Re: CHAT: Race, ethnicity, and hyphenization (was Re: PC terminology)
|From:||Tom Wier <artabanos@...>|
|Date:||Sunday, December 27, 1998, 14:37|
list James E. Hopkins wrote:
> The feeling of aversion to "labeling" is interesting considering that (=in my
> admittedly non-expert) opinion that is exactly what all language is: La=beling
> for the purpose of making distinction.
> I only use the word "derevush" (Druni for "tree") only to distinguish i=t from
> "soboneri" (Druni for "computer"). If there were no need for distinguis=hing
> the two there would be no need for labeling and hence no need for langu=age.
But language is not just labeling, IMO. Labeling is merely the applicati=
a string of phonemes to an object, which does not necessarily mean that t=
string will be different at all. It could be the same string of phonemes=
labeling a set of certain similar things "apples". Labeling is not merel=
y used to
differentiate, but also to show similarities; we just happen to notice d=
if they are differently labeled.
But my fear is more a sociological one: all too often in the history of =
and especially this soon passing century, people valued those labels more=
the individuals behind it. This took on lots of forms, ranging from the =
dictatorial communalism of fascist regimes of immense scale and organizat=
bloody clan-feuds as recently happened in Central Africa, and in general =
process of labeling, when allowed to grow unfettered, developed in massiv=
movements of hate in this world. This is not to say that I hate labeling=
it has its uses for pedagogical purposes, but I think that all too often =
one false-dichotomy after another, at base (e.g., that of race). I don't=
myself a "Scottish" American, and I celebrate the culture in which my an=
part hundreds of years ago across the sea, but I feel that if I were to a=
to develop some sort of excessive nationalism for it, I would have in tur=
that culture in the face by giving it a bad name as the extremist that I =
have become. So, I guess the really important point is that we can let th=
labels get the better of us by allowing them to take on more significance=
they really have.
> As language-lovers we should explore that a little more.
This is certainly true. Language, perhaps more than any other sociallydi=
feature, is the easiest recognized and the first seized upon as
just such a label. In America recently there has been a fairly strong mo=
to make English the official language, which would effectively end 400 ye=
of pluralist policy on the part of lawmakers, and indeed would also be an
affront to the powers of the States to conduct affairs as they so desire.
The problem with this movement, as I see it, is that it makes the English
language into something it has never been: it makes it a social requirem=
before you can be fully American, almost as if you were required to buy
certain products or eat certain foods just to show your allegiance to the
country. America is an Ideology, not a Cult, not something that we do
just for the sake of the mindless worship of tradition.
(Certainly, anybody who comes to America expecting it to be easy to
get along without English is just as much unenlightened -- but that's a
matter of practicality, not ideology)
Tom Wier <twier@...>
ICQ#: 4315704 AIM: Deuterotom
"Cogito ergo sum, sed credo ergo ero."
"S=F4=F0 is gecy=FEed / =FE=E6t mihtig God manna
cynes / w=EAold w=EEde-ferh=F0."
_Beowulf_, ll. 700-702