Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Literature, Poetry, and Books

Indonesians fear losing language (and soul)

From today's New York Times.  Fascinating problem for the Indonesians and for their language, Bahasa Indonesia.  The Philippines have a similar problem (Marcos tried to revivify Tagalog at the expense of English; hard to do, leads to a different kind of disadvantage for the country).  Also see the just published Globish: How the English Language Became the World's Language (I'm only half through it), as well as McWhorter's too critical review (and too "scientific" understanding of language) in The New Republic.  I have profited from the thread conversation on the previous post.  Thanks.

Discussions - 6 Comments

So is the McCrum "full of false factoids" and isn't that redundant? Are there true factoids?

"Both English and Russian have spread the way they have because they were the languages that happened to be spoken by powers that happened to acquire vast amounts of territory."

There his politics are showing. English is spoken beyond the boundaries of previously conquered nations. McCrum is right in his premise (No, I have not even seen the book) English is everywhere. Are there countries all over the world offering Russian as a second language, as is the case with English? It has nothing like the same ubiquity. I wish I could ask McWhorter (or somebody) if the adaptability of English reflects the inclination to conquest ( by trade and technology these days?) or does it reflect a world-wide inclination to democracy so that an embracing language seems better than any exclusive or simplistic ones. He seems to find tyranny in language where it just isn't.

I don't remember McWhorter so relentlessly didactic in his book. (I got it out of the library to read and so don't have it to check.) Maybe it is just that the piece was written for the New Republic; different publications have their demands. But the way goes on he makes me remember Esperanto. Do you guys remember Esperanto? When my husband and I were getting married in Manhattan in 1974. We bumped into the state law that said we both had to be 21 years old or have a parent with us for the clerk of courts to do his dirty work. I was too young and my parents were in Oregon, but we had the day off work and didn't want to waste it. We could be married by a judge or in a church. There was a church whose minister would marry just about anybody at a moment's notice, but it were in the West Village and would only marry us in Esperanto.

We found a judge.

(My glorious Captcha phrase is "lacrimal likewise". I have to find a way to use that. "Standing with the widow, she unexpectedly found herself lacrimal likewise." I wonder if Tagalog or the vanishing Indonesian language have the same kind of linguistic fun.)

Having one of "those" days and wrote the above over hours, popping in and out, till life swept me away -- so that I forgot that point I wished to make. That point was that Esperanto is a soulless language is there ever was one. Ugly, unlovable, unloved and useless despite its utilitarianism. Who speaks it?

"if there ever was one." One of those days.

The reason the world speaks English today is the same reason SE Asia spoke Hindi and Arabic -- trade languages. And sweeping aside smaller, less useful languages is an old, old pattern, and as inevitable as the sunrise.

What will actually happen in Indonesia is a marriage between their native tongues and English. If you think about it, this is how the world's languages got started in the first place -- a mother tongue gets spread via immigration and trade routes, and local dialects evolved to the point of mutual incomprehensibility. The only difference today is telecommunications and global media. The "calving" of languages probably won't have the same finality or distinctiveness as in the past.

My captcha is "western trek." Very appropriate!

Redwald, what you write reminded me of this article, http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB120425355065601997-7Bp8YFw7Yy1n9bdKtVyP7KBAcJA_20080330.html from a couple of years ago, about why Finnish students do so well, academically. They watch American TV and learn our language from the Finnish subtitles. That's not all of it as far as education goes, but it is an effective way to learn a language, apparently.

Leave a Comment

* denotes a required field
 

No TrackBacks
TrackBack URL: http://nlt.ashbrook.org/movabletype/mt-tb.cgi/15513