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

From:Raymond Brown <ray.brown@...>
Date:Tuesday, November 23, 1999, 18:20
At 7:46 pm -0500 22/11/99, David G. Durand wrote:
>At 2:12 AM -0500 11/14/99, Raymond Brown wrote: >>At 11:25 pm +0000 13/11/99, alypius wrote: >>>All true, but this list is the *last* place I expected to hear complaints >>>about language artficiality! >> >>I'm not complaining about artificiality per_se but about things like "false >>archaisms, hypercorrections & mere blunders" and, indeed, the macaronic >>nature of katharevousa. I think if someone produced such a 'conlang', >>s/he'd get a bit of critical comment on this list :) > >But these are characteristic of _all_ language reforms. There are some >lovely hypercorrections in Sanskrit, as well as misanalyses of various >roots, and false archaisms. What's wrong with this?
I don't know enough about Sanskrit to comment. But to say these features are characteristic of _all_ language reforms seems to me like a sweeping generalization. I'm pretty sure one would find exceptions to some of these.
>The appeal of Katharevousa is that it provided a higher register for >communication than the demotic. My wife appreciates the esthetics of >Katharevousa, and she is a classicist as well as a native demotic Greek >speaker. of course, she can't follow some of the older and more elaborate >Katherevousa very easily, although her classical training makes it possible.
Yes - but I as a non-Greek classicist had a rather different reaction - Katharevousa is clearly not ancient Greek, nor even Hellenistic Koine. The language appeared to me to fall between two stools, as we say: it was trying to look ancient & be modern at the same time and doing neither. It seemed to be more macaronic than most language reforms I know and, therefore, more ridiculous. And some things seemed just silly - like getting kids to learn whether to put rough or smooth breathings over initial consonants, when neither had the slightest effect on pronunciation (I noticed that even Katharevousa - at least the Katharevousa I came across - didn't bother with initial rho). After all, the Italians find no problem in dropping the silent 'h' almost entirely - the four exceptions being for forms of present tense of 'avere'. They also, of course, are the inheritors of an ancient culture; but there has been AFAIK no comparable movement to produce a 'purifying' language ("Purificante"?) to bring the language closer to its Latin origin. Thinks: that might be an intersting conlang. Supposing there had been a comparable 'purifying' movement in Italy, what would "Purificante" be like? Could be interesting :) But I realize my opinions here are purely personal and certainly not ones I'd want to argue over. It is, after all, essentially a Greek problem.
>She, and almost all of the Greeks that I have met, deplore the fact that >the rigid demoticization enforced by the government over the last 25 years >has robbed students of the ability to read literature and primary documents >that are little more than a century old. This is a shame, especially in a >country so young and with such a deep anxiety about its identity.
This'll always be a problem where a culture has an ancient history but where the language has changed greatly. But even keeping the older forms does not IME overcome this. Our _written_ language has not changed much since Shakespeare's time (especially as Shakespeare's inconsistent orthography is generally regularized according to modern practice!) - but his writings are not readily accessible to many of the younger generation - and Chaucer certainly isn't. It requires work. [snip]
> >See my description above. The loss of popular access to the cultural >history of a country _is_ something worth mourning.
Yes, but how great was the actual _popular_ access to the cultural history? Was it greater than in, say, late 20th cent. Britain? Was there really popular access to Sophokles, Aiskylos or even Euripides in the days of Katharevousa? Clearly there could not have been to Homer. But whatever happens, the writings of these early greeks will continue to endure and be read by many throughout the globe in their original language, as well, of course, in translation. The Greeks cannot ever be deprived of that heritage. [...]
>literature to any but a dedicated scholarly readership. To read Turkish in >the old script requires quite some time of specialized education and >practice; whatever is not re-published in the new orthography is not >accessible to the population. > >On the other hand, literacy rates are much higher, I believe, and that is >obviously a good thing.
Obviously - and literacy rates are IMO very important. For a democracy to work, indeed, they are very important. Illiteracy is the friend of dictorship. And, as you've maybe noticed from time to time in my postings, I belong unashamably to the 'populares' and not the 'optimates' (as they termed them in Latin). But 'i katharevousa glossa' means "the _purifying_ language", i.e. 'katharevousa' is a present active participle. Wasn't the intention of the 19th century intellectuals who devized the language that it would initiate a program of gradual 'purification' until the language was restored at least to the norms of Byzantine Attic, if not the Hellenistic Koine or even that of Classical Athens? It did not happen not, I think, could it happen. Indeed, my understanding was that Katharevousa was continually being influenced by Demotic & Demotic in its turn was being influenced by Katharevousa - i.e. the two norms were coming closer in any case. And the Demotic of the last 25 years is surely not the Demotic with which this century opened? My understanding is that it is based upon the cultured, urban demotic of Athens which, like all cultured, urban dialects is itself somewhat of a conlang :) But not being a Greek, it would be presumptuous of me to be dogmatic over this & I may well have not got all the facts correct. Ray. ========================================= A mind which thinks at its own expense will always interfere with language. [J.G. Hamann 1760] =========================================