4.1111 Languages of Humanist etc. (3/87)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Thu, 28 Feb 91 23:07:58 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 1111. Thursday, 28 Feb 1991.

(1) Date: Wed, Feb 27, 1991 11:29:03 AM (22 lines)
From: Adam Engst <ace%tidbits.UUCP@theory.TN.CORNELL.EDU>
Subject: Languages of Humanist

(2) Date: Wed, 27 Feb 91 20:29:56 +0000 (10 lines)
From: arb1@ukc.ac.uk
Subject: Languages of Humanist

(3) Date: Thu, 28 Feb 91 07:04:54 EST (55 lines)
From: Germaine Warkentin <WARKENT@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: Language

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Wed, Feb 27, 1991 11:29:03 AM
From: Adam Engst <ace%tidbits.UUCP@theory.TN.CORNELL.EDU>
Subject: Languages of Humanist

Languages of Humanist

In regard to "Languages of Humanist,"


(and many aplogies for the inability of ASCII to properly represent what I
wanted to say, a number of the letters can't match properly with the Greek
letters. Oh, and if I've made a mistake, which is extremely likely, please tell
me - that is, if you're not too offended that I didn't use English.)

sheesh.... -Adam
Adam C. Engst Editor of TidBITS, the weekly electronic Macintosh journal

ace@tidbits.tcnet.ithaca.ny.us The best way to predict the future
pv9y@crnlvax5, pv9y@vax5.cit.cornell.edu is to invent it. -Alan Kay

(2) --------------------------------------------------------------20----
Date: Wed, 27 Feb 91 20:29:56 +0000
From: arb1@ukc.ac.uk
Subject: Languages of Humanist

Viden ends his recent posting with "let's be practical". Dangerous advice.
"Being practical" nearly always involves accepting whatever is most
powerful rather than what may be best. Read Mulhausler on the dis-
appearance of the Pacific languages if you want to see what can happen
when people choose to use a language for "practical" reasons.

Tony Bex

(3) --------------------------------------------------------------63----
Date: Thu, 28 Feb 91 07:04:54 EST
From: Germaine Warkentin <WARKENT@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: Language

In departing the discussion of language on Humanist Ian Richmond has
raised a question of great interest. He's obviously very angry,
and vents some of it on me by terming my mention of "French on the Corn
Flakes boxes" simplistic. I hope he does not think I regard that
interesting practice as a defining aspect of the experience of two
languages in Canada, but it is almost universally where the experience
of the linguistic "other" began for Canadian children of my generation, at
least the English-speaking ones. Participants in Humanist who have not
visited Canada may not realize that for many years Canadian packaging
materials have been printed in English and in French. This long
pre-dates any legal stipulations; Canada is a small market (1/10 of the
US population) and the economic reasons for doing so are self-evident.
What this means is that a Canadian child from the moment he or she
learns to read, is presented with the experience of parallel texts in a
very down-to-earth situation. I remember very well discovering that as
I learned to read in Grade One, the words on the page translated into
the words I used in conversation, but that they had nothing to do with
the increasingly mysterious "other text" on the cereal box. But because
I was a curious child (and probably because I wasn't allowed to bring a
book to the table and thus pored over the cereal box while my parents
read the newspaper), I soon figured out that what was printed in English
on one side of the box was the same as what was printed in another
language on the other. But that other language was a text without
sounds; I never heard French spoken, since Toronto then was as
intransigently unilingual as it is multilingual today. But there is a
further dimension to this experience; as a Catholic, I experienced Latin in
church services even before I began to read: a long string of syllables which
comprised a language with sounds, but without a text! (There was no such thing
as a Latin prayer book in our not very advantaged house.) It was only in Grade
10 that these sounds finally translated themselves into marks on a page, and I
realized that behind their incantatory power was the ordinary life of language,
verbs that meant "to come", "to go", nouns that meant "table," "camp", and
"street". I tell these anecdotes to draw attention to the question Ian
raised (at least for me), that of the very interesting and complex ways in
which specific societies "construct" the experience of linguistic "others"
for those who live in them, and (what I am sure we all realize) how very early
that construction occurs. Those who have participated in this discussion
(which does indeed seem to be coming to an end) might wish to interrogate
their own first experiences of the linguistic "other" to see whether they
found it an adventure (as I did, hapless linguist though I am), whether that
other was socially repudiated by the implicit actions of the surrounding
culture (in Toronto, then known as "little Belfast", I was automatically
a "dirty Catholic") or whether, as I detect in a number of the responses
in this debate, the first experience of other languages is that of the
classroom, where language study can be isolated as instrumental, and
treated as a convenient and practical acquisition. There's a lot more to
it than that. The great Italian scholar Gianfranco Contini said of Dante
that the language of the _Commedia_ was "the language of his nurse and of the
saints in Heaven." Perhaps, in order to understand the passions unleased in
this discussion, we ought to go back and ask what were the languages of our
own "nurses" were. Germaine.