Chapter Twenty-One: Names and Organisation
The approach of an international language committee towards questions of orthography and script should be modified where names are concerned because words and names are different entities. Words are inclusive, but names are exclusive - as in the distinction between common and proper nouns. Words are common currency; but names always contain an element of privacy - including the subjective definition of correct pronunciation. It is up to the owners of names to define both the international standard version of their name and its exact pronunciation.
This is certainly an issue with place names, which can vary not only in different languages but also within a language according to political allegiance. Lancelot Hogben in "Essential World English" (1963) suggested that local forms of place names should replace "English" versions. Most publishers in the English-speaking world have adopted this line: thus Ceylon, Leghorn, Moldavia, Andalusia have become Sri Lanka, Livorno, Moldova, Andalucia. The same process will certainly continue, but will necessarily be gradual, with resistance around the more familiar names for obvious reasons - for instance, the city the Italians call "Roma" has been "Rome" in English for hundreds of years and "(An) Róimh" in Irish for over a thousand. Sometimes a name cannot be universally adopted due to the script, or the presence of diacritics, yet an old transliteration is inexact: e.g. "Cologne, Copenhagen" for "Köln, Køberhavn". Another potential difficulty is where two variants of a name exist according to ethnic or religious preference, e.g. Bombay / Mumbai, Londonderry / Derry; and yet another the many instances where the local pronunciation of a place name is nothing like the spelling - raising the question of the use of dissonance as a kind of shibboleth. These are all problems which will be solved in due course, given the long time-scale over which the international auxiliary language will evolve.
The 1967 decision by the United Nations Organisation to standardise geographical names worldwide in Roman script may be seen as yet another indicator that the coming international auxiliary language will also be written in that script. The United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN), which meet biennially, is concerned not only to promote particular names but also to discourage the production of additional variant names. This disapproval of so-called "exonyms" challenges the desires of nations whose peoples are strongly conscious of the value of language as an aid to independent poitical existence.
The question of a name for an initially English-based international auxiliary language would have to be determined democratically: our provisional choice is LANGO - which would have far-flung linguistic resonance, yet without a current meaning as in the case of LINGO or LINGUA. Moreover, LANGO is an anagram of ANGLO to denote English origin, and a handy acronym in English, French and Spanish (as shown under the title, with "LANGuage Organisation"). LANGO also happens to be the name of an important African tribe divided linguistically by three dialects and politically by the Uganda / Sudan border (one of the dialects is also called LANGO). Other names for the language that have occurred to us include:
LIBRE "Language Initially Based on Reformed English"
REFIC ("Refits") "Reformed English For International Communication"
ALIEB "Auxiliary Language Initially English Based"
GABIEL "Global Auxiliary Based Initially on the English Language"
KABARE "Kommon Auxiliary Beginning As Reformed English"
LUA "Langue Universelle Auxiliaire"
UNAL "Universal Neutral Auxiliary Language"
IDEAL "Initially Derived from English Auxiliary Language"
RENUAL "Reformed English Neutral Universal Auxiliary Language"
SABIR "Shared Auxiliary Based on International Roots"
SABIRE "Shared Auxiliary Based Initially on Reformed English"
REGAL "Reformed English Global Auxiliary Language"
REAL "Reformed English Auxiliary Language"
EMESAL "English Made Easy Shared Auxiliary Language"
LINK "Language for Inter-National Kommunication"
KENGA "Kommon ENGlish Auxiliary"
KELBA "Kommon English-Language Based Auxiliary"
KEBA "Kommon English-Based Auxiliary"
KEBIT "Kommon English-Based International Tongue"
KOREA "Kommon Orthographically-Regularised English Auxiliary"
RENGO "Reformed English with Normalised Global Orthography"
SOLE "Second Language English" or "Speakers of Other Languages' English"
BETIC "Better International Communication" or "Basic English Tongue for International Communication"
KIT(EB) "Kommon International Tongue (English-Based)"
KIBAT "Kommon International Brito-American Tongue"
KEBARO "Kommon English-Based Auxiliary Reformed Orthographically"
KOINE "KOmmon INternational English" orig. "lingua franca"
MON "Modern Orthographic Norms"
BUSA "Britain/USA language" or "BUSiness Auxiliary"
SHENGIL "Shared English International Language"
MUNDISH "Mundo" - "world" (Romance); "Mund" - "mouth" (Ger.)
GENLISH "General English" or "Genesis in English"
WoLa "World Language"
One undoubted factor in the success of language reform projects outside of the English-speaking world has been the power of the centralised state, which has been able to marshal its propagandist, educational, publishing and lexicographic agencies in order to make a spelling reform work. We have already shown how this would be very difficult to achieve in the case of English, given the spread of the language across diverse political systems. Moreover, our democratic ideals persuade us that voluntary co-operation is better in all ways than compulsion, which raises the question of why one of the great publishers does not lead the way on this issue and persuade all to follow. After all, they would seem to be the ideal agents of change - conscious as they must be of the benefits of print-saving, of the needs of second-language speakers, and of the value to the bottom line of reaching the widest possible readership for their products.
The experience of the "Chicago Tribune" highlights the major pitfalls in this approach. Towards the end of the 19th Century Joseph Medill, owner and editor of this leading American newspaper and member of the Council of the Spelling Reform Association, introduced a number of orthographic spellings. Unfortunately there was such resistance that most were gradually abandoned. However, the enterprise was revived in 1934 by Medill's grandson, with the support of readers, who voted 3 to 1 in favour of "short spelling". Thus the "Tribune" once again started using words such as "bazar, burocrat, catalog, crum, glamor, harth, herse, iland, jaz, rime, sherif, staf, subpena, tarif and trafic".
Other spellings, including "tho, altho, thru, thoro, frate, photograf, philosofy" were subsequently added, though some of the 1934 originals were already being discontinued. During the 50s and 60s no new words appeared, and most of the remaining orthographic spellings were dropped, including "tarif" and "frate". By the 70s only "thru", "tho" and "catalog etc." survived, and even these were soon to disappear from the "Tribune's" columns.
Likewise, "The Times" abandoned orthographic spellings such as "Jugoslavia, baptize, colonize" after its last change of ownership. From this evidence one might speculate that the maintenance of orthographic unity within the peculiarly decentralised English-speaking world depends upon an agreement which is no less powerful for being informal, and that although publishing and media interests may be merging and consolidating there is still sufficient diversity of ownership that no publisher or lexicographer is likely to introduce substantial reforms for fear of being left out on a limb. It might be rational to introduce a number of revised spellings, but still more rational not to break the unwritten consensus.
So it looks as if an orthographic reform will only occur collectively in an organised manner, and that the gradualist approach, hitherto endorsed by many workers in the field, has manifestly failed. In view of this fact, which has become apparent over a long period of time, enthusiasts for spelling reform have had to content themselves by inventing a variety of orthographies and writing numerous articles about the subject. But these theoretical considerations have done very little to advance the cause; praxis is an essential ingredient of language development. In Esperanto and other constructed languages we already have enough negative examples of the purely academic approach. It is now time for a coherent and co-ordinated initiative in which reforms might be assessed pragmatically.
As is well known, the democratic process demands that, after a due period of consultation and reflection, a single united programme be adopted, and then continued for a set period of time; the central principle being, not so much that the popularly chosen manifesto should be correct in all its aspects, as that everyone should endorse and uphold it for a trial period until the next election. In this way an incorrect policy or decision might be modified as a result of experience; without a run out in practice, there is no way of telling whether or not a theory is workable.
The international stage is now set for the redevelopment of a language which has redefined itself at roughly 200 year intervals since the 10th Century. In King Alfred's time there was a somewhat artificial standard national language based on the Wessex dialect. In the 12th Century the Chancery made the English of London standard and determined the orthography. Many neologists, grammarians, orthoepists and lexicographers later made important contributions. The language today known as English was quite different in the past, even as recently as the 18th Century, and it has been pointed out how much it has changed in our own lifetimes.
It is a myth that English, like Topsy, "just growed". There has been a good deal of planning in the development of English, but it has taken place in an atmosphere of goodwill and consultation that would now be difficult to replicate, either in or between the diverse political systems of the English-speaking world. The forces of creativity have moved on to the international arena, as all the great movements of the late 20th Century testify, and it is within that matrix of modern idealism, the international auxiliary language, that the transformation of English must take place.
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