THE question of a so-called world-language, or better expressed, an international auxiliary language, was during the now past Volapük period, and is still in the present Esperanto movement, so much in the hands of Utopians, fanatics and enthusiasts, that it is difficult to form an unbiassed opinion concerning it, although a good idea lies at its basis. Both the Volapükists and Esperantists confused the linguistic aspect of the question with so many side issues that, not only was it difficult to see the former in its true light, but also the leaders of the various movements were unable to guide them in the right direction. For this reason discussions concerning an international auxiliary language appeared with good reason to many people to be unpractical, impossible, or indeed even ridiculous. Matters have, however, changed since the Délégation pour l'adoption d'une langue auxiliaire internationale has taken the matter up. This International Commission, with its headquarters in Paris, and consisting of literary and scientific men of eminent reputation, was entrusted with the task of investigating the general question of an international auxiliary language. The Delegation has, in the course of an activity extending over seven years, succeeded in showing that a sound idea lies at the root of the various movements for a universal language. Freed from all extraneous considerations, this idea involves the purely linguistic question of the introduction of an international auxiliary language. On the other hand, the Delegation has found that neither Volapük nor Esperanto have succeeded in solving the problem. As, however, Esperanto was found to contain a number of good principles, the Commission finally resolved to work out on purely scientific principles an international auxiliary language on the basis of Esperanto. The whole question of the introduction of an international auxiliary language has thus arrived at a stage in which it appears worthy of serious discussion. Under these circumstances, the writers of this brochure considered it their first duty to draw the attention of scientific and literary men to the matter, and so initiate discussion. The object of this book will have been attained, should they have succeeded in explaining the present state of the question, and in showing that it is already possible to discuss the introduction of an international auxiliary language into science, and indeed even seriously to make the attempt to carry it out. It may be remarked that the five authors of this book live in five different countries, and belong to three different languages. The very considerable correspondence required for the production of their book was carried out with the greatest success in the Linguo Internaciona, whenever any two of the correspondents possessed different mother-tongues.
Paris, Copenhagen, Zurich, Gross-Bothen, Graz.
L. COUTURAT, O. JESPERSEN, R. LORENZ, W. OSTWALD, L. PFAUNDLER.
THE scientific attitude of mind is necessarily critical, but never sceptical without proper investigation and knowledge. The Translator hopes, therefore, that English-speaking men of science will not judge the question of international language before they have quietly and dispassionately examined the arguments so ably set forth in the following pages. It is not a question of "another language"; it is a question of the final solution by the methods of science of one of the greatest of scientific problems. Internationalisation of thought is the motto of the twentieth century, the device on the banner of progress. Science, the Super-Nation of the world, must lead the way in this as in all other things. Amidst the clangour and the clamour of political and commercial strife, the quiet empire of knowledge grows, noiseless and unseen. Let all those who believe that this peaceful empire is destined to become the controlling force of the world assist in the attunement of its common language. The Translator wishes to thank his friend and colleague, Professor J. P. Postgate, for having very kindly revised the translation of Chapters III. and IV.
F. G. DONNAN.
UNIVERSITY OF LlVERPOOL,
Return to Contents page