More on Minority Tongues

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Wed Oct 8 18:45:09 UTC 2008


More on Minority Tongues
 Ploni Almoni, a really smart Jewish Israeli who is also a fairly sensible
sort of White nationalist, asks about the Migration and Language Policy
post:

A question, which you may have already addressed in other postings on the
subject: Why should we care? That's not a cynical or smart-  ass
 question. What's so important about a language?

 Seems to me, we care about languages mostly as proxies for something really
important: nations, in the original sense of the word (ethnoi).
 But it's a truism of political science that language is a poor proxy for
nationhood. The Irish are a nation even though their mother tongue is
English. The Jews are a nation even though they've got dozens of mother
tongues, and most Jews probably don't speak Hebrew. I do care a lot about
the survival of the nation--my nation, that is, not all those funny other
ones.

 Why do people care about all those funny nations and languages not their
own? My guess is, for the same reason they care about those funny species
like the snail-darter or whatever. It's kind of sad when something that's
existed for a long time goes out of existence, even something that was never
worth paying any attention to when it was around.
 This is very different from our attitude towards biological death. There's
a sense of nostalgia, of loss. An aesthetic thing, which I can appreciate.
But that's just my guess.


I'm not really sure why we should care. I'm a linguist, and linguists do
care for obvious reasons. The opinion is split on whether people care or
not. Within a large nation, even majorities often say the Hell with all
small tongues and everyone should speak the national language.
 And you will find many "common sense" folks advocating for getting rid of
all the small languages and everyone just speaking English or whatever. The
idea being that all these small tongues just hinder communication anyway and
a lot are not even very useful in the modern world. My Mom says, "Why should
we keep all these small languages alive just so linguists can study them?"
That attitude is quite common.
 Those who do care (and the nonlinguist types actually exist). It's probable
that you may be correct. The death of a language often does signal something
larger - the death of a culture and in that sense, the death of a people
itself. It's one more step on the way to Multinational Idiocracy World.

 And even in a nonlinguist sense, I find these little nations (especially
ones that still live traditional lives) to be fascinating. I love the
customs, the dress, the hats, the architecture, the trades, the clocks. Here
in the US, we don't seem to have any traditions in the sense of clothing,
architecture, style, dialect, trades, or much of fucking anything. You can
go all over the country and I swear all the buildings look alike.
 Compare that to photos of Trieste, the Dolomites, Sciacca in Sicily, Lucca
in Trento, the Dalmation coast, the Greek Islands.
 These are places steeped in history, culture and architecture. There are
old castles, clocks, buildings, cobblestone streets, and churches. The
buildings are very close together and the stone streets wind here and there
without much sense.

 Everyone is out in the streets, or hanging out their windows, or standing
in the doorways. The socializing is continuous. People are walking in and
out of friends and neighbors places all day long. To me, this is real
community. They look at One World Multinational Idiocracy and spit in its
face. In the White US neighborhoods I've lived in, people jump in their cars
alone and head to work alone, work all day, then drive home alone. Everyone
goes into their homes and apartments and seems to hide in there. You would
almost think the neighborhood is deserted.
 I wonder if that is any kind of a community at all. A community of atomized
individualists - this is what capitalism wants? It's great for business,
great for capitalist culture. Sure, I guess so. Set every man against
himself, a fight of all against all, and watch all social solidarity vanish
in a flash.

 An Esperantist notes, commenting on The Record of Communist Language Policy
post:


It seems to me that a partial solution to the survival of the smaller
languages lies in that neglected international tongue Esperanto. At present
the speaker of Welsh, Breton, Friulian and so on has to make use of a
powerful neighbouring language when accessing services outside his/her
immediate community, for shopping, for contacts with the tax office and so
on. These contacts serve to strengthen the more widely spoken language and
weaken the minority one. Imagine a situation in which everyone spoke an
international auxiliary language - Esperanto- in addition to their local,
regional or state language. They would then not be necessarily compelled to
speak the language of their neighbours, and could use the auxiliary language
for those wider contacts.


Problem is that Esperanto has not really gone anywhere. It has 2 million
speakers, and 10 million people have some knowledge of it, but I think the
Esperanto fad was bigger a few decades ago. Anyway, it's already being
eclipsed by Interlingua. There are 100,000 articles on Esperanto Wikipedia,
and the Esperanto community on the web is a big deal.
 I've never met anyone in my life who ever spoke Esperanto.

 The language is nice, and there is now good evidence that learning
Esperanto before learning a second language helps you learn the L2 sooner
and better. Esperanto is one of those great ideas that never really worked
out. It's a great social engineering project that ran up against various
walls of human nature. Truth is that English is becoming the de facto
Esperanto of the world anyway.
 But there remain many good arguments for Esperanto or another constructed
language.

 http://robertlindsay.blogspot.com/2008/10/more-on-minority-tongues.html
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