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Re Rant Defending Indonesian

From:Mat McVeagh <matmcv@...>
Date:Saturday, November 2, 2002, 4:39
>From: Roger Mills <romilly@...> >I think one needs to rise to the defense of Indonesian. It is no more a >conlang or auxlang etc. etc. than modern English, French, Spanish, Russian, >etc. etc. It was not "invented", it just developed-- Mat's "kind of >invented" may be "kind of accurate", however.
I never did think it was a straight-forward auxlang ;) But this is from the introduction of my Teach Yourself Indonesian: "Indonesian is a fairly new language. It has developed from Malay... Efforts were made to abolish 'Melayu Pasar', a jargon which was widely spoken, and replace it with modern Malay. A conference on the forming of the Indonesian language was 1938. ...modern Malay was to be the basis of the Indonesian language." All of which suggests there was at least some 'language planning' involved in creating the modern Indonesian language: that it was not just a continuation of Malay.
>divergences, well..... why are Germanic languages so divergent compared to >Greek or Italic? There is no answer.
It's an aside, but as I said in another post, there is a theory that the Germanics learnt Indo-European as a pidgin, and personally I hold to it.
>One could I suppose have chosen to educate everybody in their native >language-- >Acehnese, Batak, Minang, Sundanese, Javanese, Madurese, Balinese, Sasak, >Buginese, Makassarese, 10 or so Toraja languages, the 100s of languages in >the Moluccas, the 50 or so languages of Flores, the 10 or so of >Timor---need >I go on?
I believe in the preservation of native languages if possible, and in education in native languages. Altho there is a thing with natuve languages of simple peoples who do not have writing; once they are written down and used for education that changes them forever.
>The choice of Bahasa Melayu (>Bahasa Indonesia) at independence was >entirely >logical.
I would agree from what I know of the situation.
>One can even argue (as they are >indeed doing) whether Indonesia has any business being a "country".
I think you can, yes.
>But >then, why Ghana, why Nauru?
Why indeed? Why, for example, Uganda? A stupid country if ever there was one. Belgium is not so different either.
>And what is the alternative?
Personally I believe in devolution of power down to the smallest scales possible. Let local people rule themselves, and hence in the context of the original issue here, decide their own education and which language they are going to use. Rather than have it forced on them from above. Then federate local levels together into regional levels, then into 'national', etc. Of course it won't happen just like that because the rulers and elites of Indonesia, Ghana, Uganda, Belgium get too much out of the status quo, and have too much to lose from devolution and federation - ultimately all their power. But that is a political situation, not one to do with the nature of language or education.
>The fact that the spread of a national language results in the eventual >extinction of many regional languages is lamentable, especially to us >linguists. But it is, I fear, inevitable. Again, what is the alternative? >And can we westerners hold ourselves up as any sort of fine example?
Personally, I believe linguists can do something about preserving the memory of many dying languages, but not about preserving the languages themselves. It is demographic, political and socio-economic influences which are effecting these language deaths, and linguists can only do something about that as campaigners like everyone else. The alternative is to accept widespread linguicide. As regards the track record of the West, it is not relevant. Of course the West has contributed massively to the world's linguicide; but that doesn't mean that as westerners we should feel guilty about actions we did not personally perform. We just happen to come from the same parts of the world, a little later. The Indonesian example should be judged in its own terms, not in terms of whether it's 'worse' than the effects of Westerners, and whether therefore Westerners are entitled to criticise it. Mat _________________________________________________________________ Protect your PC - get VirusScan Online