
Looking at the matter the other way: if we form a IAL for the "intellectual vanguard", or even for the "average user", the "linguistically challenged" are going to find themselves excluded. This is exactly what has happened with Esperanto and certain other prominent IALs.
Curiously, an elementary IAL wouldn't exclude anyone, since everyone (apart from the occasional cyborg, perhaps) has experienced childhood ("the child is father to the man"). Conversely, an "adult" language - and most especially one with the full potential of LangX - automatically excludes "linguistic children".
If we neglect this fundamental truth - that the united progression of a universal language must keep pace with "the masses" - then it might be difficult to obviate the possibility of a vertical hierarchy of class languages just as invidious as the current horizontal jigsaw of national languages. In this context, and by these means, the next adjustment of Lang25, if any, might take place after another 31 years in
2077 - which would be the final correction according to "external" scientific criteria alone. The following 31 years, in anticipation of the the publication of Lang29 in 2108, should see LangX begin to separate into two strata. Publicly, and in circumstances before mixed or general audiences, everyone should continue to use Lang25, and nothing but Lang25, but privately - with select audiences and readerships - those with an interest in the subject should consider and experiment with the provisional drafts of Lang29 that the ILC should begin to disseminate well in advance of 2108 for consultative purposes.
And, with a significant minority finally beginning to take up Lang25 as their mother tongue, LangX should - according to the JPVP precedent - begin the extended process of changing from a pure pidgin, or wholly auxiliary language, into a single universal language of unimaginable range and complexity. So from this point the ILC, while still giving most of its attention to developments in existing languages, and within scientific linguistics, pedagogy, psychology, media studies etc., should begin to take the private neologism and grammatical creativity of mother tongue LangX speakers into account. The incremental drafts of Lang29 should start to incorporate this trend.
2108 The International Language Committee publishes Lang29 - with an expanded phonology and vocabulary, and a slightly more complex and economical grammar (purely for illustrative purposes, I posted some suggestions towards Lang29 Grammar in my former website). As Lang29 saw the first signs of the "vernacularisation" of LangX, the role of the ILC should begin to be less prescriptive and more descriptive, with an increasing task to maintain the unity of the cumulative revisions of LangX and prevent any split into dialects.
The succeeding stages, from Lang33 to Lang53 and beyond, would proceed under the same rubric, with more emphasis being placed on intuitive development, and less upon the precedent of existing languages, as LangX itself gradually metamorphosed into the world's own mother tongue. As for internal adjustments within each 103 year phase, I can only suggest - for the sake of argument - that the pattern of Lang25 be repeated, with an initial revision 10 years after publication, and further potential adjustments every 31 years until the succeeding phase.
Briefly, this LangX project aims to gradually synthesise - over a period of more than seven centuries - the excellence of both the IALs and existing tongues into an evolving universal language. The genius of Esperanto, inspiration of every putative IAL, will be realised - though not at the initial Lang25 level, whose grammar will be more akin to Hogben's Interglossa. Numerous languages, existing or constructed, have much to share at and beyond Lang29. Ceqli and Gilo are among several worthwhile attempts with a realistic Chinese bias.
Finally, a word about vernacularisation, since the very notion of "inevitable vernacularisation" is controversial, and not accepted by the "two languages forever" brigade. My former website addressed this question in several places including Part 6 of the Introduction, and in Chapters 4 and 5 of LANGO (first published by Robert Craig and myself in 1996). Also, research evidence indicates that to speak one language is the natural state of humankind, and that progress towards (back to?) a monolingual state in the distant future is to be welcomed. I would suggest that the JPVP precedent, realised in a conscious post-modernist way through an international core vocabulary and IAL, is an equitable way of realising this end.
First published 1 May 2004. Your comments or criticisms are most welcome. Please contact the author: antonyalexander [at] langx.org