22.8.11

Language, Invention and Distinction

I've been working on a manuscript that examines how language interacts with the world and I find it endlessly interesting. The highly complex nature of our communication structures, practices and cultures means that very little human experience is free of language. More specifically, the actual language or languages we speak, think in and process deeply influence us. We might, if we push hard enough, allow that language inhabits us as much as we inhabit language. 




Given these deep intricacies, the nature of how the various languages we are part of is very important to think about. How do computer languages, marketplace terms, mixing of languages, power and conquest all relate? They are most certainly not trivial. 


Michel Serres has published a piece reflecting on how the marketplace - marketers and money people - are changing the nature of French and what might be done about it. I read the piece and thought that all uniqueness, distinction, peculiarity and local flavour is important. In this case, the matter of discussion is the use of French but I thought of many other ways that the particularity of the local can get washed out in the mass influences that move in and around us. 


Years ago I had a long conversation with a Ukrainian Orthodox priest that I met with from time to time  to discuss ideas with. He talked about how the retention of a Ukrainian mass meant that younger people failed to see the experience as meaningful - they were thoroughly English and the Ukrainian was the language of their grandparents. If he insisted on a Ukrainian mass, he risked the loss of a generation and thus of a much greater enterprise. If he gave up Ukrainian in favour of English, the cultural ballast of the Ukrainian culture would be deeply undermined. What a difficult, and specific, predicament.


Here's the article link. I would be most interested in what people make of the ideas raised. The image comes form this website

3 comments:

Maria Odete Madeira said...

Language is not an agent. The agents are the organisms. Language is verbalized thought.

Language does not interact, does not inhabit. We (inter)act, the organisms (inter)act.

We communicate through the verbalization of our thoughts.

Of course, the way in which we verbalize our thoughts/thinking has consequences, has effects..., in that sense, we are influenced and we influence each other by the way in which we communicate and (inter)connect.

Anonymous said...

To have everything "Englished" would be a sad thing. I think other languages are so much more expressive and older languages have such beautiful expressions. When you loose the expressions, you lose the customs, when you lose the customs, people change. And that is what is happening in the world today. People are being manipulated, molded in ways they don't comprehend, thinking it's cool. Anyone can look back even on Shakespearian language and see the beauty of it. Many customs, human interactions have been demolished when older parts of language have been left behind. Mannerisms DO change. We become less than we were over time. Less able to express because the words no longer exist. The customs no longer exist. The way of relating to each other in those ways no longer exist. That is the danger of "being modern", "being American". Please. I live in America. The culture I see today is in no way similar to a more refined culture of even 100 yrs ago. when common people actually had whole discussions on intellectual subjects, people made it a point to know social mores, ettiquette, rules of discussion, when to say and when not to say things and why. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh...

Sewing Light said...

I happen to side entirely with the priest in wanting to keep the language and customs alive. He understands the tremendous loss of culture and even a particular way of thinking. But I also sympathize with his worry over their spiritual life.
And I guess that is what I really wanted to bring out in this whole discussion--the fact that when you change a language (or to another), the way you think changes. It is a known fact that even the way a language is written (especially the direction) has an affect on the brain. I thought it was so sad when I read somewhere that Turkey dropped their script alphabet in exchange for anglicization. Their leader knew it would change the people, and it did (along with other things of course).
Again, I say, how very sad to see beautiful customs, mannerisms, sayings and ways of thinking go down in historical dust.
Are the shiny and pretty things worth it? Are the change in governments and control over us worth it in the long run of hundreds of years? I don't think so.