HOME :  Mission :  History :  Chancellors :  Projects :  Essays :  Photos :  Site Directory :  Contact

LangX - The World Language Dilemma Resolved

Provisional IAL Name

Number of Consonants in the Vocabulary

Number of Vowels in the Vocabulary

Inaugural Year of Official IAL

Estimated % using IAL as First Language or Mother Tongue

Estimated % using IAL as Second or Auxiliary Language

Lang53

27

26

2726AD

100%

  0%

Lang49

26

23

2623AD

 98%

  2%

Lang45

25

20

2520AD

 90%

 10%

Lang41

24

17

2417AD

 70%

 30%

Lang37

23

14

2314AD

 30%

 70%

Lang33

22

11

2211AD

 10%

 90%

Lang29

21

 8

2108AD

  2%

 98%

Lang25

20

 5

2005AD

  0%

100%

LangX is offered as an illustrative outline proposal for the consideration of a representative International Language Commission consisting of economists, social scientists, educationalists and media experts, as well as linguists.

This "Hierarchy of IALs" occurred to me "out of the blue" on 1 August 2001.

The LangX progression is mnemonic: Lang25 = 20 (consonants) + 05 (vowels) = 2005 AD etc.. One consonant and three vowels are added 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.

LangX starts with 20 consonants, as in the UPSID survey - see LangX Vocabulary, and 5 vowels - as used by Spanish, Japanese etc. (only relatively obscure languages use fewer).

The year 2005 - the inaugural year for both Lang25 and the LangX Hierarchy - is the centenary of the first Esperanto Congress, held at Boulogne-sur-Mer in 1905. Also, after publishing the table I discovered that the foundation stone of the Universal Language Institute at Horning's Mills, Ontario, Canada is due to be laid in 2005, and that this date was determined in the early 1980s. (LangX is affiliated to the World Language Process, which is commissioning this magnificent edifice.)

Given that the LangX scheme is illustrative rather than prophetic (though who knows?), I suggest the following timetable:

2005    According to the Contact Language ~ Pidgin ~ Creole Progression (CPCP) precedent, LangX begins its Lang25 phase as a "contact language" - i.e. a limited provisional wordlist, with no inflections or formal grammar. Lang25 specifies an initial restriction of 20 consonants and 5 vowels (and no consonant clusters etc.).

2008    Appointment of the International Language Commission. The ILC takes over the wordlist, hitherto developed by volunteers, and invites consultation towards the process of transmuting it into an international core vocabulary. 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.

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 CPCP 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 the International Langauge Commission 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), whilst providing scope for the adventurous, and a challenge for everyone. 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 meaningful conversations will have to be in existing national languages. Indeed, it is integral to the success of the LangX Project that every encouragement is given towards ancient tongues being used into the distant future.

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 no official publication or platform should use a word or a grammatical construction beyond the confines of Lang25 until 2108. This rule should be rigorously enforced, with appropriate sanctions. In particular, it would be vital 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 all official and general circumstances, everyone should continue to use Lang25, and nothing but Lang25, but privately 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 for consultative purposes.

And, with a significant minority finally beginning to take up Lang25 as their mother tongue, LangX should - according to the CPCP 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 Commission publishes Lang29 - with an expanded phonology and vocabulary, and a slightly more complex and economical grammar. As Lang29 saw the first signs of the "creolisation" 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 creolisation, since the very notion of "inevitable creolisation" is controversial, and not accepted by the "two languages forever" brigade. See. Also see, 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 CPCP 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, Antony Alexander: aita@langx.org

 

      home                          next

        

HOME :  Mission :  History :  Chancellors :  Projects :  Essays :  Photos :  Site Directory :  Contact