Saturday, April 5, 2014

Language Prejudice

"People without linguistic training are seldom aware that they have language prejudices. They commonly make assumptions about the inferiority of some dialects, like AAE (African-American English), and the superiority of others, like British English. They may also draw unfounded connections between "correctness" of standard grammar and logic of thought. When they do this, they ignore decades of linguistic research which show us that "standard" English became the standard for historical or political reasons, not because it was better at communicating. That is, the group who speak a particular dialect have achieved power over groups who speak other dialects. It is the speakers who have the power; the status of the dialect merely reflects the social and economic status of the group using it. People trained in linguistics, unlike lay people, generally consider that all dialects and modes of speech are equal. They are all adequate to communicate any message, at least among people who share the dialect."

This is an excerpt from my good-ole college linguistics text. It is a beautiful sentiment that I want to revisit frequently.

Being an uncommon, indigenous language, Hawaiian often falls prey to this farce of inferiority. The unspoken assumption is that because pre-contact Native Hawaiians didn't compose chants about computers and cars there simply isn't a way to express sophisticated, modern ideas using that language system. This, of course, couldn't be further from the truth.

Any language grows with the people who speak it. So as far as I am a modern, educated (possibly even sophisticated) woman, the language will expand to fit my needs. And the needs of many others who chose to use it to communicate. As English speakers, we take for granted that all the ideas we communicate were somehow bestowed upon us (in English, no less!) rather than arbitrarily assigned when some new concept needed a semantic expression. Sometimes, sitting in meetings at UH Hilo, I am blown away by the translation being fed into my ear. "They said all that?! How/why did this guy even learn the word for 'conglomerate'?"

In my opinion, the super fun part is words that have no direct translation, but instead directly reflect the perspective of the culture through which it is communicated. That, however, deserves its own post.

what was this prophesy in? Elvish? Apparently Mordor had a few inconsistencies with their expectations of the text.

No comments:

Post a Comment