Why the Initial IAL Phonology should be "Western"

Many supporters of International English would regard the idea of a new constructed IAL as an anachronism: a lingering manifestation of 19th Century idealism relegated into limbo by the success of English throughout the 20th Century: the first half of which witnessed the final expansion of the British Empire, and the second half a post-World War 2 settlement which greatly increased US influence and replaced one "English" monetary system by another as the world's Reserve Currency (the £ Sterling by the $ US), another result being a de facto international language with a semi-official role in various fields.

But this pre-eminent role of the English language has been increasingly threatened - as has $ US reserve status - by the relative economic decline of the English-speaking world. International language has always followed the money, so the net flow of wealth from West to East in recent decades, to Asia in general and China in particular, should therefore have had a linguistic effect. And sure enough the overall style of English itself has changed during this period towards something more "tabloid" or "pidginised", as though a hidden pointer has swung from the ponderous synthetic grammar of the past, via mid-20th Century English towards the word-order based analytic grammar of most of Continental SE Asia.

Moreover, the worldwide teaching of Chinese (Putonghua) has witnessed a marked upsurge, especially through universities. Indeed, just as Chinese economic power is widely expected to surpass that of the English-speaking world, Chinese might conform to historic precedent by replacing English as the main international language. It might appear to be wholly unsuitable for such a role, due to its tones and various irregularities, but corresponding complaints were made in the past about English.

But an over-riding factor could well be the widely-perceived "coming of age" of humanity, together with a consciousness of "world citizenship". This is the very consideration which would tend to choose a consciously-equitable, regularised, newly-constructed "worldlang" over an existing language for the IAL role. And many who have laboriously learned English as a second language might be expected to choose this option rather than once again undertake the difficulty of learning Chinese or another complex and irregular national language, should the international currency of English continue to decline.

The construction of a worldlang should be a systematic, scientific exercise, given the recognised link between language and society, history, mass-psychology, economics etc. Such disciplines would assert that a successful worldlang IAL would not be formed upon a tabula rasa, but rather within human beings already grounded in the concept of international languages, and more or less acculturated by them - it being therefore as much through psychical inheritance as historical record that the main body of both international languages and IALs in the recent past has been "Western", via the spread of English, French, Spanish etc.. Correspondingly, the focus of the constructed IAL movement up to the present has operated through the "Eurolang" model via VolapŁk, Esperanto, Ido, Interlingua etc..

One might suppose that the Eurocentric world which fashioned these constructed languages between 150 and 50 years ago has fully passed into history with the rise of the East during the past 50 years, and that it would be grossly unfair if a worldlang continued to reflect a historic bias. This is all true, but there is a generation's delay between economic and lingusitic changes, largely due to long-term thinking and planning within education systems. So the linguistic bias is present, as well as historic; 50 years hence a position of equality or even Asian cultural and linguistic superiority seems quite likely, using current projections, but the linguistic status quo still favours the West - as evidenced by the fact that the main international languages are still "Western" rather than the likes of Putonghua, Russian etc..

But this linguistic bias is apparent rather than real in any case, since if a phonology on the JPVP model favoured the "West", a grammar on the same model would favour the "East" (or, more specifically, the speakers of Continental South-East Asian languages excluding Malay). In this way, everything might be expected to balance out equitably.

And the present situation actually presents a unique window of opportunity, if acted upon immediately as we propose, since the conditions are perfect for inaugurating an IAL on the JPVP model. This is because the typical phonology of the historic pidgins was "Western", as a result of the Western powers - Portugal, Britain, France etc. - providing the linguistic superstrates, whereas the grammar was invariably analytic "Chinese-style" due to the inherent simplicity of that grammatical mode. Another factor stems from language having two parts - loosely called words and grammar - which are separately influenced due to time-lag, since words tend to precede grammar, whether in the JPVP model or within the linguistic development of the individual.

Thus, if a worldlang were to be inaugurated today on the JPVP model the process would start with speech sounds and words rather than grammar: and as previously mentioned every internationally-minded person is already conditioned towards an initial "Western" phonology as a result of the dominance of Western international languages, especially English. And just as the grammar should be formed later, according to the JPVP model, a China finding itself once again at the centre of global affairs might come to see IAL grammar on the compatible JPVP "global pidgin" model expressing its thinking and world-view so accurately that there were no need for Putonghua to be mangled and misspoken by the peoples of the world.

And in any case things might be be working out along such lines, since not only the JPVP precedent and the established facts of infant language acquisition, but also the generality of "worldlang" IAL attempts anticipate this polarity, Very few, if any, promote the doubly-complex reversed polarity of "West European" synthetic grammar and "Chinese-style" phonology. This reverse combination may be equally logical, but is wholly unprecedented in both individual and mundane experience. A choice has to be made, lest the initial phonology and grammar be impractically large, and all the political and economic signals currently indicate a "Chinese-style" influence on worldlang grammar - though unlike the "West European" influence on phonology this has yet to be fully realised in the world due to the aforementioned time-lag.

Such cogitations are essential because the very nature of an IAL core vocabulary or wordlist depends upon the grammar. For instance, if the initial grammar is to be synthetic on the Esperanto model, the word-class (i.e. whether noun, adjective, verb, adverb) is bound into every word via an inflection. However, the JPVP and individual precedents would reject the synthetic approach in favour of the analytic, and that is why the LangX initial core vocabulary should lack inflections.

It might also be mentioned that a "Western" bias in the initial phonology would not preclude words being selected from a complete global cross-section of languages. A reduced orthography and corresponding phonology would fail to accurately represent many existing words anyway, at least according to the ear of native speakers. However, experience would indicate preference for a word to be included rather than omitted, and confidence that it would eventually be pronounced correctly - exactly as happens with children acquiring proper speech. (An additional argument for an initial "Western" bias in phonology is that there is evidence that even Chinese babies tend to babble the easier "Western" unaspirated sounds first when learning to talk, just as Western babies do.)