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 consonants and vowels.
[Column 5] - An estimated percentage of LangX mother-tongue speakers at this date.
[Column 6] - An estimated percentage of LangX auxiliary language speakers at this date.
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 2011 and the provisional International Auxiliary Language Committee (IALC) was formed after AILA 2008, on schedule. First stop on the way was 2005, during which a provisional worldlist was inaugurated and I introduced Lang25 to the academic community on 9 July via a talk at an international conference "Language and Global Communications" held at Cardiff University in Wales. Lang25 signifies an initial restriction of 20 consonants (about 3 below the global average among all languages) and the 5 vowels also typical of pidgins/creoles - also 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. It may be that the number of consonants will start from the Creole average of about 22, with two of the letters/phonemes being reserved for Lang29 and Lang33 words, but in any case all these figures are no more than approximations and the only hard and fast rule should be consideration for the audience or readership one is addressing.
A 27 phoneme complement would not only approximate 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 with a greater phonemic capacity were adopted or devised.
But meanwhile here is more about the LangX timeline:
2008 Inauguration of an International Auxiliary Language Committee (IALC), subject to ratification, modification or replacement at a later date. As of 2011 the LangX IALC has already begun to form a provisional international core vocabulary from words proven by long-term and widespread use in existing languages.
2011 The IALC publishes the first provisional international core vocabulary, with online translation to and from other languages. It also publishes a prototype initial grammar for consultative purposes.
2015 The IALC 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 would still be in its "international pidgin" phase. Only a negligible minority would 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 claimed LangX as their mother tongue, calls for revision to be based on their usage should be resisted. LangX should 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. 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 all linguistic phenomena, past or present, might be seen as testing speech sounds, words, grammatical constructions etc. for possible incorporation within it 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 would overcome the suspicion 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 were adopted - official publications or platforms 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 should always be inclusive (within what is right and proper) - otherwise it could 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 IALC'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.
Following this analogy - and however politically incorrect to state it - significant sub-cultures and large groups of individuals within all nationalities are linguistically at the stage of small children, since their sociolect or idiolect is phonetically and grammatically restricted, relatively speaking. Consequently an "Official IAL" should begin at their level, and develop with them as they grow "older', if it were to remain united and unified..
Looking at the matter the other way: if we form an IAL for the "intellectual vanguard", or even for the "average user", the "linguistically challenged" are going to find themselves excluded. This is what seems to have happened with Esperanto and certain other prominent IALs.
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 embrace 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 continue to test and develop the upper LangX registers, with an especial focus on the provisional drafts of Lang29 that the IALC 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 IALC, 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 Auxiliary Language Committee publishes Lang29 - with an expanded phonology and vocabulary, and a slightly more complex and economical grammar. As Lang29 saw the first signs of the "vernacularisation" of LangX, the role of the IALC should begin to be descriptive as well as prescriptive, 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, should 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 for the past century - and the best or ideal features of numerous other languages, both existing and constructed, might thus be realised - but mostly in the upper reaches of the hierarchy, at Lang29 and beyond. Lang25 should be based on a pidgin model considerably more elementary than most of these languages.
Those who insist that a new IAL for the world should appear fully-formed might like to compare the natural process of organic birth, growth and development with Botticelli's painting of "The Birth of Venus", showing the goddess being wafted ashore on a sea-shell. Upon such considerations anyone wishing to discuss complex abstractions in an international context should go the extra mile and learn an existing language (whether historic or newly constructed for that purpose), exactly as they do already, since it will take some time to develop an IAL on the JPVP model into a properly rich and nuanced language - even on an unofficial basis as outlined here.
Finally, a word about vernacularisation. The very notion of "inevitable vernacularisation" is likely to challenge the popular notion that an IAL means "two languages forever" - the IAL and one's mother-tongue. However, the JPVP definitely presupposes vernacularisation, and research evidence even seems to indicate 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. The JPVP precedent might be considered as an equitable model towards the realisation of this end.