English Language

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th February 1964.

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Photo of Mr Arthur Woodburn Mr Arthur Woodburn , Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire 12:00 am, 27th February 1964

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the progress of English as a universal language, he will advise the setting up of a Royal Commission to report on the best method of assisting this development and on the possibility, in conjunction with broadcasting, Eurovision, and other educational media, of recommending standards of pronunciation and some reconciliation of the written and the spoken word.

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

No. Sir. It would not be appropriate to establish a Royal Commission for this purpose. Existing national and international organisations to assist the development of English are already active, and conferences of national experts on the subject have been held in recent years.

Photo of Mr Arthur Woodburn Mr Arthur Woodburn , Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire

Is the Prime Minister aware that to develop English as a universal language and to make it possible for people to communicate more easily with each other would be a less expensive and more satisfactory way of achieving peace and good will than perhaps even disarmament conferences?

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

As I think the right hon. Gentleman knows, a number of bodies are very active in this matter, including the British Council and the International Advisory Group, on which the Americans serve with us and other Commonwealth countries. Therefore, quite a lot is going on in this matter. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not get too enthusiastic; I might not be able to understand him.

Photo of Sir Isaac Pitman Sir Isaac Pitman , Bath

Would my right hon. Friend consider the possibility of setting up, if not a Royal Commission, at any rate an inter-Departmental Committee to go into the question, which has not been answered, in respect of the reconciliation of writing with pronunciation? As an alphabet is already being very widely used in the English speaking world which brings about an acceptable reconciliation, will my right hon. Friend consider setting up an interdepartmental Committee, seeing that possibly this is an epochal development in the future of the English language?

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

This matter of reconciliation of the written and spoken word has been considered very often by a number of bodies. I will consider what my hon. Friend says. I am rather doubtful whether I should set up a special committee for this.

Photo of Sir Godfrey Nicholson Sir Godfrey Nicholson , Farnham

Will my right hon. Friend resist to the uttermost any attempt to standardise the English language? One of the beauties of the English tongue and life in this country is that we have such wide local variations.