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Europe Needs A Common Language

, by Eve-Marie Chamot-Galka

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This single biggest obstacle to pan-European federalism is the lack of a common secondary language which everyone can easily learn and understand.

This would be a lingua franca which would not actually replace the various native national and regional languages of Europe but would be a common second language which all Europeans could use to speak and write to those who with whom they do not share a national or regional language much as educated Indians use English as a common second language and lingua franca to bridge the many ethnic and linguistic barriers which are present in India.

However although English has de-facto become a type of European lingua franca it is a very poor choice as a pan-European language.

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It is basically a creole of Old Dutch and Old Norse and Old French with many borrow words from many other languages with a quite irregular grammar and an irregular orthography and it has a very complex vowel system comparable to modern Dutch and Classical Greek with the result that most Europeans find it quite difficult to learn English and most still do not know it and really the only Europeans (other than the English themselves) who easily learn English are the Friesians whose ancestors long ago participated in the Germanic invasions of Britannia along with their cousins, the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes.

A much better choice of European lingua franca does exist and it was invented in 1903 by Dr Giuseppe Peano of the University of Turin who subsequently continued to develop his concept and published it in a book in 1931, “Latino Sine Flexione”.

(Dr Peano was actually a mathematician who published prolifically with a secondary interest in auxiliary languages to help people communicate better across linguistic lines, a natural interest for a prolific publisher of mathematical papers who needed to reach a global audience most of whom did not speak Italian, his own native language.)

Dr Peano called his new language “Interlingua” and essentially it used a small number of simple rules to simplify Latina Nova and convert it from a complex and highly inflected language with an inflectional grammar to a much simpler Latinate language with a positional grammar which would retain most of the expressive power of Latina Nova but would be much easier to learn and he proposed this as a new lingua franca for international discourse in every field.

Unfortunately Dr Peano was very far ahead of his time and his ideas were largely ignored to his great disappointment although another group in America, the IALA, created a purely synthetic language of their own which they also called “Interlingua” which was intended only for scientific and mathematical publications and they borrowed (plagiarized?) many of Dr Peano’s ideas but again this project also came to nought.

However today Dr Peano’s ideas are very pertinent to pan-European federalism and it is perhaps the right time finally to revive those ideas although a better modern name for his new language today would be “Europeana”.

Europeana would certainly be much easier for most Europeans to learn than English with its simple vowel system and its much more regular grammar and orthography while still retaining the traditional expressive power of Latina Nova which is certainly equivalent to that of English (really still a rather harsh and barbaric language derived from the rude and crude headhunters of the marshes of Batavia!).

Europeana would also be free of political and nationalistic overtones since its mother language, Latina Nova, and its grandmother language, Latina Classica, are still quite acceptable from Lisbon to Moscow and from Helsinki to Athens (and Nicosia and Valletta!) although no longer widely spoken or used.

Some additional notes:- Latina Classica was the classical form of Latin spoken in Rome circa the era of Julius Caesar and it remains the official language of the Roman Catholic Church although most Catholic priests and even many bishops are now illiterate in this language and very few lay Catholics can read the official Catholic bible in Latina Classica.

Latina Nova developed during the late medieval and early modern era and retains the inflectional grammar of Latina Classica but has a much larger vocabulary to express modern ideas and borrows new words freely and some of the meanings of traditional Latin words also shifted in Latina Nova:- for example, the Latin word “novus” (“new”) actually had a negative meaning in classical (and very conservative!) Rome which associated newness with unreliability while for us it has a generally positive meaning since we associate newness with progress and improvement.

Others are also trying to revive Dr Peano’s ideas for a new lingua franca but under the name “Europeano” although this author prefers the name “Europeana” since “europeano” could also mean a European person.

Perhaps JEF could participate in this project by adding a new sister publication, “Nova Federalista”, in Europeana to join its existing publications in German, English, French, and Italian and perhaps to promote it to the European Commission and to petition for the establishment of an “Academia de Europeana” to develop linguistic standards for this new language and to promote its usage as the preferred vehicle of pan-European discourse.

However although this is a good idea whose time has definitely come nothing will happen until each one of us who supports it actually takes the time to learn Europeana and to use it no matter how awkward that will be initially.

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