Through the work of writing, I have learned first and foremost that nothing is what it tells us it is, because there is always another level, another way to play at naming, with reality, to bend untruths to be more true, as medicine, as savior, as demon filtered for taste, as a ritual mark of remembrance of tensile perceptual realities, disputed, fought for and reclaimed. There is a line after which language becomes less a tool for understanding and more a mechanism for undermining it, but that line is constantly in motion, and in language, as in physics, we now understand “reversibility generally does not exist”, as per Poincaré.
Writing teaches a person about language, in a very deep and sensory way, but language also teaches a person about existence in the human sense, existing as a human being, as an individual who is capable of not only perceiving and manifesting, but also articulating an identity. That, to some extent, is our most recurring, most insistent, most necessary and yet problematic, reason for engaging in serious explorations of language usage: how to articulate the untestable reality that is the human self.
Continue reading “Writing & Naming: the Medicine of Acquiring Knowledge”
Seven lies that inform the push for an English-only United States
Is the United States an “English-speaking nation”, or a place where all cultures are welcome to converge, mix and evolve? To answer this question, we must consider that there is a natural human tendency to fear what is perceived as the definite and invasive “other”, that which is different and which we feel can be categorized in a way that fits our worries.
The human space is fluid, adaptable, sensitive to evolving circumstance. This is why democracy is the only legitimate form of government. The identity of groups, or for that matter of individuals is not implacable, nor is it absolutely relative. It follows the vicissitudes of the human health and mind, and requires sincere dialogue with the other in order to reach its fullest potential. The push to establish a single national language can only be sustained on the basis of a number of false premises.
Continue reading “The Illusion of the Definite & Invasive ‘Other’”
We are living in a time of unprecedented global integration, where economies, security interests, legal systems, and languages and systems of learning have been dispersed and interwoven across the globe. There are obvious positive effects to this integration, along with certain overarching and seemingly intractable problems that cause real worry for even the most hopeful or studied observers.
Languages and cultures intermingle, yet seek to remain distinct and continuous, and individuals seek to enhance their own possibilities (requiring freedom of information, and freedom of movement), while seeking to prevent the corrosion of already structured social fabrics. The obvious problem is that some of our most vital human interests come into conflict more readily with those of others, when massive numbers of people mix and intermingle, individuals and cultures competing with one another for the spoils of a new global system.
Continue reading “Ziggurat Century: Global Civilization as the New Babel, with Reason for Hope”
Rare words BBC reports may disappear with dying languages: see “In defence of ‘lost’ languages”
- Coghal — big lump of dead flesh after a wound is opened (Manx)
- Tkhetsikhe’tenhawihtennihs — I am bringing sugar to somebody (Mohawk: Canada and USA)
- Puijilittatuq — he does not know which way to turn because of the many seals he has seen come to the ice surface (Inuktitut: Canadian Arctic)
- Tl’imshya’isita’itlma — he invites people to a feast (Nootka: Canada)
- Onsra — to love for the last time (Boro: NE India and Bangladesh)
- Sjonvarp — television (Faroese: a language in good health)
- Nartutaka — small plum-like fruit for which there is no English word (Wangkajunga: central Australia)
- Th’alatel — a device for the heart (Halkomelem: Canada)
HALF OF ALL KNOWN LANGUAGES MAY DISAPPEAR BY 2100, MORE THAN 3,000 CULTURES LOST
The world’s three most widely-spoken languages, English, Spanish and Mandarin, each enjoy more than 450 million speakers worldwide. These languages are increasingly useful for international business and for diplomacy in an interconnected global society. But languages with fewer than 10 million speakers are now considered “minor” and many long-standing cultures are in danger of disappearing, as only a handful of people remain who can speak them.
In North America, there are now only half the number of indigenous languages spoken as there were 500 years ago, when Europeans began to settle permanently. There are 329 distinct languages spoken in the United States, roughly half indigenous, and yet radical conservatives intent on halting immigration are trying to establish English as the single language in which people are allowed to communicate with their government. Of the 3 major dialects of Lenape, once spoken widely by pre-colonial tribes throughout modern New Jersey, Delaware, New York and Connecticut, only one remains. It is now spoken almost exclusively on reservations in Oklahoma and Ontario, and is largely forgotten by the two youngest generations descended from the Lenape tribes.
Continue reading “World’s Languages Disappearing at Alarming Rate: 3,000 Soon Extinct”