On the Language of the Future

(In Lieu of a Conclusion)

M. I. Isayev

The course of a language's development is entirely determined by the fate of the people who speak it. Accordingly the long‑term prospects of language development may be perceived against the background of the expected social development of nations and peoples. In referring to the future one should be careful to make it clear whether one has in mind the distant future or the near future. [383/384]

Scientific forecasting makes it possible for Marxists to assert with conviction that humanity will eventually attain a stage of complete unity.

In referring to the very distant future, Lenin stated: "The aim of socialism is not only to end the division of mankind into tiny states and isolation of nations in any form, it is not only to bring the nations closer together but to integrate them." [36] This, of course, does not imply a simple dissolving of some nations into others. Undoubtedly the common unity that will emerge, will first absorb all elements of lasting value, that will have been produced by all nations. Thus the diversification of culture will increase rather than disappear.

Some of the differences between nationalities are more stable than others. Language differences undoubtedly belong to this category. In this connection, Dr. S. T. Kaltakhchyan. states that "as they develop languages tend to become reduced in number rather than proliferate". [37] In clarifying that statement, he also notes that the existence of numerous languages today is explainable historically. Each language possesses a capacity to reach the level of the most developed languages and to continue its subsequent development. If history did operate in this way mankind would possess between 2,500 and 5,000 developed languages. "While many people praise [384/385] such a variety of languages, history is wiser than even the most benevolent of them and does not produce anything unless there is a need." [38]

Because of the revival of theoretical studies in recent years the problem of a universal language is attracting increasing attention. Academician B. G. Gafurov, for example, has written: "In connection with the transition from socialism to communism we are inevitably interested in the problem of convergence among the socialist nations of the USSR and in the problem of a future merging of nations and the formation of a common language." [39] Similarly, according to M. D. Kammari, a Corresponding Member of the USSR Academy of Sciences, the development of a common language for all is a task that is emerging from "the entire course of development of the world socialist system and it will undoubtedly be solved on the basis of a consistent application of the principle of proletarian internationalism." [40]

Generally the views of scholars concerning a future common language may he reduced to two mutually exclusive propositions. One states that mankind's future common language will be one of the national languages, while the other [385/386] assumes that only an artificially created language, endowed with the best traits of national languages, can play such a role. Advocates of each of these conceptions present their own arguments.

In criticizing certain projects for creating artificial languages, A. A. Reformatsky states: "A genuine international language may be formed only in the course of historical development, on the basis of actual national languages; and that in turn is connected with the victory of socialism throughout the entire world and with the development of a new type of nation." [41]

The position of Dr. K. Kh. Khanazarov on this issue is basically similar. He asserts that "a common world language for mankind will probably emerge on the basis of one of mankind's most widely disseminated and internationally (and later interzonally) developed languages". [42] In his opinion such a process will pass through the following stages: a) a comprehensive development of national languages after the victory of a socialist revolution; b) a voluntary selection by peoples of a particular language as an interlanguage from a number of languages possessing equal rights; c) a gradual transformation of the interlanguage into the principal means of communication, into the "first" mother tongue of all ethnic groups; d) the transformation into a [386/387] common world language of one of the interlanguages which after prolonged competition between the zonal interlanguages will prove itself most perfectly suited to the task. [43]

The other group of scholars believes that a common language for mankind will be a language that is artificially created and enriched by national and international languages. This is the view of Dr. V. G. Kostomarov, who writes: "It is not excluded that at some future date a perfect artificial language will be created and that without particular regrets people will then surrender the natural languages that served their purpose either partially or fully to the museum of mankind's development. " [44] In this connection M. P. Kim, a Corresponding Member of the USSR's Academy of Sciences, is also inclined to rely on the artificial language theory: "In the final analysis the problem of a common form for future communist culture is the problem of a common language for all. Will it be one of the contemporary national languages? It is not possible to give a clear answer to this question at the present time. Most likely . . . mankind . . . will work out a new language, that will absorb the most perfect qualities of contemporary national languages." [45] Similarly a Soviet philosopher, [387/388] E. P. Svadost, is strongly convinced that the future common language will be artificial. [46]

Some of the views expressed by specialists admit either possibility, since the course of history cannot be forecast. In particular, S. T. Kaltakhchyan, who stresses that the intensification of international economic, political and cultural relations has already produced several interlanguages, notes that "the further internationalization of life will in time produce a common world language". [47] The author notes that at a time when science, technology and culture are developing intensively people cannot afford the luxury of wasting a large amount of time in studying different languages. It follows that there is a need for a world language that will have accumulated the merits of various national languages and that will have a maximal information‑carrying capacity. [48] Aside from the possibility of creating an artificial universal language, S. T. Kaltakhchyan also conceives the possibility of an emergence "by democratic ways of up to three or four of the highly developed languages, which by that time will be in fact already fulfilling the functions of an interlanguage" [49]

Both Yu. D. Desheriyey and I. F. Protchenko have also expressed their views concerning the [388/389] nature of the future world language: "The future common language—independently of whether this will be an artificial language, created through a scientific synthesis of all man's linguistic achievements, or a language that is created through a rational improvement of one or several contemporary languages—should be perfect in every respect, i.e., in its phonetics, morphology, syntax, stylistics, and musicality." [50] After an analysis of historical and sociological materials, P. M. Rogachev and M. A. Sverdlin arrive at similar conclusions. [51]

There is a difference of opinion as to whether it is already time to begin working out the theoretical problems of the future universal language. Some linguists believe that we should "already be thinking, writing, talking, and arguing about them" and that "the language of the future is a problem of the present: in the future (perhaps, not as distant as it seems), the common language for all will cease to be a problem and will have become a living reality as a second language of all peoples of the world. It is in fact precisely in our own time that the problem of a worldwide language can and should become an object of planned scientific research". [52] [389/390]

A different view has best been expressed by V. A. Avrorin, who notes that we do not possess any objective data for knowing the particular manner of formation of a common language: whether it will be something like competition in sports, in which the final victory will belong to only one of the languages, or a gradual merging of all or at least some of the existing languages on the basis of complete equality, or, finally, an artificially created language possessing a logically flawless structure. "The solution of these problems and even forecasting in this area is still a matter of the distant future." [53]

The first thing that has to be decided is the main line of development of a universal language. This will assist scholars to orient themselves within the complex processes of language development and their future direction. It is not entirely accidental that certain opponents of socialism, contemporary anti‑communists and bourgeois futurologists purposely avoid the scientific approach to such a search, which is the only correct one, and propose various idealistic and anti‑Leninist theories concerning such concepts as the immortality of the "national spirit". [54]

Yu. D. Desheriyev and I. F. Protchenko observe that Marxist-Leninist theory and the laws [390/391] that govern the development of national relations provide convincing support for the view that the path that leads from today's multilingualism to several languages and then to unilingualism "lies through a rebirth, development, and flourishing of nations, of the peoples of former colonial and dependent nations and of their cultures and interlanguages in the process of the construction of socialism". [55] Social liberation is a necessary prerequisite for the rebirth and flourishing of national cultures and languages, and this is illustrated by the development of relations among nationalities in the Soviet Union.

In the USSR, the development of national relations strengthens still further on the new historical community of the multinational Soviet people. This community does not replace nations but is, on the contrary, composed of them and manifested through them.

An increase in the mutual influencing and mutual enrichment of nations and ethnic groups and the appearance of common traits among them in all spheres of material and spiritual life contribute to a further and a more complete identification and development of the progressive potential possibilities of each nation and ethnic group.

In the near future national literary languages will continue to develop and gain strength though in various degrees depending on the numbers of their speakers, the forms of national statehood, [391/392] and other social factors. The sphere of their utilization will expand, as well as their common word‑stock whose basis will be formed by sociopolitical and scientific and technical terminology.

At the same time that national literary languages will flourish, relations among nationalities will further expand and closer relations among nations will further develop, the role of an interlanguage will undoubtedly also increase.

Accordingly it may be expected that an even more comprehensive bilingualism will be one of the dominant traits of language development of the peoples of the USSR.

The principle of full equality of all peoples and languages is a guarantee of free development of languages. It is on the basis of this principle, which was formulated by Lenin, that the Communist Party has written in its program that it will continue "promoting the free development of the languages of the peoples of the USSR and the complete freedom for every citizen of the USSR to speak, and to bring up and educate his children in any language, ruling out all privileges, restrictions or compulsions in the use of this or that language". [56]

It is clear that these problems of language development will require further serious research. The extent of their resolution will determine the nature and the course of cultural construction. [392/393]

Speaking of a comprehensive approach to language, attention should be paid to the processes of. language development that are common to all the languages of our planet. In particular, it is also necessary to study the so‑called world languages.

Unfortunately the problems of world interlanguages have not yet been sufficiently studied. Today Soviet socio‑linguists face the task of a comprehensive study of the laws that govern the broadening of functions of the Russian language as one of the world languages of modern times.

The emergence of large nations results in an increased utilization of their languages on the world arena. So, further increases in the number of world languages may be expected in the near future. There are grounds for expecting that the number of official international languages may increase from today's five to 10‑12 in the near future. [57] At the same time there will be a staggering increase in the volume of information: for example, the number of patents, that are drawn up in scores of languages, already exceeds 13 million and is increasing by an additional 300 thousand each year.

The prominent Soviet scholars A. I. Berg, D. L. Armand, and Ye. A. Bokarev have noted [58] that today a knowledge of the principal European languages is no longer sufficient for following the world's scientific literature. In particular, [393/394] nearly all Japanese scientific periodicals are published in Japanese. Socialist countries publish materials in their own languages. It was found, for example, that in order to arrive at a general knowledge of the climate of Africa a knowledge of 25 languages is required! It is expected that during the next several decades the relative weight of publications in English, French and German will decline. While that of publications in Japanese, Hindi, Arabic and Swahili will increase.

The basic streams of scientific information flow through periodical and serial publications. There are approximately 400 reference journals in the world that carry scientific and technical information.

Both multilingualism. and the "information explosion" have produced a need for an auxiliary language of international communication. In this connection the observations of Dr. Bernal are suggestive. He pointed out how absurd it is that participants of a scientific conference, who are similar in dress and appearance and whose thoughts and perceptions lie within almost identical fields of knowledge are still not able to communicate among themselves and require the services of interpreters. He added that a radically more effective means of communication should be found, especially today, when the world is becoming a single, complex organism in which havoc can be wrought by its Babylonian proliferation of languages.

What is the answer? In their above‑mentioned article A. I. Berg, D. I. Armand, and Ye. A. Bokarev [394/395] arrive at conclusions with which any unprejudiced and logically consistent person would agree. First of all, like Norbert Weiner, the founder of cybernetics, they reject for purely "technical reasons" the possibility of solving the language problem (even if in the field of science) with the help of computers. Another course, namely, to teach all the major languages of the world to specialists does not seem to be realistic either. It seems more realistic to rely on some particular language as a scientific interlanguage. At the same time these scientific works could be published simultaneously in the national languages.

A. I. Berg, D. L. Armand and Ye. A. Bokarev put forward the following objections to the proposal to employ one of the national languages as an auxiliary scientific language. First, the country, whose language would become the common scientific language, will find itself in a privileged position. Its scientists, not needing to spend three to five years studying a foreign language will devote more time to science. Hundreds of millions of hours of working time will be economized, and this country will take the lead in the development of science. Secondly, that country, would gain vast possibilities for economic and ideological expansion. Scientific works will be followed by technical specifications, prospects, catalogues, advertisements of goods, and finally mass communications media that will give it an advantage in political relations. It is amply clear that other countries will never agree to give a particular country such advantages. [395/396]

There is only one solution left: namely, the selection of some artificial (or, rather, regulated) language as a common auxiliary language of science, which will have been constructed on the basis of a logical grammar and, whenever possible, an international terminology. This language could then be brought into scientific use gradually and systematically.

Such a view of the problem is not a fantasy, nor an abstract hypothesis; it derives from realistic facts. There are more than 500 projects for an artificial language, of which Esperanto has proved victorious. It has now been functioning successfully for more than 80 years.

Many of the objections to Esperanto are based on prejudice or complete misinformation. It will therefore be useful to review the facts that are connected with its emergence and functioning.

Esperanto was created in 1887 by a Polish eye‑doctor Ludwig Zamenhof, who was a polyglot. He was particularly concerned with the problems of interlinguistics. The name of the language itself, Esperanto, which means "one who hopes" originates from the pseudonym under which Dr. Zamenhof wrote his first book Lingvo internacia (An International Language). Zamenhof emphasized that he had in mind not the replacement of all other languages by one language, but rather the creation of an international auxiliary language that would serve as a means of communication among various peoples and provide for a mutual understanding among them.

The structure of Esperanto is extremely simple: [396/397] the language has approximately 40 suffixes and prepositions and possesses only 16 rules of grammar, which make it possible to express any thought extremely accurately. In addition, the structure of this language makes it possible to reduce its vocabulary very considerably since it is possible to produce 20 to 60 derivative words from a single root.

Experts estimate that it requires from 10 to 15 times less time to learn Esperanto than it does to learn a natural language. In addition it is easier to study other foreign languages once a person has learned Esperanto.

Esperanto thrives despite the constant attacks of sceptics, whose ranks include people of the most diverse scientific views.

The writer Henri Barbusse, an ardent supporter of Esperanto, stressed that all objections to the principle of an auxiliary language are worthless. He added that they either come from narrow‑minded people, who are confounded by this great idea and unable to conceive of progress, or else from chauvinists, that is from people who are even narrower in their outlook and who cannot see why the entire world does not adopt their own language. . . .

In 1923, M. Gorky observed: "It is impossible to deny that a universal language will serve as a powerful stimulus to progress in cultural development. It follows that the creation and development of such a language should be recognized as a necessity." [59]  [397/398]

These and similar observations of numerous prominent thinkers, who have supported Esperanto (including Lev Tolstoy) sound realistic even today, under the onslaughts of modern sceptics.

The basic objections to Esperanto, repeated generation after generation, are as follows:

a) Esperanto cannot replace natural languages and become the only language of the future; b) an artificial language cannot transmit the finest shades of feelings.

Yet it has long been known that Esperanto is merely an auxiliary language and is not expected to replace any other languages, whether national or international. Furthermore, a number of classics of world literature have already been translated into Esperanto. In addition, there is original fiction written in Esperanto.

The difficulties that have arisen in connection with machine translation have also caused scientists to turn their attention to Esperanto once more. "In our opinion," writes Yu. D. Desheriyev, "at the present stage of understanding of this problem an intermediate artificial language such as Esperanto would provide the most ideal language for machine translation. Esperanto, for instance, lends itself to a strict specification of the standards of its usage, subjects itself to definite rules, to which there are no exceptions . . . ." [60] The author then observes that it is [398/399] unfortunate that the potential of Esperanto as an easily assimilated means of communication at international meetings concerned with problems of trade and cultural and scientific relations and as the language of international scientific and technical literature is still not utilized. [61]

At first the dissemination of Esperanto was handicapped by a struggle between its supporters and advocates of other artificial language projects. During the 1920s and the 1930s the movement in favor of Esperanto began to gain strength, but stopped because of the Second World War. During the postwar years Esperanto has been widely used in Bulgaria, Vietnam, Japan, Poland, England, Rumania, Czechoslovakia and France as well as in other countries.

A number of scientific and other journals are published in Esperanto in various countries. They include: Vietnam Marches Forward (Vietnam) International Education (FRG), Cosmos (Denmark), Teachers' Journal (Argentina), Medical Journal (Czechoslovakia, Japan), Modern Bulgaria, The Life of Hungary, Esperantist (GDR), Peace which is the organ of the Esperantist World Peace Movement (in various countries, including the USSR).

The Esperantists of the USSR have formed circles that meet at houses of culture, clubs, and institutions of higher learning in almost all the national republics. [399/400]

External contacts of Soviet Esperantists are organized by the Esperanto Commission of the Union of Soviet Friendship Societies. A large number of books and brochures are published in Esperanto, including the Russian classics and the works of such Soviet writers as Mayakovsky, Yesenin, Lavreney, and Sholokhov, proceedings of the Congresses of the CPSU, and speeches by prominent figures of the Communist Party and Soviet government.

Soviet Esperantists are members of the Esperantist World Peace Movement. Their slogan is "Esperanto is an instrument in the struggle for peace".

A clarification of the fundamental issues of language development in the distant future makes it possible to define more clearly the ways in which language problems may be solved in the near future.

Thus the laws of social development make it possible to forecast in the foreseeable future a further flourishing of the languages of Soviet nations, a strengthening of the role of the interlanguage and, consequently, a further expansion and strengthening of bilingualism among the peoples of the USSR. The bilingualism of Soviet peoples corresponds fully to the laws that govern the development of relations among nationalities in socialist societies, which are based on the processes of development and convergence of nations. In his Report to the 24th Congress of the CPSU, L. I. Brezhnev noted that "the Party shall continue to strengthen the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics consistently pursuing the [400/401] Leninist line of promoting the florescence of the socialist nations and securing their gradual drawing together". [62]

At the international level, aside from the development of national literary languages there will be an increase in the number of international languages. This emphasizes even more the need for an auxiliary language.


36 V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 22, p. 146.

37 S. T. Kaltaklichyan, Leninism on the Essence of Nations and Ways Leading to the Formation of an International Community of People, Moscow, 1969, p. 453 (in Russian).

38 Ibid., p. 459.

39 B. G. Gafurov, "The Success of the National Policy of the CPSU and Some Issues of Internationalist Education'', Kommunist No. 11, 1958 (in Russian).

40 M. D. Kammari, "Concerning the Laws That Govern the Development of Nations Under Socialism and During the Transition to Communism" in From Socialism to Communism, Moscow, 1962, p. 397 (in Russian).

41 A. A. Reformatsky, Introduction to Linguistics, p. 524 (in Russian).

42 K. Kh. Khanazarov, The Convergence of Soviet Nations and National Languages in the USSR, Tashkent, 1963, p. 225 (in Russian).

43 Ibid.

44 V. G. Kostomarov, The Program of the CPSU on the Russian Language, Moscow, 1963, p. 32 (in Russian).

45 See, On Communism (Collection), Moscow, 1963, p. 365 (in Russian).

46 See, E. P. Svadost, How Will a Universal Language Emerge?, Moscow, 1968, p. 236 ff. (in Russian).

47 S. T. Kaltakhchyan, Leninism on the Essence of Nations. . ., p. 460 (in Russian).

48 See, Voprosy filosofii (Problems of Philosophy) No. 1, 1967, p. 43 ff. (in Russian).

49 S. T. Kaltakhchyan, op. cit., p. 460 (in Russian).

50 Yu. D. Desheriyev, I. F. Protchenko, The Development of the Languages of the Peoples of the USSR in the Soviet Age, p. 305 (in Russian).

51 See, P. M. Rogachev, M. A. Sverdlin, Nation, People, Mankind, Moscow, 1967, p. 189 (in Russian).

52 E. P. Svadost, op. cit., p. 12 (in Russian).

53 V. A. Avrorin, "The Leninist National Policy and the Development of Literary Languages of the Peoples of the USSR", VYa No. 4, 1960, pp. 16‑17 (in Russian).

54 See, E. A. Bagramov, "Chauvinism and National Nihilism in the Ideology of Imperialism", Kommunist No. 16, 1966, p. 110 ff. (in Russian).

55 Yu. D. Desheriyev, I. F. Protchenko, op. cit., p. 303.

56 The Road to Communism, p. 562.

57 See, Yu. D. Desheriyev, I. F. Protchenko, op. cit., p. 304.

58 Literaturnaya gazeta (Literary Gazette), August 28, 1968.

59 E. P. Svadost, How Will a Universal Language Emerge?, p. 239.

60 Yu. D. Desheriyev, The Development of New Written Languages of the Peoples of the USSR, Moscow, 1958, p. 257 (in Russian).

61 Yu. D. Desheriyev, The Development of New Written Languages of the Peoples of the USSR, Moscow, 1958, p. 257 (in Russian).

62 24th Congress of the CPSU, Moscow, 1971, p. 92.

SOURCE: Isayev, M. I. [Isaev, Magomet Izmailovich]. National Languages in the USSR: Problems and Solutions; translated from the Russian by Paul Medov. Moscow: Progress, 1977. 431 pp. Bibliography: p. 407-431. This is the final section of Chapter VII, p. 383-401.

Note: Footnotes have been converted to endnotes on this web page.

Esperanto & Laborista Movado / Esperanto & the Labor Movement

Esperanto Study Guide / Esperanto-Gvidilo

Salvaging Soviet Philosophy (1)

Marx and Marxism Web Guide

Home Page | Site Map | What's New | Coming Attractions | Book News
Bibliography | Mini-Bibliographies | Study Guides | Special Sections
My Writings | Other Authors' Texts | Philosophical Quotations
Blogs | Images & Sounds | External Links

CONTACT Ralph Dumain

Uploaded 4 November 2009

Site ©1999-2009 Ralph Dumain