Handouts for LING 540, Language Policy
The American writer Janet Malcolm reported in a New Yorker article her return to her birthplace in the Czech Republic after an absence of some 45 years. She had retained a knowledge of her childhood Czech, and expected in her return visit to experience strong emotions as she visited the places of her childhood. This failed to occur, until someone mentioned by chance a place-name in the Czech Republic which also occurs in a Czech nursery rhyme. Then only did she experience the emotional reaction she had been looking for.
Or, negative stereotypes of language, including one's own non-standard (?) can be associated with traumatic experiences of childhood, such as in this excerpt from Jamaica Kincaid's story Xuela which appeared in the New Yorker May 9, 1994, pg. 90.)
I sat down on the bed. My heart was breaking; I wanted to cry, I felt so alone. I felt in danger. I felt threatened; I felt as each minute passed that someone wished me dead. My father's wife came to say goodnight, and she turned out the lamp. She spoke to me then in French patois; in his presence she had spoken to me in English. She would do this to me through all the time we knew each other, but that first time in the sanctuary of my room, at seven years old, I recognized this as an attempt on her part to make an illegitimate of me, to associate me with the made-up language of people regarded as not real---the shadow people, the forever humiliated, the forever low.For the Labovians, asking a subject to recount a moment when they thought they were close to death tends to evoke the emotions associated with that memory, which shuts down the monitoring of their own speech so that the basic, unalloyed, unmonitored (casual, colloquial etc.) version of their idiolect emerges for observation.
Outsiders often refer to these linguistic cultures as possessing a
language `ideology' and the study of language ideologies has become a
growth industry among linguistic anthropologists in recent years.
Insiders to the culture see this `ideology' (whatever its perameters)
more as a given, a set of well-founded self-evident assumptions, perhaps
even the `essence' of their language and its culture.
`The lord is my shepherd, I shall not want; he maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters; he restoreth my soul" (etc.)
`The goddess is my shepherdess, she meets all my needs; she refreshes the core of my being ...'
(Revised for the loosely wrapped)
``The Lord is my external-internal integrative mechanism, I shall not be deprived of gratification for my viscerogenic hungers or my need-dispositions. He motivates me to orient myself toward a non-social object with affective significance; He positions me in a non-decisional situation, He maximizes my adjustment. Although I entertain masochistic and self-destructive id impulses, I will maintain contact with reality, for my superego is dominant. His analysis and tranquilizers, they comfort me. He assists in the resolution of my internal conflicts despite my Oedipal problem and psychopathic compulsions. He promotes my group identification. My personality istotally integrated. Surely my prestige and status shall be enhanced as a direct function of time And I shall remain sociologically, psychologically and economically secure forever."
Or, for the new millennium, this version:
21st Century 23rd PsalmIn these days of increasing sophistication in our language, and jargon which overflows into almost every area of our lives, we feel sure that by the year 2000 a new millennium version of the Bible will have been produced incorporating much of this modern language - perhaps it will be called the NMV New Millennium Version. and the 23rd Psalm could never be the same again - It may sound something like this...
"The Lord and I are in a shepherd - sheep situation, and I am in a position of negative need
He prostrates me in a green belt grazing area, and conducts me directionally parallel to a non-torrential aqueous liquid.
He restores to original satisfaction levels my psychological make up.
Notwithstanding the fact that I make ambulatory progress through the non-illuminated inter-hill mortality slot.. terror sensations shall not be observed within me due to the proximity of the omnipotence.
Your pastoral walking aid and quadruped pickup unit introduce me into a pleasurific mood state.
You design and produce a nutrient bearing furniture type structure in the context of non-cooperative elements, and my beverage utensil experiences a volume crisis.
You enact ahead related folk ritual utilising vegetable extracts.
Surely it must be an ongoing non-deductible fact that your inter-relational, emphatical and non-vengeful capacities will pursue me as their target focus for the duration of this non death period.
And I will possess tenant rights in the housing unit of the Lord on a permanently open ended time basis.
Muslims will of course revere or find power in the words of the Quran,
Hindus in the Bhagavad-Gita, and so on. The words must be in the
language in which they were first learned; no version other than Quranic
Arabic will do for Muslims, e.g.
Patriotic anthems ( la Marseillaise ) etc. may also have this power for some, and attempts to replace the national anthem with another, such as recently proposed by Ted Turner, will arouse strong emotions on the part of the defenders of the Star Spangled Banner, for example.
From the Website of the Penn Library Exhibit page:
"Following the tradition established by Roland Hayes and other African American singers who preceded her on the concert stage, Marian Anderson concluded each of her recitals with a group of spirituals in arrangements that often came to be recognized as "classic." That many reported being moved to tears by her renditions of these works is one of the more striking aspects of their reception history. "In her, the spiritual takes on entirely new joy," one critic remarked, while another commented that her performances of spirituals catch "as possibly no one else can their simplicity of pure belief and deep emotion." Concert-goers will readily recognize that the inclusion of spirituals on recital programs is a tradition that continues today with succeeding generations of African American vocalists, such as Jessye Norman, William Warfield, and Kathleen Battle."
But others could quote the words of King, declaim the Gettysburg Address, or sing the same Spirituals that Marian Anderson sang, and not have the power to move people that they seem to have had. And the dilemma for the social scientist is that we can only measure what people say happened to them, or observe their behavior at a public event where this power was displayed---we do not have a way to measure how Marian Anderson `encoded' emotion in her singing. And since `poetic' language often uses metaphor and other rhetorical devices that are `figurative' rather than literal, there is an added and perplexing dimension of how meaning is encoded that results in this area remaining difficult to measure, and especially to quantify; social scientists are therefore apt to downplay this business, or simply leave this in the hands of humanists to think about (who anyway aren't very scientific people).