Thursday, June 24, 2010

Language & Culture

I had a thought recently. I love language and I don't understand people. I like the idea of using language to understand people.

I've been arguing with my Mother, whom is thankfully willing to talk about conlanging, that my language, although constructed by me, is a real language. She's been saying that because it's been created it hasn't evolved. I don't agree. My language, like any conlang, evolves daily. Every day a new word is added. Every day I think of something else I wish I could say that English doesn't have the words for and every day I think about how a sentence in Selmari might be said.

I think that the way we speak reflects the internal moods of a society. I've often wondered why an area of the world which so much apparent unrest (I say apparent because I don't pretend to know everything about a country or a culture) has such a lovely, flowing script. And to that I am referring to Arabic. Japan's history on the other hand, particularly it's polite nature, seems vastly different and it also has a very unlikely script.

Now as I said I don't pretend to know everything, or indeed very much, about Japan's history or the history of the world Arabic speaking countries. I only observe. However I do know English as a language and I see English changing as is our culture and values. Swearing for example has become much more prolific in recent years. I can't imagine what my Grandfather (who was born in 1892!) would think of the world's language if he were alive today. He was born in the time of Gas street lamps and horse and carriage and I suspect would be shocked about the world in general however I am thinking solely of the language being used today.

When I was in school I wasn't taught any grammar. I remember spelling tests and vague information about similes and metaphors and personification but that's about it. When my mother was in school she was taught grammar. In fact the "Grammar" Schools around, such as Sydney Grammar School, were named as such because they taught grammar.

I'm not sure where all of this is leading but to be honest I find it fascinating. I see the world changing in a way which makes me feel quite sad. We have high levels of violence and obesity, hate crimes and graffiti, murder and depression. I think our language is reflecting our sadness, fear and depression and I believe I have a topic for my honours' year at Uni when I eventually get to it.

I realised recently that the first sentence I was trying to write in Selmari was "I love you". The same first sentence I learned how to write. In conversations with my mother and others we've assumed that language evolved through trying to express things such as directions and using it to hunt. ie "you go that way and I'll go this way". I am re-thinking this notion. I think language evolved because we wanted to express things you can't express through sign or grunts. Someone said things like 'hello' and 'goodbye' which is probably true but I think it was the emotional like 'I love you'.

I like this idea. I love the idea that language evolved in early humans because we wanted to express the most powerful emotion of all. Love has even been known to conquor our survival instincts (like someone rescuing someone from danger) and it seems like a beautiful idea for us to want to say it.

Next semester I take anthropology and I can't wait. I want to study people and their relationship to language. Not the fussy grammatical side of things but the human element to things and particularly the script. For like our way of speaking our way of writing has also changed in the last 50 years or so. I'd like to know why and I can't wait to find out.

No comments:

Post a Comment