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PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2003 11:14 am 
gach wrote:
Question:
"Wouldn't it be better if everyone speaked the same language?"
is logically the same as:
"Wouldn't it be better if everyone had the same culture?".

Then the next question that are very close to these two are more like:
"Wouldn't it be better if everyone dressed alike?"
"Wouldn't it be better if everyone thinked the same way?",
"Wouldn't it be better if everyone had same political opinions?"
or even:
"Wouldn't it be better if we had tiny marks in our left shoulder to mark who is in political and moralic way correct citizen?"


!!!!

Strawman, slippery slope, and non sequitur! The link from "language" (qn 1) to "culture" (qn 2) is already tenuous; but the rest ---- are just.... :?...

"Wouldn't it be better if I ate ice cream?"
is "logically" the same as
"Wouldn't it be better if I ate ice cream while people are starving?"

Then the next questions that are also very close would be:
"Wouldn't it be better if I took food from starving children?"
"Wouldn't it be better if I beat up starving children?"
"Wouldn't it be better if I just nuked a few poor countries?"
or even:
"Wouldn't it be better if I branded every poor person in the world with a tiny mark and forced them to work for the capitalists forever?"

...


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2003 11:21 am 
Quote:
All of the historical cultures that you so fondly hold onto have already been brushed aside by history.


Quite untrue. They have not been brushed aside by history; they've evolved within it. Rome still exists today, and so do the Aztecs; they've both changed radically, but have not vanished.

Quote:
Preserving rare languages and cultures does not spare them from history, and is hence an act both misguided and pointless...


If there's a good reason to preserve rare cultures and languages, it's to give them the chance to continue to evolve within history, rather than being wiped out.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2003 11:39 am 
Smeric
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ran not logged on wrote:
Preserving rare languages and cultures does not spare them from history, and is hence an act both misguided and pointless, as long as your motivation is sentimentality for the languages and cultures themselves. (That motivation is what I can see from your entire passionate paragraph above, of course.)


This kind of sentimentality is a part of human nature. That's why we have museums, preserve old buildings and monuments, try to keep vanishing art forms alive, have the reenactment movement... You may see this all as futile, or prefer to look for pragmatic reasons, but for me all this is a part of the eternal human striving to clinch a bit of immortality from time's jaws. We're bound to loose that fight, in the end, but I think humankind is better for trying.
Best regards,
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2003 11:46 am 
Boardlord
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Rik wrote:
4. Finally, I feel that there's a top-down process going on here. We need to remember that members of a community will choose to speak a given language in a given situation (for example Gibralter, where Spanish is spoken in the home and English in the office), and we should respect the decisions made by those individuals and communities, rather than berate them for "giving up their culture".


It's trickier than that. What language(s) people speak is largely determined by their economic and social situation, and how easy it is to move between social circles.

There are a lot of myths that confound this sort of discussion; I address some of them on my When do people learn languages? page.

People are often re-fighting 19th century battles here. Governments used to think that nations should have one language, and fiercely repressed minority languages. This attitude isn't entirely dead, but this behavior is no longer the main threat to minority languages.

The main threat is the modern world itself. People often try to assign the blame to "TV and movies", but that's not the problem. The problem is mixing of populations: in a modern country people are no longer cooped up in regions, towns, neighborhoods. So, even if a region is completely successful in having its language used in homes and even schools and local government, the people end up going to university or finding a job or a spouse in another community.

In these circumstances, individuals and communities will sooner or later end up choosing the dominant language. I don't think respect is a factor one way or the other; this is the milennial tendency, and if we just let things happen we will have a world divided into about a dozen languages-- total.

As I said before, though, modernism works by first imposing uniformity, and then, as it becomes more sophisticated, by restoring diversity as an elite taste. (At first every area has its own alcoholic drink, for instance; then everyone is sold Budweiser and Heineken's; then people get a taste for microbrews.)

So, eventually, people will say "That linguistic diversity we used to have-- that was awesome." Only once it's gone, it's gone.

To put it another way, in a century or two we'll have automatic translators that will entirely change human linguistic behavior, and enable all the linguistic diversity we want. It'd be unpleasantly ironic if there's none left to enjoy.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2003 12:07 pm 
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Ran wrote:
Before I respond, let me get something clear:

What is linguistic diversity? Is it

a) many communities, each being mostly monolingual in its own language, and everyone having an imperfect command of the lingua franca

or

b) each person being fully bilingual in both the lingua franca and their native language.

Also: is it possible at all to maintain B for more than a generation without going onto

c) each person being monolingual in the lingua franca.

?


In premodern nations, A, B, or C can all be stable for many centuries, even within the same nation.

In modern nations, the tendency is to move-- sometimes with astonishing quickness-- from A to B to C.

(What does "modern" mean? Here, it's mostly a matter of social mobility: conditions are such that any given individual can and often will move between social communities. Premodern communities can survive for centuries because it was almost impossible for most people to move out of them.)


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2003 12:18 pm 
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jburke wrote:
zompist wrote:
A quirky answer: it's important because it would be greatly missed once it's gone, and impossible to restore.


Not entirely true. The Miami have revived their language, which went dormant in the 60s, when the last native speaker died. Thankfully, enough materials and recordings existed that it could be brought back with a good degree of authenticity (still, there are some guesses, based on other Algonquian languages that are closest to it, like Shawnee).


True, revivals are not impossible, though I'd maintain that from a linguistic point of view, once the last native speakers are dead, a revival is as much conlangery as anything else. No language, not even English, is fully understood, so when it dies as a system, a wealth of grammatical and lexical information is lost forever. And these "last native speakers" are to be distrusted a bit: we have now studied language death in detail, and the language deteriorates at the end of its life. The last speakers are likely to have already lost a good deal of the language's complexity.

Not that I'm against it, of course. I think Amerindian languages are going through the diversity-uniformity-rediscovery progression I've already mentioned. But it's really an uphill struggle, and I've talked to more than one linguist who worked in (say) the '60s with an Amerindian language that had a few thousand speakers, and now has a few dozen.

To expand on another motivation, the scientific: many Amerindian languages are very poorly documented. There are quite a few very distinctive languages which survive only in the form of a wordlist, probably very badly transcribed by some colonial official. Think of all the times on the board when someone asks "Could a (natural) language do this?" If language diversity disappears, we will no longer know. The grammars and dictionaries we have now won't go away, of course, but how many people will have any familiarity with them? We have piles and piles of cuneiform tablets, too, but precious few people who can answer questions about them.


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 09, 2003 3:41 am 
Avisaru
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gach wrote:
Question:
"Wouldn't it be better if everyone speaked the same language?"
is logically the same as:
"Wouldn't it be better if everyone had the same culture?".

Then the next question that are very close to these two are more like:
"Wouldn't it be better if everyone dressed alike?"
"Wouldn't it be better if everyone thinked the same way?",
"Wouldn't it be better if everyone had same political opinions?"
or even:
"Wouldn't it be better if we had tiny marks in our left shoulder to mark who is in political and moralic way correct citizen?"


So you claim that all people who speak the same language also dress and think the same way and have the same political opinions? That may be "logical", but it's nevertheless wrong.

As for the question of wether a lingua franca tends to replace the other languages in it's area, I think we can try to find that out experimentally. The nation with more than a million members with the highest percentage of fluency in English are probably the Dutch. To the Dutch folks on this Board: Is there a tendency in your country to use English among each other? Not just English words, but entire conversations hold mostly or entirely in English?


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 09, 2003 3:51 am 
Quote:
True, revivals are not impossible, though I'd maintain that from a linguistic point of view, once the last native speakers are dead, a revival is as much conlangery as anything else. No language, not even English, is fully understood, so when it dies as a system, a wealth of grammatical and lexical information is lost forever. And these "last native speakers" are to be distrusted a bit: we have now studied language death in detail, and the language deteriorates at the end of its life. The last speakers are likely to have already lost a good deal of the language's complexity.


Yes; loss of complexity is what was frustrating to me about Wiyot: it died out in the 60s also, and its grammars are woefully incomplete. You could never learn to speak it in any reasonably complete way.


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 09, 2003 7:22 am 
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ran not logged on wrote:
Preserving rare languages and cultures does not spare them from history, and is hence an act both misguided and pointless, as long as your motivation is sentimentality for the languages and cultures themselves.


Man... I thought I was a cynic... Are you actually saying that people shouldn't do things because of emotional reasons?


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 09, 2003 8:57 am 
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By sheer coincidence I have a webpage on this topic. Well, two pages, but one article: The Celtic Languages in Contact. Part 2 is probably more relevant.

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 09, 2003 10:52 am 
Avisaru
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Raphael wrote:
So you claim that all people who speak the same language also dress and think the same way and have the same political opinions? That may be "logical", but it's nevertheless wrong.


Do I here too have to say every time what I mean as sarcasm and what I mean as an analogy and so one? Or must I reduce my speech habits to extrime simpleness? I liked to be able to speak so that listeners have to think also.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 10, 2003 11:10 am 
Lebom
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gach wrote:
Raphael wrote:
So you claim that all people who speak the same language also dress and think the same way and have the same political opinions? That may be "logical", but it's nevertheless wrong.


Do I here too have to say every time what I mean as sarcasm and what I mean as an analogy and so one? Or must I reduce my speech habits to extrime simpleness? I liked to be able to speak so that listeners have to think also.



Well, I have to say that your analogies might have been somewhat far-fetched. The idea of an analogy is that it's comparable to the thing it's an analogy of (think of the relationship between the Finnish words verrata and vertaus), and I'm not exactly sure if language can be compared to identity. No offense intended, though; in principle I have agreed with most of what you said.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 10, 2003 11:36 am 
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Tuomas Koukkari wrote:
I'm not exactly sure if language can be compared to identity.


It sure is. To be able to feel proud of own identity most people need different icons. Very good snd solid icons are Eg. own language and culture and thus many people lay their national identity on those.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 11, 2003 11:56 am 
Lebom
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gach wrote:
Tuomas Koukkari wrote:

I'm not exactly sure if language can be compared to identity.


It sure is. To be able to feel proud of own identity most people need different icons. Very good snd solid icons are Eg. own language and culture and thus many people lay their national identity on those.



Well, of course language is a part of one's identity. It may even be a fairly substantial part - I know it surely is for me. However, you were basically saying that people with the same native language dress the same way and think the same way... And it seems that some people here felt you were overextending your analogy. However, I don't think this subject is worth a fight or even an in-depth discussion.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 11, 2003 2:23 pm 
Avisaru
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Tuomas Koukkari wrote:
However, you were basically saying that people with the same native language dress the same way and think the same way.


Hmm, this has happened before. Last year at school I said to one kind egocentric guy sarcastically: "Yep, I have twice as much money then you, thus I'm twice as good as you are." He took it quite good but one other came and said: "If you really think that way I'm really suprised at you." :?


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 12, 2003 5:36 am 
Avisaru
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gach wrote:
Hmm, this has happened before. Last year at school I said to one kind egocentric guy sarcastically: "Yep, I have twice as much money then you, thus I'm twice as good as you are." He took it quite good but one other came and said: "If you really think that way I'm really suprised at you." :?


People really have problem understanding figurative speech. Which is sad, since it really limits the possible ways of saying things. Saying what you said in a non-figurative way would require quite complex wording. So, to them that didn't get what Gach meant, try reading it slowly and understanding the analogy he was trying to show ... here some help for you who can't get it: it was a series of proposals, the responses to which should be considered parallelling the proposal of one world language only? on different levels. When you understand why you answer 'no' to the other questions, you'll also understand why you answer 'no' to this one, or you'll have to apply different (abstract) measurements for different questions.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 12, 2003 6:41 am 
Lebom
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Tuomas Koukkari wrote:
ran not logged on wrote:
Preserving rare languages and cultures does not spare them from history, and is hence an act both misguided and pointless, as long as your motivation is sentimentality for the languages and cultures themselves.


Man... I thought I was a cynic... Are you actually saying that people shouldn't do things because of emotional reasons?


No, I didn't start this thread to condemn all art and beauty. (Seriously.) But I think the current, prevalent view about linguistic diversity is definitely one-sided and incomplete.

For an English-speaker, foreign languages are, of course, beautiful exotic things that must be kept alive, just like rare artwork. (This is of course what I called the "sentimental" view.) But this English-speaker probably wasn't required to submit TOEFL scores for his college application. [He probably didn't spend six months cramming for the TOEFL either.] He probably wasn't embarassed in front of his prospective employer because he couldn't pronounce dental fricatives. And of course, he probably wasn't taken to be stupider than he was because he could not express his otherwise good ideas to his classmates or colleagues.

When this happy English-speaker has children, he will of course be able to speak with his children in one language, and his children will understand it. When his children speak to each other in rapidfire English, he will of course be able to understand. He won't be forced to speak to his children in language alien to himself; and he won't have to listen to his children butcher his own language to death.

[If you think about it, all of the above aren't because people are evil in discrimination or prejudice; they are all due to the natural, inevitable adjustments that a global society has to make to face a multilingual reality!]

The point is, linguistic diversity isn't simply herding little children together into classrooms and teaching them Inuit or Yi or Breton, and watching them while they laugh during these happy lessons. Linguistic diversity is also the layering of the world into obviously arbitrary categories of people, because as long as multiple languages exist in any world, one will be the lingua franca, and humanity will naturally be sifted into the people who speak it and the people who don't. No wonder dominant languages spread so fast across the world in all historical periods.

Of course, linguistic diversity is beautiful if you look at it from another perspective. If you consider cultural diversity as well, then it becomes absolutely essential. There is also the possibility of creating a perfectly bilingual society - everyone speaks their native language and the lingua franca. (Toronto comes to mind.) How possible it is to maintain such a society, though, is anyone's guess. My experience with Toronto says basically - slim to none.

So, back to that original chart of A, B, C:

A - many communities, each speaking a local language and most speaking the lingua franca imperfectly
B - one community, with everyone bilingual in both the lingua franca and their own ancestral language
C - one community unified in language (can this society maintain diverse cultures still? uh.... could it?)

A - is injust and also detrimental to communications and trade
B - is impossible to maintain in anything resembling modern society
C - would be the most practical, if not for the need for a healthy level of diversity (and the sentimental concerns of many)

Our world is currently moving from A to B to C. If you want linguistic diversity, perhaps then you will have to settle for A?

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 12, 2003 6:44 am 
Lebom
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Miekko wrote:
gach wrote:
Hmm, this has happened before. Last year at school I said to one kind egocentric guy sarcastically: "Yep, I have twice as much money then you, thus I'm twice as good as you are." He took it quite good but one other came and said: "If you really think that way I'm really suprised at you." :?


People really have problem understanding figurative speech. Which is sad, since it really limits the possible ways of saying things. Saying what you said in a non-figurative way would require quite complex wording. So, to them that didn't get what Gach meant, try reading it slowly and understanding the analogy he was trying to show ... here some help for you who can't get it: it was a series of proposals, the responses to which should be considered parallelling the proposal of one world language only? on different levels. When you understand why you answer 'no' to the other questions, you'll also understand why you answer 'no' to this one, or you'll have to apply different (abstract) measurements for different questions.


This is why I don't like analogies that much. No two situations are ever the same; hence no two situations will ever require the exact same solution.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 12, 2003 7:40 am 
Ran wrote:
This is why I don't like analogies that much. No two situations are ever the same; hence no two situations will ever require the exact same solution.


No, but two situations may require similar "solutions", and analogies can indicate relationships between solutions, suggesting a sort of "base solution" for situations of certain kinds. You then have to actually think to work out the specifics.

And why is B impossible? Forgive me if I am wrong, but I was under the belief that such a situations was the case with Guarani and Spanish in Paraguay? As someone else mentioned, most Dutch can speak English, but they still speak Dutch - I haven't lived there myself, so I can't give any specifics, but my relatives there speak Dutch amongst themselves but English to us, and while many TV programs are in English, the links between them and the adverts are in Dutch. Similarly, Switzerland has five official languages and a high level of English-speaking; my uncle when he worked there for an international communications company would speak German to his friends and neighbours, French to his co-workers and superiors and English to the company's clients.
[As a side note, one of the oddest things I've seen was two Swiss women having a conversation in the street, with one woman speaking French and one woman speaking German]


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 12, 2003 7:55 am 
Lebom
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Anonymous wrote:
Ran wrote:
This is why I don't like analogies that much. No two situations are ever the same; hence no two situations will ever require the exact same solution.


No, but two situations may require similar "solutions", and analogies can indicate relationships between solutions, suggesting a sort of "base solution" for situations of certain kinds. You then have to actually think to work out the specifics.


In the case of "one world language" and "one world ideology", however, I would hardly consider the "base solution" to be the same, especially since no explanations were given with the analogy.

Quote:
And why is B impossible? Forgive me if I am wrong, but I was under the belief that such a situations was the case with Guarani and Spanish in Paraguay? As someone else mentioned, most Dutch can speak English, but they still speak Dutch - I haven't lived there myself, so I can't give any specifics, but my relatives there speak Dutch amongst themselves but English to us, and while many TV programs are in English, the links between them and the adverts are in Dutch. Similarly, Switzerland has five official languages and a high level of English-speaking; my uncle when he worked there for an international communications company would speak German to his friends and neighbours, French to his co-workers and superiors and English to the company's clients.


B is of course the best, most ideal situation; but it is also becoming harder and harder to maintain.

Out of the three societies I have lived in, all are B but in reality not stable on B:

China is basically bilingual - each person speaks both his local language (Sinitic or not) and Standard Mandarin. At this stage everyone is bilingual; but the local regional dialects are rapidly converging onto Mandarin. Since all Sinitic languages are related anyway, this means that regional dialects can in fact "turn into" Mandarin in a few generations, and that's precisely what's happening.

Singapore is basically trilingual (in the Chinese community) - each person speaks a southern Chinese dialect, Standard Mandarin, and English. But the progression is rapid; young children are rapidly turning from their ancestral dialects towards Mandarin; and English-educated children are turning to exclusive English. The government is trying to salvage the situation by promoting Mandarin, but seriously, it's not working.

Toronto is basically bilingual - each person speaks an ancestral language (Cantonese, Korean, Farsi, Bengali, whatever) and English. But it is extremely obvious that first-generation immigrants speak poor English and second-generation immigrants speak their own ancestral languages poorly. It's a miracle to see third-generation immigrants speak anything but English.

So, you see, I'm not encouraged by my own experiences.

Quote:
[As a side note, one of the oddest things I've seen was two Swiss women having a conversation in the street, with one woman speaking French and one woman speaking German]


Having lived in plenty of B-societies, I am a veteran of conversations like that myself. :D But holding such a conversation is pretty taxing on the mind.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 12, 2003 11:31 am 
Lebom
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Miekko wrote:
gach wrote:
Hmm, this has happened before. Last year at school I said to one kind egocentric guy sarcastically: "Yep, I have twice as much money then you, thus I'm twice as good as you are." He took it quite good but one other came and said: "If you really think that way I'm really suprised at you." :?


People really have problem understanding figurative speech. Which is sad, since it really limits the possible ways of saying things. Saying what you said in a non-figurative way would require quite complex wording. So, to them that didn't get what Gach meant, try reading it slowly and understanding the analogy he was trying to show ... here some help for you who can't get it: it was a series of proposals, the responses to which should be considered parallelling the proposal of one world language only? on different levels. When you understand why you answer 'no' to the other questions, you'll also understand why you answer 'no' to this one, or you'll have to apply different (abstract) measurements for different questions.


I think I got that, thank you very much for thinking I'm an idiot :) . Seriously, though, what you said is just the problem. I don't consider those proposals to be comparable to the proposal of one world language only. I pretty much find it like comparing losing a finger to death. (I'd object to both of those, too, but if I'd have to choose, I wouldn't spend much time trying to compare the alternatives...)

BTW, gach, I think snapping a simple sarcastic comment at someone face-to-face is a bit different from trying to explain your ethical views with complex analogies over the net.

Anyway, as I said, I don't want to turn this into a fight. Especially since, (once again, as I said) I basically agree with what gach said. We don't want all people to speak the same language (even if I don't think that it'd be "logically the same as" all people having the same culture - much less even close to everybody thinking alike or people bearing marks of level of political correctness on their left shoulder). What I was trying to do was to explain what I believe is the reason why ran and Raphael didn't quite understand this analogy (the comment "must I reduce my speech habits to extrime simpleness" from gach wasn't really needed, IMHO).


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 12, 2003 2:59 pm 
Avisaru
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My comment confused a lot every body so let me say it in other words them. Speaking different langs is like likeing different types of music. Sure the record company would have much easier markets. Similarily reducing langs increses efficiency and gives more potential to make money. But does money necessarily increes also our happines? If you ask me I'll say that a Papuan hunter that hasn't worry after his economy has far less stress than us and is thus more likely happy to his life. Humans after all are just animals and going too far out of nature isn't the best.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 12, 2003 3:46 pm 
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I think Ran makes some good points here: linguistic diversity does mean that immigrants will have trouble because of language; and bilingualism is not very stable in the modern world. Even situations that have been stable for centuries, such as Guarani/Spanish in Paraguay, may not last another century.

And Ran, perhaps conscious of being an immigrant himself, suggests that Americans who grew up speaking English may be sentimentalizing the benefits of bilingualism.

One thing to notice that there is no stopping place in Ran's argument. The Torontonian immigrants he mentions come from other major linguistic blocks: India, China, etc. So if it's bad that immigrants are disfavored by linguistic difficulty, the only solution is for the entire world to speak, not merely one of a dozen superregional languages, but one language total.

Ran, are you really free of all sentimentality on this issue? It wouldn't bother you at all for Mandarin to disappear as a spoken language, its entire 3000-year history available only in translation or to a small number of specialists?

A couple more thoughts. First, are the problems of immigrants so important that linguistic diversity must be thrown out for their benefit? I like immigration myself; I'm married to an immigrant and I'd like to be able to change countries myself if we wanted to. Immigration can greatly benefit countries. Immigrants should be treated humanely... but I don't see why their way needs to be smoothed out in every way. If I moved to another country I wouldn't object to learning a new language; and I have been in the situation of having to deal with the world in another language, while visiting family in Peru. Sure, it's hard and frustrating, but it's the price you pay for moving across cultures.

When so many of the benefits of globalism are constantly on parade before us, it seems cranky or "sentimental" to argue for diversity. But I think there are serious reasons to worry about global monoculture. The danger isn't that McDonald's and Microsoft and Disney will destroy all local food and cultural icons; the danger is that one way of doing things can get locked in, and normal human experimentation will cease.

I'm most worried about this in economic terms. Is Bush-style neoliberalism the best possible government? I have strong doubts; and yet it's becoming politically and economically impossible for any nation to choose something different. Even Europeans are under pressure to adopt the US model.

Biologically, humans have flourished because we are generalists. We adapt quickly to new environments, and our societies can adopt the features of their rivals. Uniformity, however, is a biological mistake, usually punished by devastating epidemics. It would have seemed cranky and sentimental for an Irishman in 1820 to complain about monoculture of the potato, which had multiplied the population and seemed an uproarious success. But that monoculture led to catastrophic suffering when it collapsed.

Maybe it's hard to think of what could go wrong with the loss of linguistic diversity. Perhaps the most easily imagined problem is that alien intelligences come by; now all of a sudden we need facility with translation, with thinking in different ways, and we've lost it. (A few specialists in a couple of universities will be of little help.)

Or, if it's accepted that cultural diversity is a good, then language diversity is probably the best way to help preserve it, since the modern world erases merely physical barriers.

And though I have my doubts about Whorf, I'm not willing to bet that he's entirely wrong. To whatever extent languages influence thinking, monoculture will limit thinking. And we need all the good thinking we can get.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 19, 2003 2:10 am 
Lebom
Lebom

Joined: Fri Sep 13, 2002 9:37 pm
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Location: Winterfell / Lannisport / Highgarden
Always good to see some well thought out points. :)


First of all, about the immigrants issue - this is hardly limited to just immigrants. In China, there has been a recent upsurge in buzz about India. Formerly an impoverished neighbour to be pitied and condescended to and so on, India has risen overnight to become a major formidable competitor. And people have become acutely aware of India's advantages - despite starting late, India already boasts an English-speaking intelligentsia. China is facing the fate of becoming the world's manufacturing plant while India becomes the world's research center.

In the meantime, nearly all the channels on TV are airing English teaching programs. "Natural English", "crazy English", "easy English ABC", "happy English hour",... people figuring out that "dropping in" means a visit and "coming up" means what's next. And 1.3 billion people are all trying to figure this out together.

This is annoying, to say the least. So - in this globalized world, language learning isn't merely a problem confined to immigrants, it plagues entire nations, at a degree unimaginable in North America.


------


Diversity itself, of course, is important and crucial. Biological diversity, cultural diversity, diversity in methods of government, economic mechanisms, ways of thinking, all of these are important, because in a tight fix, having many choices is better than having one.

But linguistic diversity? How relevant is it exactly to the above?

Does linguistic diversity really contribute that much to cultural diversity? Dropping by at the local theatre (in China), I can choose from Charlie's Angels 2, Finding Nemo, the Matrix 2, that new Jackie Chan movie, and so on, all dubbed of course. Going to the local pirated DVD store offers an even greater of choice of Hollywood movies, some of them appearing before their debut in America. And I can do this exact same thing in Shanghai (Shanghainese-speaking), Wuhan (southwestern Mandarin), Xi'an (northwestern Mandarin), Guangzhou (Cantonese), or Fuzhou (east Min). And I do not doubt at all that you can also do this in Tehran, Santiago or Bangalore.

How exactly has lingustic diversity stopped this infusion of culture? How exactly does lingustic diversity even begin to affect, even begin to touch this infusion of culture?

------

Finally, about sentimentality: h.w. made a nice point earlier. As an ephemeral presence in the history of the universe, human beings do tend to want to grab hold of a little of that unattainable immortality. It's not like we have too much else to leave behind. And I am not immune to sentimentality either.

I just wonder, though, how much humanity must sacrifice for this idealism.

_________________
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 19, 2003 3:17 pm 
Boardlord
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Joined: Thu Sep 12, 2002 8:26 pm
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Location: In the den
Ran wrote:
In the meantime, nearly all the channels on TV are airing English teaching programs. "Natural English", "crazy English", "easy English ABC", "happy English hour",... people figuring out that "dropping in" means a visit and "coming up" means what's next. And 1.3 billion people are all trying to figure this out together.

This is annoying, to say the least. So - in this globalized world, language learning isn't merely a problem confined to immigrants, it plagues entire nations, at a degree unimaginable in North America.


There's a similar phenomenon in Italy, and Brazil, and Peru (that I'm personally aware of). And what generally happens is, people get a textbook or something, read the first half dozen lessons, and then give it up.

Do all 1.3 billion Chinese have to learn English? Why, for heaven's sake? If they really did, they would. The very fact of all the excitement and difficulty shows that it's a fad.

Quote:
Diversity itself, of course, is important and crucial. Biological diversity, cultural diversity, diversity in methods of government, economic mechanisms, ways of thinking, all of these are important, because in a tight fix, having many choices is better than having one.

But linguistic diversity? How relevant is it exactly to the above?


Didn't I just answer that with at least three suggestions?

Quote:
Does linguistic diversity really contribute that much to cultural diversity? Dropping by at the local theatre (in China), I can choose from Charlie's Angels 2, Finding Nemo, the Matrix 2, that new Jackie Chan movie, and so on, all dubbed of course. Going to the local pirated DVD store offers an even greater of choice of Hollywood movies, some of them appearing before their debut in America. And I can do this exact same thing in Shanghai (Shanghainese-speaking), Wuhan (southwestern Mandarin), Xi'an (northwestern Mandarin), Guangzhou (Cantonese), or Fuzhou (east Min). And I do not doubt at all that you can also do this in Tehran, Santiago or Bangalore.

How exactly has lingustic diversity stopped this infusion of culture? How exactly does lingustic diversity even begin to affect, even begin to touch this infusion of culture?


I'm not sure what your point is here. Sure, it pays to translate Hollywood blockbusters into the local languages of large markets. If anything, that suggests to me that linguistic monoculture is not needed. In order to enjoy something from another language, you don't need to teach all 1.3 billion of your citizens that language. You teach a few translators the language.


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