1919 newspaper: English to be world language, constructed languages a queer-sounding German conspiracy

Monday, May 18, 2009

I've noted that newspapers in the early 20th century seem to have paid a lot more attention to constructed auxiliary languages, but though it was fairly prominent it wasn't always so positive. I found an article from the Iowa City Herald on May 13 1919 that accuses these languages of being queer-sounding and a German conspiracy.

One interesting aspect to this though is the fact that even at this time English was becoming the most prominent language throughout the world even though French retained a stronger position than it had today, while those in third place (German) found the idea of IALs to be the most fascinating. Perhaps there's something about third place that makes this happen. Those in first place naturally want to retain the advantage, those in second would like to be in first, and at the bottom (the weakest languages) it's pretty much a given that you have to learn the most prominent language in the world to get ahead...but then there are languages just below first and second that are kind of in the middle of the road, not too bad but nowhere close to taking first place, where the idea of an IAL probably resonates the most. In the world today that would probably be speakers of German, Spanish, Russian, etc., and it's no surprise that that's where you are most likely to find Esperanto/Ido/etc. speakers.

This may be of value to those creating an IAL or a PR strategy for one for the first time - which languages to target first? Perhaps after creating content in English just to be sure it would be best to go with these types of languages next.

Now for the article:


Subject Arouses Considerable Discussion Among Frenchmen of Learning.


Germans, Knowing Their Language Was Inadequate as World Tongue, Boosted Artificial Languages, Such as Esperanto.


(Western Newspaper Union Staff Correspondent.)

Paris. -- It's beginning to look as if English will be the world language of the future--with French as a close second choice and with German running a poor third.

This discussion of a "world language" which is occupying considerable attention around Paris, reveals among other things a strange chapter of German duplicity and trickery. It now seems certain that the Germans, knowing the German language was inadequate as a world tongue, tried their best to get the world to think favorable of certain "cooked-up" languages--made to order things as it were, in order to prevent French or English from being considered as the legitimate world languages.

These artificial tongues, such as Esperanto, which was probably the best known to them, in America at least, were fairly numerous and each one was given some sort of an odd name. They were called Esperanto, Ido, Novo-Latin and several other queer-sounding names. Naturally enough there were a few people in nearly every country that took up these tongues and learned them. But at best the languages were, and are fads, and are unequal to the great task assigned them--the task of becoming a world tongue.

An International Language.

Paul Mieille, a French scholar, a college professor who holds the chair of English at the Lycee and who is a well-known promoter of international education, is authority for the foregoing remarks about(?) Esperanto and German. His brochure on the subject of a world language has attracted considerable attention in France and England recently.

While some political economists are talking about the establishment of an international currency that will be worth its face value all over the world, and while others are talking of a kind of international government that will prevent future wars, of international control of the drug traffic, and several more "internationalized" subjects, including international welfare, the Frenchmen of learning are discussing the international language of the future. And they admit, modestly enough, that English will probably be the favorite as a world tongue, because English first of all is the best known and most widely spoken language of business and mercantile transactions in the world today.

Acknowledging that English is bound to be the favorite the French professors claim their own language will naturally take second place in preference to German.

Possibly the Germans some years ago foresaw the coming popularity of English and French and the consequent shoving of the German language into third place in the race, because it was before the war even that the "kultur crusade" for popularizing Esperanto and Ido and the other artificial languages started, according to Mieille.

English and French.

Briefly, it is Mieille's idea and the opinion of other noted French and English scholars that the world needs two languages for its future welfare -- English and French.

While there was a lot of speculation some years ago about finding a universal tongue, such as Esperanto, we had as living languages in this world of ours the two tongues that completely filled all requirements. There was really no need for inventing a new language.

There has been a kind of official adoption of the idea that English and French shall be the world languages of the future in the fact that proceedings at the peace conference have been conducted in these two languages. The procedure has been cumbersome, it is true, but it has been possible for practically all of the delegates to understand everything that takes place in the way of speech making.

The French clique of educators promoting the plan of making English and French the common international tongues want the peace conference, or the league of nations, to perpetuate the procedure of the peace conference and make both tongues the official languages for conducting the business of the league of nations.

Semiofficial communications have been addressed to the various governments that were lined up against Germany, and to many officials of all these governments recommending the plan. Numerous senators and deputies have gone on record as favoring the scheme.


Anonymous said...

The word marked transcribed as "about(?)" is "anent":


It's interesting that an article about the future of languages includes a word that's already obsolete!

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