11.16.2005

response to a comment

or, "linguistics freewrite"

to my previous post, "i swear i am not making this up," josh added this comment:

"More and more, I believe we are going to see bilingualism and less overall conformity to white linguistic norms. I think I'm all right with that, but I'm not quite sure. Indoctrination is wrong even in it's mildest form--and probably more deadly. It's hard for me to read that fax without cringing, but if the person speaks and writes fluently in another language, or can communicate effectively with those of his particular culture, then I feel wrong judging him for not being able to put together a declaritive sentence in English just because he lives in America. We don't live in the 1950's homogeneous society that never really existed and now flourishes, embodied in perfectly manicured lawns, buzz cuts, cars that can be fixed with a good hammer and a socket set, and big-breasted June Cleavers cleaning kitchens in the minds of conservatives everywhere. But no offense. Seriously."

none taken. seriously. and, while i agree that we are heading away from that kind of utopian linguistic uniformity, i cannot say i am "all right with that." at least, not yet. in college, i was known to professors and students alike as one prone to strict adherence to certain rules and traditions, while simultaneously flinging others aside in a seemingly arbitrary fashion. for the time being, my desire for linguistic uniformity falls into the first category.

indeed, we do not live in that america, and no doubt we never truly did, but i am distressed by the bilingual future you predict. biblically, the confusion of languages was a device of punishment and segregation. granted, the parallel is not the strongest one, but when a similar trend--that of linguistic "confusion," or quasi-intentional linguistic branching-off--is affected by men, it seems that difficulties must arise. still, while the differences, culturally speaking, must be respected and acknowledged, i must ask the question: what is the end if, inside a single country, geographically whole, multiple linguistic norms are accepted and used? further, how would such a multilingual society go about addressing the possible negative social effects while maximizing the benefits and the appreciable beauties inherent in the above noted linguistic trends we, as americans, will certainly view through the lens of multiculturalism?

but perhaps “distressed” is not the right term. rather, i feel concerned that the linguistic trends of the present will only place further stress on the racial tension we would all like to ignore, and that is what bothers me. i have no doubt that racial/ethnic groups are likely to further develop unique linguistic identities, as a natural extension of pride in belonging to larger social identities. this is not a bad thing—indeed, it is a beautiful thing, as there can never be too many different ways of symbolically expressing anything—but i fear that the trend will include adhering to the newly developing linguistic identities to the exclusion of understanding other such identities, both newly developing and developed. my gut feeling is that each racial/ethnic group will be guilty, to varying degrees, of such exclusion, to the detriment of all. if that assessment is correct, the only way to venture safely into the future, linguistically, is by preparing for the consequences of creating a multilingual society, whether they be the ones mentioned here, or be they completely different.

it’s almost enough to make me want a higher degree in linguistics.

(it seems appropriate here to insert a mention of blog against racism day. this subject may just have to be revisited then)

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