LANGUAGE TYPES AND
What languages are to be studied in connection with our war and post-war needs? Gray's Foundations of Language (p. 418) tentatively places the total number of present-day spoken languages, exclusive of minor dialects, at 2,796--a staggering total, when we consider the amount of effort required to master even one foreign tongue. Obviously, a wise choice is imperative.
But fortunately for the practical linguist, there are "key" languages, which open up to us vast areas of the earth. THE MAN WHO HAS SOME PRACTICAL ACQUAINTANCE WITH ENGLISH, FRENCH, GERMAN, SPANISH, POR- TUGUESE, ITALIAN, RUSSIAN, AND JAPANESE IS, ROUGHLY SPEAKING, IN A POSITION TO MAKE HIS WAY AROUND THE WORLD. If to this knowledge he adds a smattering of Arabic, Chinese, Malay, and Dutch, and the ability to identify a few other tongues, so that he can distinguish between Polish and Czech, Swedish and Danish, Finnish and Hungarian, at least in their written form, his linguistic education, for purely utilitarian purposes, is completed.
Can this be demonstrated?
The impressive total of 2,796 tongues, mentioned above, includes over a thousand American Indian languages, whose present-day speakers number a few thousand or even a few hundred each. Over five hundred "languages" are spoken by African Negro tribes; nearly five hundred more by the natives of Australia, New Guinea, and the islands of the Pacific. Several hundred others are little-known tongues spoken by isolated groups in Asia. All these can safely be disregarded for the purpose on hand.