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Universal Language

systems, languages and elements

UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE, a general term applied in modern times to any one of those artificial languages designed for facilita ting intercourse between peoples whose national languages differ one from the other. The need of a universal language has been keenly felt from the earliest times. In the early days of commerce Phoenician was in general use along the Mediterranean littoral; in the Classic Ages of Rome and down to the close of the Middle Ages Latin was the common means of inter communication in the Occident. Contact with the East at the time of the Crusades gave rise to the so-called lingua franca. Since the Re naissance and with the rapid extension of mod ern commerce and trade to all quarters of the world the need of a universal tongue has been demanding the attention of educators, finan ciers, diplomats and others to a greater degree than ever before. The 19th century saw sev eral universal language systems proposed, most of which were speedily forgotten.

Those who have examined the problem are aware that the selection of a living tongue as the universal language would at once arouse international jealousies. In this regard it may be noted that, despite its clumsy spelling, Eng lish is coming into such general use through out the world that the question of a universal language may be settled automatically. The universal language systems, Esperanto (q.v.), etc., are based on European spoken tongues and are, it is alleged, unsuited to universal use in that they ignore the root elements of the linguistic groups of the other continents. How ever, it would be manifestly impossible to build a system including elements of all groups and the artificial systems have at least the merit that they may be acquired with less effort than the simplest of modern spoken tongues.