Quaker Universalist Voice

Speaking truth in the global public square…

Universal Language?

Does Science Need a Global Language? by Scott L. Montgomery - A Book Review (2013)

Do we need or have a universal language?

Latin provided an international language from the 1st century BCE to the 6th century. In the 7th century, Arabic was almost  the lingua franca of the intellectual world, eclipsed by the Mongols in the 8th century.  In the 19th century, German was the universal scientific language, only eclipsed by World Wars I and II.  Today, English is the universal language of science and technology.

There are many reasons for the benefits of a universal language for science and politics. Science has become multinational.  Or better, science is global and scientific, collaboration is widespread.  Scientific cooperation eclipses national boundaries and perceptions. English has assumed priority in this collaboration in voices and publications.

There are also limitations and harms in a universal language.  English is an additional burden to developing nations.

Do we need a universal theological and spiritual language in our universal effort at communication of the spiritual component of universal truth for all humans?  Certainly, communication about the physical reality surrounding us benefits from a spiritual language in physics, linguistics, history, education, politics, chemistry, and biology.

Scott L. Montgomery's answer in Does Science Need a Global Language? is in the affirmative.  The arguments are clearly outlined, and the conclusion is:

  • Yes, a globe needs a global language.
  • Practical mitigations of specific unfairnesses to other language traditions include embracing flexibility in the use of non-standard English, encouraging republication of scientific documents in local languages, assistance in teaching and learning English as a universal skill in addition to other languages, and investment in the preservation of other languages as a part of our universal human heritage
  • Quakers: The book contains no reference to Quakers.   There is no reference to the role of religion.  There is a minor reference to the Quran, but no treatment of any religious influence in the development of universal language.


  • What do Quakers say of a universal language?
  • Is English the universal Quaker language?
  • What can Quakers do to enhance global communication in word and writing?


Does Science Need a Global Language?, Scott L. Montgomery (University of Chicago Press, 2013)

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