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In England it doubles in fifty years; therefore, in a century (in 1970) it will be 124,000,000. In the United States, in Canada, in Australia, it doubles in twentyfive; therefore it will be 736,000,000. Probable total of the English-speaking race in 1970, 860,000,000.
In Germany the northern population doubles in fifty-six to sixty years; that of the south in one hundred and sixty-seven years. Let us suppose one hundred years for the average. It will probably be, in 1970, for the countries of German speech, about 124,000,000.
In the French-speaking countries the population doubles in about one hundred and forty years. In 1970, therefore, it will probably amount to 69,500,000.
Thus the three principal languages spoken at the present time will be spoken a century hence with the following progression:
The English tongue will have increased from 77 to 860 millions.
The individuals speaking German will form a seventh part, and those speaking French a twelfth or thirteenth part of those of English tongue; and both together will not forn a quarter of the individuals speaking English. The German or French countries will then stand toward those of English speech as Holland or Sweden do at present with regard to themselves. I am far from having exaggerated the growth of the Anglo-Australian-American populations. Judging by the surface of the countries they occupy, they will long continue to multiply in large proportion. The English language is, besides, more diffused than any other througbout Africa and Southern Asia. America and Australia are not, I confess, countries in which the culture of letters and sciences is so much advanced as in Europe; and it is probable that, for a length of time, agriculture, commerce, and industry will absorb all the most active energies. I acknowledge this. But it is no less a fact that so considerable a mass of intelligent and educated men will weigh decisively on the world in general. These new peoples, English in origin, are mingled with a German element, which, in regard to intellectual inclinations, counterbalances the Irish. They have generally a great eagerness for learning and for the application of discoveries. They read much. Works written in English or translated into that tongue would, in a vast population, bave a very large sale. This would be an encouragement for authors and translators that is offered by neither the French nor the German language. We know in Europe to what degree diffi. culties exist in the publication of books on serious subjects; but open an immense mart to publishers, and works on the rost special subjects will have a sale. When translations are read by ten times as many people as at present, it is evident that a greater number of books will be translated; and this will contribute in no small degree toward the preponderance of the English language. Many French people already buy English translations of German books, just as Italians buy translations in French. If English or American publishers would adopt the idea of having translations made into their language of the best works that appear in Russian, Swedish, Danish, Dutch, &c., they would satisfy a public dispersed over the whole world, and particularly the numerous Germans who understand English. Yet we are but at the beginning of the numerical preponderance of the English-speaking populations.
The nature of a language does not, at first sight, appear to have very great influence on its diffusion. French was preferred for two centuries; and yet Italian was quite as clear, more elegant, more harmonious, bad more affinity with Latin, and, for a length of time, had possessed a remarkable literature. The number, the activity of the French, and the geographical position of their country were the causes of their preponderance. Yet the qualities of a language, especially those preferred by the moderns, are not without their influence. At the present time briefness, clearness, grammatical simplicity are admired. Nations, at least those of our Indo-European race, began by speaking in an obscure, complicated manner; in advancing they have simplified and made their language more precise. Sanscrit and Basque, two very ancient lavguages, are exceedingly complicated. Greek and Latin are so in less degree. The languages derived from Latin are clothed in clearer and simpler forms. I do not know how philosophers explain the phenomenon of the complication of language at an ancient period ; but it is uuquestionable. It is more easy to understand the subsequent simplifications. When a more easy and convenient method of acting or speaking bas been arrived at, it is naturally preferred. Besides, civilization encourages individual activity; and this necessitates short words and short sentences. The progress of the sciences, the frequent contact of persons speaking different languages, and who find a difficulty in understanding each other, lead to a more and more imperious need for clearDess. You must have received a classical education to avoid the perception of absurdity in the construction of an ode of Horace. Translate it literally to an uneducated workinan, keeping each word in its place, and it will have to him the effect of a building the entrance door of which is on the third story. It is no longer a possible language, even in poetry.
Modern languages have not all, to the same degree, the advantages now demanded, of clearness, simplicity, and briefness.
The French language bas shorter words and less complicated verbs than the Italian ; this in all probability has contributed to its success. The German has not undergone the modern revolution by which each sentence or portion of a sentence begins with the principal word. Words are also cut in two, and the fragments dispersed. It has three genders, whereas French and Italian have but two. The conjugations of many verbs are rather complicated. Nevertheless, modern tendencies weigh with the Germans, and it is evident that their language is becoming a little modified. Scientific authors especially exert themselves to attempt ders;
the direct modes of expression and the short phrases of other countries in the same way that they have abandoned the Gothic printed letters. Should they correspond with strangers, they often have the politeness to write in Latin characters. They willingly introduce in their publications terms taken from foreign languages, modifications sometimes merely of form, occasionally fundamental. These attest the modern spirit and the enlightened judgment of the learned men so numerous in Germany. Unhappily, the modifications of form have no great importance, and the fundamental changes take place very slowly.
The more practical English language shortens sentences and words. It willingly takes possession of foreign words, as German does; but of cabriolet it makes cab; of memorandum it makes mem. It makes use only of indispensable and natural tenses—the present, the past, the future, and the conditional. There is no arbitrary distinction of gen
animated objects are masculine or feminine; the others are neu. ter. The ordinary construction is so sure to begin with the principal idea, that in conversation you may often dispense with the necessity of finishing your sentences. The chief fault of the English language, its inferiority in comparison with German or Italian, consists in an orthog. raphy absolutely irregular, and so absurd that children take a whole year in learning to read.* The pronunciation is not well articulated, not well defined. I shall not go as far as Madame Sand in her amusing imprecations on this point; but there is truth in what she says. The vowels are not distinct enough. But, in spite of these faults, English, according to the same clever writer, is a well-expressed language, quite as clear as any other, at least when English people choose to revise their MMS., which they will not always do, they are in such a hurry!
English terms are adapted to modern wants. Do you wish to hail a vessel, to cry “stop” to a train, to explain a machine, to demonstrate an experiment in physics, to speak in few words to busy and practical people, it is the language par excellence. In comparison with Italian, with French, and, above all, with German, English has the effect, to those who speak several languages, of offering the shortest cut from one point to another. I have observed this in families where two languages are equally well known, which often occurs in Switzerland. When the two languages are German and French, the latter almost always carries the day. “Why?" I asked of a German-Swiss estab. lished in Geneva. “I can scarcely tell you,” he replied; "at home we speak German to exercise my son in the languages, but he always falls back into the French of his comrades. French is shorter-more convenient.” Before the events of 1870, a great Alsatian manufacturer sent his son to study at Zürich. I was curious to know the reason why. " We cannot," he said, “induce our children to speak German, with
· Surprised, on one occasion, by the slowness with which intelligent English children learned reading, I inquired the reason. Each letter has several sounds, or you may say that each sound is written in several ways. It is therefore necessary to learn reading word for word. It is an affair of memory.
which they are quite as familiar as with French. I have sent my son to a town where nothing but German is spoken, in order that he may be forced to speak it.” In such preferences you must not look for the causes in sentiment or fancy. When a man has choice of two roadsone straight and open, the other crooked and difficult to find—he is sure to take, almost without reflection, the shorter and more convenient one. I have also observed families where the two languages known in the same degree were English and French. In this case the English maintained supremacy, even in a French-speaking land. It is handed down from one generation to another. It is employed by those who are in haste, or who want to say something in as few words as possible. The tenacity of French or English families established in Germany in speaking their own language, and the rapid disappearance of German in the German families established in French or English countries, may be ex. plained by the nature of the languages rather than by the influence of fashion or education.
The general rule is this : In the conflict of two languages, everything else being equal, it is the most concise and the most simple that conquers. French beats Italian and German. English beats the other languages. In short, it need only be said that the more simple a language is, the more easy it is to be learned, and the more quickly can it be made available for profitable employment.
The English language has another advantage in family use-its literature is the one most suitable to feminine tastes; and every one knows how great is the influence of mothers on the language of children. Not only do they teach what is called “the mother tongue,” but often, when well educated, they feel pleasure in speaking a foreign language to their children. They do so gayly, gracefully. The young lad who finds his language-master heavy, his grammar tiresome, thinks very differently when his motber, his sister, or his sister's friend addresses herself to bim in some foreign tongue. This will often be English, and for the best of reasons: there is no language so rich in works (written in a spirit of true morality) upon subjects which are interesting to women-religion, education, fiction, biography, poetry, &c.
The future preponderance of the language spoken by English, Australians, and Americans thus appears to me assured. The force of circumstances leads to this result; and the nature of the language itself must accelerate the movement.
The nations who speak the English tongue are thus burdened with a responsibility which it is well they should recognize at once. It is a moral responsibility toward the civilized world of the coming centuries, Their duty, as it is also their interest, is to maintain the present unity of the language, at the same time admitting the necessary or convenient modifications which may arise under the influence of eminent writers, or be arranged by common consent. The danger to be feared is that the English language may, before another century has passed,
be broken up into three languages, wbich would be in the same relation to each other as are Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese, or as Swedish and Danish.
Some English authors have a mania for making new words. Dickens bas invented several. Yet the English language already possesses many more words than the French, and the history of its literature shows that there is greater need to suppress than to add to the vocabulary. No writer for three centuries past has employed nearly so many different words as Shakespeare ; therefore there must have been many unnecessary ones. Probably every idea and every object had formerly a term of Saxon origin, and one of Latin or French origin, without counting Celtic or Danish words. The very logical operation of time has been to suppress the double or triple words. Why re-establish them? A people so economical in its use of words does not require more than one term for each thing. *
The Americans, on the other hand, make innovations of accent or orthography, (they almost always spell labour “labor," and harbour “ barbor.") The Australians will do the same if they do not take care. Why should not all possess the noble ambition of giving to the world one uniform concise language, supported by an immense literature, and spoken in the next century by eight hundred or one thousand millions of civilized men! To other languages it would be as a vast mirror, in which each would become reflected, thanks to newspapers and translations, and all the friends of intellectual culture would have a convenient medium for the interchange of ideas. It would be rendering an immense service to future races, and at tbe same time the authors and men of science of English-speaking race would give a strong impulsion to their own ideas. The Americans, above all, are interested in this stability, since their country is to be the most important of those of English tongue. How can they acquire a greater influence over Old England than by speaking her language with exactness ?
The liberty of action permitted among people of English race adds to the danger of a division in the language. Happily, however, certain causes which broke up the Latin language do not exist for English nations. The Romans conquered nations the idioms of which were maintained or re-appeared here and there in spite of administrative unity. The Americans and Australians, on the contrary, have before them only savages, who disappear without leaving any trace. The Romans were conquered and dismembered in their turn by the barbarians. Of their ancient civilization no evidence of unity remained, unless it was in the Church, which has itself felt the influence of the universal decline. The Americans and Australians possess many flourishing schools; they have the literature of England as well as their own. If they choose,
A clever English writer has just published a volume on the institutions of the people called Swiss in English. Ho names them Switzers. For what reason? Will there soon be Dcutschers'