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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/167

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163
INTERNATIONAL SPEECH

root-words for at least the Indo-European races, living within or bordering on the confines of the old Roman Empire, whose vocabularies are already saturated with Greek and Latin roots, absorbed during the long centuries of contact with Greek and Roman civilization. As the center of gravity of the world's civilization now stands, this seems the most rational beginning. Such a language shall then have:

Second, a grammatical structure stripped of all the irregularities found in every existing tongue, and that shall be simpler than any of them. It shall have:

Third, a single, unalterable sound for each letter, no silent letters, no difficult, complex, shaded sounds, but simple primary sounds, capable of being combined into harmonious words, which latter shall have but a single stress accent that never shifts.

Fourth, mobility of structure, aptness for the expression of complex ideas, but in ways that are grammatically simple, and by means of words that can easily be analyzed without a dictionary.

Fifth, it must be capable of being, not merely a literary language, but a spoken tongue, having a pronunciation that can be perfectly mastered by adults through the use of manuals, and in the absence of oral teachers.

Finally, and as a necessary corollary and complement to all of the above, this international auxiliary language must, to be of general utility, be exceedingly easy of acquisition by persons of but moderate education, and hitherto conversant with no language but their own—in all a most formidable and exacting list of requirements. Is it possible, is it worth while to attempt to fulfill them?

The redoubtable Doctor Johnson, on visiting the Giants' Causeway in Ireland, remarked that "it was worth seeing, but not worth going to see." By a sort of analogy, there are very many people who would doubtless endorse the idea of an international tongue, were one achieved and at hand, but who would not, in the absence of one, consider the difficult game of its devising worth the candle of its getting. However, it is interesting to note that this very fascinating problem has occupied the minds of men to such an extent during the past two hundred years that no less than sixty distinct systems of international speech have been published within that period. That these attempts are not to be classified with the chimeras of perpetual motion and the like, we may assure ourselves from no less authoritative an opinion than that of the late Professor Max Müller, who gave it as his deliberate judgment that an artificial international language, was not only a necessary, but a practical and feasible project. That it is inconceivably difficult so to combine all the necessary features of such a language as to ensure its general adoption is evidenced by the fact that out of the sixty systems referred to, but two have actually