Amando de Miguel gets something right about English

Amando de Miguel’s blog contains myriad hoards of fascinating localisms, but, as has been observed in the past, as soon as thought of the English language enters through one ear, reason appears to exit via the other.

Re criticisms of the poor Catalan spoken by José Montilla, the Catalan president, de Miguel writes that “ethnic languages, like Catalan”, are intolerant of deviation from the authorised version. The opposite, extreme case, he says, is English, “a language which admits of all nuances and grades according to the rules.”

I’m not quite sure what the last bit means, but I think for once he is on the right track. Unfortunately, our prophet of Spanish as an universal language à la Anglaise immediately shoots himself in the testicles by slagging Montilla’s Spanish. Which surely means that he actually believes that Spanish, too, is nothing more than Blut und Bodem material.

Never trust a Spaniard who calls himself a liberal: in secret he is either a rabid conservative or a Cap d’Agde nudist wife-swapping bong fiend.

Some believe the psychotic prescriptivism associated with Catalan–thou shalt use it, and thusly–is related to its being a small language, but anyone with five minutes to spare should be able to list 50 far smaller mercantile languages unpatrolled by language militia, and their speakers apparently none the worse for it.

Since we’re on this patch, why do linguists elsewhere disapprove of prescriptivism when used to enforce particular aspects of language use (eg taboo on split infinitives) but queue up to support the imposition by governments of minority languages? Are they in the latter case dreaming of exotic study grants, or is this just leftist nostalgia for official Soviet/Falangist/etc regional culture?

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  1. I don’t really know as I’m not au fait with the criticisms, but surely people mainly criticise Montilla because he’s not really fluent in Catalan? Or at least he wasn’t when he was crowned head of the PSC. The only people I’ve ever heard talking about it have been wryly observing that you can’t get a teaching job without Nivell C but you can become president. Again, I’m not sure how true this is (I believe he finally achieved Nivell C this year)… but if he didn’t have Nivell C then that sounds like a pretty reasonable criticism.

    Of course, you might say (indeed, YOU might say…) that this is reason more to criticise the Gencat’s language policy than the chap who runs it. I wouldn’t agree.

    As to variances in Catalan, I think it’s got quite a lot of variety when you consider that it is spoken by fewer than 10 million people in a relatively small terrain. I can certainly hear major accentual and phrasal differences between, say, Castelló and Solsona. Can’t understand what they’re saying in either place, mind, but that’s una altre història.

  2. Histèria, surely. AdeM’s point is that JM can’t speak either and that we are doomed to perish like pidgins

  3. One of the problems in Catalonia is that when someone speaks Catalan with an accent (Castilian, English, Latin American, etc.), most of the Catalan people tend to reply in Spanish. This happens much more often than people speaking in Spanish and being replied in Catalan. We, Catalans, need to get used to people speaking Catalan with an accent and I find Montilla’s accent totally acceptable for someone who arrived in Catalonia as a teenager.
    I agree with Tom that the only problem is that he did not need the Catalan C levels to become president, but the mosso d’esquadra who escorts him, did to become a policeman. This is the problem.

    Regarding the different varieties of Catalan, even though they are clearly noticeable, they are pretty close. Most probably the varieties that require more effort to understand are some of the Balearian dialects, all the other ones are real close.

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