The language of languages

Undesirable suggestions

Eurozine Evaluation 22/2020

Cover for: Aleatory democracy
Cover for: Kulturkampf
Cover for: The realm of the senses
Cover for: What went wrong with reunification?
Cover for: Radical new Dutch essayists

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‘Many languages – one language? The query undermines the knowledge in a set monolinguistic basis’, writes Andrea Zederbauer in her editorial to the winter problem of Wespennest. Contributions discover the complexities of multilingual societies – notably in central Europe – and the literature they produce.

It might appear stunning, given the problem’s gist, that the opening article is an enchantment for the embrace of English as European lingua franca. Nonetheless, the Belgian thinker and economist Philippe Van Parijs just isn’t within the English language for its personal sake. His argument is completely utilitarian: English is the language that, de facto, fulfils the ‘maximin precept’ by making communication least tough and excluding the least variety of folks.

Nor does Van Parijs demand that non-native audio system of the English language respect its purity. Europeans ought to deal with English because the Germano-French hybrid that it’s: one thing that belongs to them that they’re free to adapt: ‘Let’s not be afraid to speak this language, which is ours too, with out complexes, with the entire vary of our accents, and let’s take the freedom to introduce any neologism we want!’

However behind Van Parijs’s informal strategy lies a critical rationale: ‘So as to make good on its democratic claims, the Union should be capable to depend upon a sufficiently united agora, one that enables European residents to speak and to pay attention to 1 one other. And with no widespread language there may be no widespread agora.’

Brexit won’t make using English within the EU any much less democratic – quite the opposite: the language will tackle a brand new neutrality. ‘With or with out Brexit: the data and use of English won’t diminish. As a substitute, its use will proceed to unfold. For a supranational democracy to step by step concretize itself, this must occur in all places in Europe – and past.’

Multilingualism at what expense?

In latest many years, Austria’s traditionally multilingual literature has been complemented by a variety of spoken idioms originating from past the previous Habsburg Empire. These new voices mirror each international migration in addition to the mobility of a global center class, writes literary scholar Christine Ivanovic. The deep gulf between these two kinds of motion ‘is commonly not perceived by readers, as a result of the texts are written in a single and the identical language. What’s totally different is how they communicate, how the various languages in them are expressed.’

The enrichment of German, English and French as literary languages because of this new mobility comes on the expense of the literatures of the international locations of origin. Furthermore, the ‘mind drain’ impacts not simply smaller languages. Authors from the Arab house, China and India more and more are likely to self-translate or write in one of many western languages dominating the literary market.

These ‘can afford multilingualism, so long as they continue to be the dominant foundation for the textual content; certainly, they visibly revenue from the incorporation of the modes of illustration of different languages and literatures. At present, we learn texts of varied African, or Arabic, Chinese language and Russian literary cultures in lots of languages however all the time solely within the language that’s accessible to us.’

Extra multilingualism

Terézia Mora and Ilija Trojanow focus on how their very own multilingualism impacts on their writing; Jan Koneffke examines the cliché of language as ‘dwelling’ and its exploitation by nationalist politicians; Oliver Scheiber asks why language in courtroom is handled in such a means that folks typically don’t perceive the decision; and, in first-time German translation, Hungarian futurist Dezső Kosztolányi (1930) defends ‘The place of the Hungarian language upon this earth’.

This text is a part of the 22/2020 Eurozine overview. Click on right here to subscribe to our weekly e-newsletter to get updates on opinions and our newest publishing.

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