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Thursday, 17 September 1936

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES (South Australia) . - I had anticipated that we should have had some intervention from the Government, particularly in view of the suggestion made by Senator Hardy, that in some way or other tha onus of this proposal falls more heavily upon the Ministry than upon honorable senators. We owe a great debt of gratitude to Senator Abbott for the tremendous amount of work he has done in connexion with this matter. He has been courageous and enthusiastic; in pursuit of his ideal he has not only spoken up arid down the countryside, but also has visited New Zealand. All this he has done out of devotion to an ideal, a sense of public responsibility, and a desire to promote the best interests of all peoples. We should express our appreciation of his labours. If anything be necessary to bring home to the people the advisability of some such move as this, we might find it in some Talks wilh Mussolini, published by Emil Ludwig some years ago. I invite the Senate to consider the following statement: -

Now that the unity of States has been achieved, an attempt will be made to achieve the unity of continents. But as far as Europe is concerned, that will be damnably difficult, since each nation has its own peculiar countenance, its own language, its own customs, it* own types. For each nation, a certain percentage of these characteristics (x per cent., let us say), remains completely original, and this induces resistance to any sort of fusion. In America, no doubt, things are easier.

We should not forget that language is not the only thing which is peculiar to each nation. Even if we can, by tho adoption of a common language, overcome the existing difficulty of intercourse between the people of different countries, there will remain, tlie difficulties of peculiar countenance and of customs, lt would, perhaps, be well to remember that, even if we learned the language of another nation, it would not necessarily make us sympathetic towards its people, although I admit that it would take us at least some distance along the road to a sympathetic understanding of their difficulties.

Some people will, perhaps, object to the motion on the ground that similar attempts have been made almost from the beginnings of history. Senator Hardy spoke some time ago of the Tower of liabc.1. It is true that since then there have been many attempts to secure the adoption of some common language. All have been relatively unsuccessful, though at some periods in history the general use of one language in Europe has made it the dominant language.

Senator Arkins - "Which language was responsible?

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES - Latin was, for a long time, the language used by the educated people of Europe. Down to the eighteenth century it wa3 the language most used in diplomacy. Quotations in Latin were frequently heard in the House of Commons until about 50 years ago. In legal documents, first Norman-French, and afterwards Latin, were chiefly used. . In the eighteenth century, French became the chief European language, and Paris then became tlie centre of culture in Europe. Educated Russians also spoke NormanFrench, even in their own capital city. Now English is generally regarded as the master tongue among European nations. If one can speak English, French and German, one can make oneself understood over the greater part of Europe. I except, of course, portions of Russia; but, even there, French is understood by a considerable number of people in the principal centres of population. Thu3 it will be understood that these three languages will carry one almost everywhere in Europe.

I repeat what I said on this subject on a former occasion : that if any one gives support to the movement for the adoption of a universal language, in the belief that English will be chosen, he will very likely be doomed to disappointment. I do not wish to labour this point, because I know that Senator Abbott is very insistent that the choice of the language for international use must bc left to the decision of the convention which he anticipates will be held. He has made it clear that he does not wish to lay it down that this or that language shall be predetermined. His purpose is to gather together representatives of the nations to decide this matter, but I say deliberately that, in the present state of the world, with the spirit of nationalism so much in evidence in all countries, I see no likelihood at all of Germany, Italy, Russia or Japan agreeing to basic English or any other form of the English language being accepted as the medium for the exchange of thought among the nations. It seems to me that the adoption of some neutral language is inevitable.

Senator Arkins - Has a neutral language been invented ?

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES - Several such languages have been presented to the world from time to time. In 1879, Johann Martin Schleyer invented Volapuk, a language based on proved scientific principles. For a time it made considerable progress, but, as so often happens, a rival scientific language made its appearance. In 1S87, Dr. Zamenhof gave to the world a new language, known as Esperanto, which is widely spoken at the present time. I am not suggesting that the proposed convention should adopt Esperanto; but there is a great deal to be said for it, because it is based on scientific principles, and is a beautiful tongue. English and the foreign languages of which I have knowledge have been developed over a long period of time, and are not based on scientific principles. Esperanto is founded on Latin. It is easily understood by Italians, French, and Spanish peoples, and, to a certain extent, by the people who speak the English tongue: In Esperanto grammar and phonetics are reduced to the simplest and easiest form. All nouns end in " o ", adjectives in " a ", and derived adverbs in " e ". Thus it is a language of .remarkable richness and flexibility, .as well as extreme simplicity and regularity. It has fulfilled the purpose for which it was designed, as it is used by a large and increasing number of people for practical purposes, whether for commerce, study or recreation.

Senator Abbott - Would it not be better to get the machinery, that is, a convention of the nations, before we discuss the language to be adopted?

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES - I agree with the honorable senator, and I do not think that what I am saying will in any way prejudice the carrying of the motion, " but ' I venture to think that the. majority of Australians or, for that matter, the majority of people of any other country, if asked, to support the proposal, would say - " Oh yes, we are in favour of a convention to adopt an international language, but of course our own tongue must be the one chosen." I put it to the Senate, therefore, that, if we carry this motion, it must be with a full realization that it will not necessarily mean that English will be the language adopted for international use. But as Senator Abbott has rightly said the purpose of the motion is to ensure the adoption of an additional language which can be used fo-r intercourse between the nations'. Every nation. will preserve its own tongue, literature and traditions.

When T waa a young man I. devoted some .time to the study of Esperanto and quickly realized its enormous advantages. It is to-day in general -use. Conferences attended by the representatives of no fewer than thirty nations have been held for the interchange of thought. It i3 an enormous advantage for people of various nations to be able to come together in this way.

I hope that Senator Abbott's motion will be carried unanimously. -But I do not believe that if a convention be held, and a particular language be adopted for universal use, it', will, set . the world straight at.- once. In the nature of- things,, many years must elapse before the effects of such a course will be felt. Nor do I wish the Senate t® think that the adoption of a common language will be a substitute fer adequate defence. It is an idea which has persisted in the minds of .serious thinking .people the . world over, as far back as history goes. It has always broken down hitherto,, but we now have a League of Nations, and in these times, when people of the various countries can travel about the world so quickly, it is worth our while to make the attempt in the hope that the world will get some good from it.

Senator Hardy,in his speech, gave us a quotation from the Old Testament. 1 shall conclude with one from the New Testament - " So also ye, unless ye utter by the tongue speech easy to be understood, how shall it bs known what is -spoken? Vor ye will be speaking into the air.

There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and no kind is without signification. If then I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be to him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh will be a barbarian unto me. .

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