Rude much?

Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language is one of the most powerful dictionaries about the English language. What Johnson realized was that the English language is “copious without order”.  He wanted to fix the “improprieties and absurdities”. It seems as if he sees the English language as something that can be fixed and changed, but he realized that it cannot be done. Language is malleable. It has changed and will continue to change through time. Johnson clearly stated his dislike in the way the English language takes bits and pieces from other languages. He called it “weakly followed”. He wanted to ‘get rid of’ what other languages has brought into the English language. Even before Dictionary, there was a sense for standardization of the English language. The Royal Society had a committee that wanted to improve the English language. That was the start and end to their egocentric society.

In Macaulay’s and Ray’s call for English language in India, they stated that the way the Indian natives talked, “contain neither literary nor scientific information, and are moreover so poor and rude”. In lecture, we discussed that Macaulay was not trying to get rid of the Sanscrit or Arabic language but rather trying to push the native people into learning in that language. Macaulay believed that Sanskrit and Arabic was useful in providing education and knowledge. Forcing them to learn in Sanscrit or Arabic leads to oppression. He has only read the translated versions of books and scripts. And based on what he read, he believed that it was of importance for them to learn those works. How was he able to put importance on things that were translated into English? It is not an exact translation and the depth that a certain language provides cannot be felt by another.

I feel as if he is contradicting himself. What he wanted to create was “a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect”. By creating a system that pretty much want to wipe out Indian literature and education, it creates a sense of loss; the loss of native language and heritage.

-Naomi Van


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