Saturday, 5 September 2015

The Lonely Anglophone

I've always been very interested in linguistics, perhaps because I was brought up in a multilingual environment- speaking several languages. My father's family are Bristol Welsh and I was born and brought up in a region of Wales where the Welsh language is dominant. My father's own family has a Welsh-speaking branch too. My mother was a Dutchwoman and I spent a lot of time in the Netherlands with her family, all of whom also spoke German because we were close to the border where they lived in Limburg. Some of the older ones also spoke Groesbeeks, a rare dialect that has since died out. I've been thinking lately about how languages are classified and what defines a language as opposed to a dialect, and why it matters. Linguists define a dialect as a variety of language, in terms of its structure deviating from the standard; that refers to a certain group of the language's speakers. The same goes for an accent except this is when only the pronunciation system changes leaving the grammar and vocabulary intact. For example American English is a dialect because an American would say: "I'm pissed because I've gotten a busted leg from walking on the sidewalk by the drug store." while a Briton would say the same thing as: "I'm annoyed because I've got a broken leg from walking on the pavement by the chemists shop." If you spoke the latter sentence like an American would then you'd be speaking in an American accent, but not in American English. So a speaker's dialect and/or accent will vary depending on what town, region or country they live in; and their ethnicity or social class. Some people speak in their own unique way because of upbringing, personal choice, the influence of foreign languages and dialects or disorders of the brain, mouth or other vocal organs; these are called idiolects. (In the case of personal choice I suppose you would have to call it a "constructed idiolect".) However when dialects of a language deviate to a certain point from each other, should we reclassify them as separate languages? How do we know when it's right to do so? In academic linguistics, there is no universally accepted criterion. Languages come in families in a similar way to living organisms. Like living organisms they evolve, mutate, interbreed, speciate and sometimes become extinct. A while ago I wrote a detailed article on this subject which is essential background to this one, see: http://hpanwo-voice.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/beyond-babel.html. Different languages are often closely related within the families and super-families I talk about in the article above. French, Spanish and Italian are all from the Romance family while Russian, Czech and Polish are all from the Slavic family. However these languages are not mutually intelligible, meaning that the speakers of each language can't understand the other when using their mother tongue. A language that is mutually intelligible means speakers can converse with each other in their own separate languages and understand each other. Mutual intelligibility is a sliding scale from total to partial to slight; there's also asymmetrical intelligibility, where one language can be understood by another's speaker, but not vice-versa. Sometimes the written language is mutually intelligible, but not the spoken. Icelanders can read Faroese, but not talk to a Faroese speaker. A Hindi and Urdu speaker can easily converse with each other, but not read each other's writing because the two languages use a completely different script; the same goes for German and Yiddish. Mutual intelligibility is the most popular yardstick separating languages from dialects, but because there is a continuum of separation, this has caused some controversy. There seems to be one exception in this categorization process that linguists tiptoe around with their arms pressed to their sides... English.

English is technically a West-Germanic language, the same family from which derive German and Dutch, yet it is unique in several ways. Firstly, it's very widespread. Because of the political global influence of Britain in the previous couple of centuries, and the United States of America during the last century, it is spoken in every corner of the planet and is a global lingua-franca. It emerged in England in the early Middle Ages and evolved quickly into a wide variety of dialects, some of which exist to this day. English comes from a sub-family of West-Germanic called Ingvaeonic. This evolved on the continental North Sea coast at the time when people in Britain were speaking Latin and Celtic- the ancestor of Welsh, Cornish and Gaelic etc (Boudica moment alert!). Today there is only one other living survivor of the Ingvaeonic group, Frisian. Unlike English this only exists in a small corner of the northern Netherlands, Denmark and Germany and is spoken by only half a million people. Despite being the closest living language to English it is not mutually intelligible. This is song by Frisian singer Piter Wilkens, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=quyFYylF3_g. The only parts of the lyrics I can understand are the Dutch loanwords because I can speak Dutch. In terms of upwards reclassification, English can never be regarded as a dialect of any other language. However, the reclassification I'm more interested in is downwards. I think English should be split up. Why has no academic linguist considered this? English seems to be ring-fenced in some way; for some reason it's become a sacred cow that has been put on a pedestal above the shuffling and analysis that all other tongues are subjected to. This makes it very lonely to be a monoglot Anglophone. The reason I say what I do is because many of the dialects of English are very low on the scale of mutually intelligibility. I'm thinking specifically in terms of the languages of the Caribbean and of some regions of the British Isles. There has only been a single official downward split in English that I'm aware of, Scots. Scots is not to be confused with Scottish Gaelic, a Celtic language spoken in the north and west of Scotland. Scots is spoken in Lowland Scotland and some of the rural areas of Northern Ireland. Scots was formerly regarded as a dialect of English, but today it is classified as a language in its own right. This is fair enough I think. It is only semi-intelligible with British Standard English and also it has a proud and ancient literary tradition, especially due to the poet Robert Burns who is as influential in Scotland as William Shakespeare is in England. Scots recently became a third member of the Ingvaeonic sub-family. However I can understand fairly well Burns' poem The Mouse, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cy8lehO7nqg, wheras somebody speaking Geordie at full strength is very low on the mutual intelligibility scale for me personally, and therefore probably will be for many other British English speakers. Geordie is a dialect spoken in northeast England. Some people in the region speak Standard English but have a strong Geordie accent; a good example is the conspiracy researcher Richard D Hall, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbS6hR9citU. However there are others who speak full strength Geordie with all the different words and grammatical elements that are absent from Standard English; a good example is the character Michael in the Alan Partridge comedy series, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJ5CdJwKNI8. In some scenes Michael speaks so strongly that a fellow character describes his speech as "just a noise!" So why has Geordie not been classified as a language in the same way Scots has? Dutch and Afrikaans are officially separate languages, although they are mutually intelligible. Even I, whose Dutch is rusty, can understand much of spoken Afrikaans. There are other similar situations. English is the official language of nineteen of the twenty-eight nations that make up the Caribbean islands, but the people who live in those islands don't speak anything I'd recognize as English, let alone understand. These languages are known as patois or creoles and are familiar around the world because of the international popularity of Caribbean music. The lyrics of this ska song are typical of strong patois, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMrNDnU6PPk. You might argue that Althea and Donna are obviously speaking a form of English because of its Germanic features: word order, idea order, tense formation etc. But Dutch and German have an identical syntax; that does not make them English does it? Upgrading a dialect to a language is merely bureaucratic and rubber-stamping on one level; a bit like the fuss over whether Swindon is a town or a city, or whether Pluto is a planet or Kuiper Belt object. However it can be significant for political reasons which I'll come on to shortly. Having a recognized script is important in linguistic status. Scots has this thanks to writers like Robert Burns. Jamaican Patois has a linguistic academy, see: http://www.mona.uwi.edu/dllp/jlu/documents/spelling-jamaican-the-jamaican-way-Handout.pdf, and there are some road signs now written in it. Geordie does have a written form, but hardly anybody uses it in daily life. In popular culture, written Geordie is most commonly seen in the adult comic Viz which is set in an imaginary town in Northumberland called "Fulchester". Some of the characters are made to speak in strong Geordie, particularly Sid the Sexist whose catchphrase is: "Tits oot feh the lads!"
As far as I can see the English speaking world is falsely unified and some parts should be expelled. The Anglosphere should consist of southern England, parts of Ireland and Scotland, North America, Australia and several other places; everywhere else should be declared independent linguistic zones. When I was at school I used to read a magazine called English Today and watch a TV documentary called The Story of English, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mj9jJiPwsp0. These media speculated that English was developing into separate languages. This was in the 1980's, so why hasn't it? There are clearly political influences on language classification. I suspect that Scots has been made a language because of recurring historical waves of Scottish nationalism, one of which we're experiencing right now, see: http://hpanwo-radio.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/programme-104-podcast-scottish.html. Afrikaans was probably upgraded from a Dutch dialect because of the constant warfare in southern Africa through the 19th century; indeed it used to be known as "Cape Dutch". So if English is being held together in the face of all linguistic reason, there must be a political ideology behind it; yet there is none I can find in the overt world. Does the English language occupy an important clandestine position in the global world order? Is it being groomed to play a specific role in the New one, the "Great Works of Ages"? Language is a very important part of political dynamics, as George Orwell ingeniously explained, see background links below. I think the answer to this conundrum might lie in the insights of Orwell. As of yet, I have no firm solutions myself. Another intriguing revelation about the history of English has just struck. Thanks to modern DNA testing techniques we now know that, contrary to previous beliefs, the supposed Anglo-Saxon migration never took place. We used to think that after the fall of the Roman Empire, Britain collapsed into chaos and immigrants from Ingvaeonic-speaking regions of the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark took advantage of the power vacuum and moved in to displace the remaining vestiges of the native civilization. This is not true. There was no significant immigration into Britain at all in the centuries following the departure of Rome and DNA analysis of the bodies in graves in the Anglo-Saxon heartland of East Anglia during the birth of the Anglo-Saxon world shows that almost all the people had a pure native pedigree. It seems that the Anglo-Saxons were not invading foreigners, but instead were local British people joining in with a cultural revolution. What's more the signs are there in the English language. English has grammatical features that it does not share with other Germanic tongues; features that are found in the Celtic family. The implications of this are astounding. English, the language I am speaking right now, first emerged as a second language spoken by people whose first language was Celtic, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLpgVEfy4mQ. This is a question for which I have no current answers, but could English even be a constructed language, at least partly-constructed? If the answer is "yes", then was it constructed for a long-term strategic purpose? Perhaps a parting gift from the Illuminati-occupied Roman Empire that was considering the future.

7 comments:

Bpk Baktiar said...
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Xylomet said...
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Xylomet said...

Hey Ben. Your forray into the English language is most interesting.

It is interesting to note that to maintain the English language as it is maybe to 'House' us within language psychologically so we don't think outside of this structure. Interestingly in Eastern Esoteric Wisdom (not excluding any other locations) language isn't the house of being but is a transient guest, singing on the roof. Much wise discourse is based upon not to speak overtly plainly and to teach language in a purely spontaneous fashion, a skilful use of turning words & phrases. Instead of words are loaded with relative meaning they should ultimately point beyond the bounds of the describable which the spirit and rubric of 'Dialect' seems to help us to achieve by refusing to be reduced to quantifiable, strict formulas.

The problem is Ben is that we seek. In the ordinary sense, when we speak or act, we express historical conditionality up to that moment and how could it be else!. The question and the aim of language as self-cultivation sets is this; "can we be in the present here and now, free of all arbitrary conditionality, if so, how can it be expressed through the historically conditioned agency of communication?”. Perhaps this is a question we are being persuaded not to ask?.

To exacerbate the matter, when attempts to explain what cannot be contained are based on 'set' words even though they be related to supra-textual ideals they ironically confine, restrict, insinuate, imply, evoke, mislead especially in political global influence, beleifs etc; their explanation is based on an understanding, their understanding, that is conditioned and biased toward an agenda. I think we privilage language in ways alien to spontineity, symbology and intuition (perhaps with telepathy added into this too) not that language isn't an important thing, just how we use it as a rubric.

As you mentioned that great Northern Character from Alan Partrige it is interesting that Northumbria historically get's much of it's language housed within Christianity fed via it's early Christian roots fed through Iona/Lindesfarm from Ireland and Ireland from early Roman Britain such, day's which saw the Roman Germanus arriving in Essex/St Albans to crush Pelagianism (which had interesting views on language and free 'will'etc.).

I always question the language associated with the word 'Celtic' Ben, 'Celts' were also reffered to thoses coming from the more esoteric Northumbrian hermit tradition which probably had roots connected to ancient British Mystic/Baardic and were described as 'rough looking with strange haircuts' - nothing has really changed then :)

The Northumbrian king had to eventually side with his Queens Roman Biased tradition and language would become even more Romanised as the New-Brittainia-World Order. I think Celtic can be very misleading as this means in an arbitrary sense 'Non Roman' but this 'Non Roman' culture and it's language probably drew from many sources.

When the eastern Saxon disruption began it was cut off and would galvanize Britain into part of the New World Order but the West coast remained open (Wales/Cornwall etc) to the pan-european connection down the loire valley with influences from Byzantine culture. The Celtic Christians were deeply connected to these spiritual traditions going way back and probably out in the silk road. Apologies for the long post it's just a subject that I get excited about.

Excellent work Ben!

Ellis said...

Agreed Xylomet, an excellent piece Ben.
I've been attempting to expose the sinister intent of the Roman alphabet, and its formidable success as an agent of mind control for donkeys' mate. Yes, English is to all intents the world language now but even more prevalent are the designated symbols for vocal sounds (no matter what the language is) of the Latin alphabet.
So yes mate, regarding your final question: as far as my studies and experiences go 'English' is serving a a strategic long ago initiated purpose as a carrier of spells. An occult device hidden in plain sight aimed at directing the activities and behaviour of humankind through the unconscious language of symbols.

Ben Emlyn-Jones said...

Hi X. Thanks, mate. I do wonder why English is not only a group of languages wrongly classified as a single tongue, but that those within it are linguistically isolated. It's often assumed this is for practical reasons. We speak the global lingua franca so why bother learning other languages except for intellectual motives? For other people it's out of day-to-day necessity. A Dutchman who can't speak English is today very cut off from a lot of the rest of the world, including a lot of what goes on in his own country. Monoglot Dutch-speakers are becoming rare today, like the monoglot Welsh-speakers in the 1960's.
Ellis, cheers, mate. I thought this post might appeal to you. I recommend your book Living in the Matrix for details on this. I'm interested that the characters in the Hebrew script resembles constellations. This would not have happened if the script arose independently of control, starting out as pictures scraped on wood etc. The Latin script, and its associate Greek, are part of the occult spell cast over our minds. Even Orwell didn't grasp that to the extent he should have. All the best, guys.

Xylomet said...

Great discussion Ellis & Ben, Appreciated for sharing your ideas. Cheers

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