Quotation from speech by Sir Richard Gregory, Bt., F.R.S.

AMONG THE IMPORTANT PROBLEMS of an international kind to be promoted now and after the war is that of a means of expression in a language easily learnt and used by all civilised peoples of the world. The International Morse Code of signals is an example of an accepted system of alphabetical and numerical communication, and what is wanted now is an auxiliary vehicle of language which will be as widely understood. The subject of an international auxiliary language has long been under discussion, but we seem to be no nearer agreement as to what this language should be than we were after the last war. In 1921, the British Association published a careful and comprehensive report on this subject, prepared by a committee representing humanistic as well as scientific interests, and in collaboration with the chief associations concerned with classical and modern languages as well as by consultation with a number of learned societies.

The British Association Committee was appointed after the International Research Council, at a meeting in Brussels in 1919, had taken up the question of an international auxiliary language and recommended the formation of an International Committee to enquire into the position and outlook of the subject. It was hoped that a central international organization would be formed, under the League of Nations, and be empowered to make the final selection of the international auxiliary language, if feasible, and to take measures to ensure for it the greatest possible degree of stability. Chairmen were appointed to represent national committees for France, Italy, Japan, and Belgium, and the chairman of the British Association Committee undertook to represent Great Britain on the Committee of the International Research Council.

The desirability of an International Auxiliary Language having been unanimously approved by the British Association Committee, attention was given to the advantages and disadvantages of the following three types:
(1) A dead language, for example, Latin;
(2) A national language, for example, English;
(3) An invented or artificial language, for example, Esperanto and Ido.
The claims for the use of each of these languages as an International Auxiliary Language were justly and concisely stated by their own specialists in the report of the Committee. After careful consideration of this and other evidence from high authorities at home and abroad, the Committee found itself unable to pass judgement in favour of a particular auxiliary language for international use. The conclusions reached may be expressed as follows:
(1) Latin is too difficult to serve as an International Auxiliary Language, and its advantages are out-weighed by its disadvantages.
(2) The great international languages of the past have all borne the marks of imperial prestige which prevented them from being welcomed by alien races. The adoption of any modern national language by the common consent of the chief nations is therefore unlikely, as it would confer undue advantages and excite jealousy, however impartial the promoters of the language might be.
(3) Invented languages constructed on scientific principles and adaptable to many diverse requirements are practical means of international communication. They are neutral and have advantages of simplicity not possessed by most national languages. What auxiliary language of this kind will meet with general approval remains to be decided by international agreement.

In the interest of international communication and the free expression of ideas, it is to be hoped that academic as well as scientific and commercial organizations will assist in the movement towards an agreed auxiliary language. A committee of the British Association on Post-War University Education has dealt with the subject recently in one of the sections of its report. It recommends that apart altogther from the academic study of language and literature, every university should require its students to be able to make themselves understood, by speech and writing, in an auxiliary international language. The Committee suggests that the Universities Bureau of the British Empire, in consultation with the American Bureau and the Association of University Professors and Lecturers of Allied Countries in Great Britain, could take up the subject very appropriately and prepare a report upon it. There is no better way of promoting interrelationships between the peoples of the world than that of a simple common language; and the construction of such an instrument should not be beyond the powers of responsible authorities - literary, scientific and commercial - working together in a common and needful purpose.

Sir Richard Gregory, Bt., F.R.S.

Extract from an address to the Association of Special Libraries and Information Bureaux, reproduced by kind permission of Sir Richard Gregory, Bt., F.R.S.

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