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Language revival (was Re: Which auxlangs? (was Re: I won't[to] start a flame war))

From:Thomas R. Wier <artabanos@...>
Date:Saturday, November 13, 1999, 23:59
alypius wrote:

> >Yep - I understand quite a lot of kids have been brought up speaking > >Cornish as L1 and English as L2. > > > >There are estimated to be some 2000 people with some knowledge of Cornish, > >but fluent speakers probably number only a couple of hundred or so. > > Amazing. Reviving a dead language without government support is amazing.
Well, the history of governments trying to impose a particular brand of linguistic usage on the people it rules has almost without exception been a history of failure. The few cases where it has succeeded -- Turkey always being cited as the pardigmatic example -- have almost invariably been achieved because of intense repression on the part of the state. People simply don't want to change the ways of speech unless they see a reason to do so or unless, well, they're about to be shot. And even then, they'll resist. (Another good example is Stalin's repression of Ukrainian culture and language. He didn't like it, of course, and sought to impose Russian on them. So, one day, he rounded up all the jesters -- the oral bards of Ukrainian culture -- and had them shot. Just like that. There are today, AFAIK, no records of the great Ukrainian oral epics because they had never been written down before his time.)
> How does one > manage to revive a dead language as a living spoken language on even a small > scale, such as Cornish has done?
People's linguistics habits change basically because, at some level at least, they want them to change. The revival of Hebrew, the most spectacular example of a language coming back from virtual death, is a case in point: the people living in Palestine (even before the Balfour Declaration and any major successes in the Zionist movement) simply held as one of the core tenets of their nationalistic goals the reestablishment of Hebrew as a language, and everyone went along with it. The people wanted it to be the case, so it became the case. I don't want to oversimplify the matter -- the millennia-long tradition of literature and literacy in the language helped out tremendously in advancing to that goal, and made it seem more worthwhile -- but by and large it would have been a dead letter if it had no support among the people it was intended for. And it for exactly those same reasons that Hebrew speakers today in Israel resist the dictates of their Language Academy, because it's easier to borrow an English, or French, or German, or Arab word. And they would rather do that anyways, often in the name of 'cosmopolitanism' -- just like Parisians or New Yorkers. ====================================== Tom Wier <artabanos@...> ICQ#: 4315704 AIM: Deuterotom Website: <> "Cogito ergo sum, sed credo ergo ero." Non cuicumque datum est habere nasum. It is not given to just anyone to have a nose. -- Martial ======================================