Armenian as the International Language

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Chicago Daily News (merged with one of the other major Chicago newspapers)
Saturday, August 17, 1968.

By Arthur J. Snider
Daily News Science Editor


The world speaks with a confusion of tongues. Some 2,800 languages are in use somewhere on the globe.

Needed in an age of communication satel- lites and jet airplanes is a universal language.

Whose country shall be so honored? What qualities should a worldwide languae have?

Prof. Sol Tax, University of Chicago an- thropologist, says it must be a natural lan- guage that has proven its viability, is com- fortable, easily learned and translated and has been rigorously tested by loaic.

ABOVE ALL, IT must not be the language of a leading nation because of the political advantage that would confer.

"I would rule out English, German, French, Spanish and several others," Tax said.

He votes for Maayan but quickly accedes to the preference of Margaret Mead and other professional colleagues for Armenian as a second languae to be spoken all over the world.

"Armenian meets the criteria," says Tax. "It has other built-in advantages. There is Asiatic as well as a European Armenian. In addition, there are colonies of Armenians all over the world. You have a ready-made teaching and translating device.

"Yet it is not widely enough used to have any political implications."

AN ARTIFICIAL language is not formed by Tax or Miss Mead.

"I don't think anyone would be comfortable with it," Tax said, "but I am willing to let a world conference of linguists decide wheth- er a natural or an artificial language is pre- ferable."

Artificial language lacks cadence, accent, intonation and redundancies of sound pat- terns that, develop in natural languages.

A universal language was considered long before modern technology brought the peo- ples of the world within speaking-distance of each other.

In the Western world there have benn se- rious attempts to invent a language based on European grammatical forms, in the hope it would do what Latin once did for the tiny, literate, medieval European community and what diplomatic French did for the 19th cen- tury political community.

Idealists among linguists have pursued Esperanto, an artificial international lan- guage based on words common to many European languages. Others have been push- ing Interlingua, a written, scientific lan- guage. But Tax believes neither is adequate for a changing world

TAX SUGGESTED in Current Anthropology, a journal he edits, that the time is ripe for a worldwide language.

Much is known about the nature of lan- guage, how languages are learned and how they can be taught. Electronics and language laboratories provided the necessary technical equipment.

Tax plans to restate his proposal when the International Congress of Anthropology and Ethnological Sciences meets in Japan Sept. 3-10.

A rich, universal language is needed to permit peoples of the earth to talk with each other, not merely about ordinary things, says Miss Mead, but about events, about politics, religion, memories of the past and hopes for the future.

"It must not be presented as a language that will supplant one's mother tongue," she emphasizbd "but as a second language be learned by those who speak different languages.

MISS MEAD ALSO urges develop a simple, worldwide sign language that can be communicated to everyone, part travelers who require safety, comfort and rest.

In a recent test of road signs and symbols in Great Britain, only about a third of motor- ists could identify signs that prohibited alll motor traffic; only two-thirds could identify a wordless sign that indicated "no passing"; only a third could identify a "no entry" sign and only less than one-fifth recognized a sign prohibiting bicycles and motor bikes.

Miss Mead calls for formation of a per- manent body of international, and national ex- perts to set up and maintain an international symbol system.

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