Languages and clouds

(Sad hippy post.)

Everyone gets prizes here, and they’ve given sociolinguist Irene Lozano one for lamenting in Lenguas en guerra (Languages at war), as reported in ABC, that

languages are used for political ends, when their purpose is to serve and human communication and knowledge. Languages don’t take notice of borders, because borders hinder and languages communicate. Languages existed before nations and, when the latter disappear, they will still exist: it is a lie to say that languages form nations… There are languages like Spanish which are spoken in 20 nations, and nations like India where 200 languages are spoken. [Nationalists in certain autonomous regions have sought] to reduce the use of the common language [ie Spanish] before the insidious concept of “own languages”.

This is fairly basic stuff, although radical here, with nationalist drums echoing outside. However–and I’m speaking as a particularly indolent dilettante–if you experience stuff written or spoken in Spain before the advent, or outside the ambit, of the national and regional language academies, with their centralist agendas and purified dictionaries, then even the basic notion of a language seems impossibly crude. The notion of language as a cloud is not new, but if you lie on a hilltop and watch the clouds go by, you see–and you know that others see–resemblances and differences between clouds, and you identify (with) a particular one, and then they slip and slide into one another and the light fades. Giving them names and identities is a pleasant game, but surely nothing more than that, man.

(I believe Humboldt wrote somewhere that English contains phrases which are 100% Chinese. He was, of course, a pioneering meteorologist. I can’t remember what “father of meteorology” Aristotle wrote about language.)

“cómo las lenguas se instrumentalizan por asuntos políticos, cuando su propósito es servir al conocimiento y a la comunicación humanos. Las lenguas -afirmó- no atienden a fronteras, porque las fronteras estorban y las lenguas comunican. Las lenguas existían antes que las naciones y, cuando éstas desaparezcan, ellas seguirán existiendo: es mentira que las lenguas formen naciones», lo que se comprueba cuando se ve que «hay lenguas, como la española, que se hablan en 20 naciones, y naciones, como India, en las que se hablan 200 lenguas». En las Autonomías que las poseen, los nacionalismos han querido «menoscabar el uso de la lengua común tras el insidioso concepto de «lenguas propias»», concluyó.

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