What’s in an English Word

The English language has changed over the centuries but one thing that hasn’t changed is its forceful domination over counties even today. My Norwegian cousin is strictly taught English in school but in my school it was optional to take a class to learn about a second language. Why is English mandatory for her but Norwegian not for me? As the world virtually becomes smaller it is crucial for younger generations to become fluent in several languages, The United States is very behind on this as demonstration on not being strict about learning even a second language. English should not be a one superior language and as other countries educate their students to learn English, English speakers as well should put in some work to learn theirs. The United States is also home to an assortment of immigrants from places some American students can’t point out on a map, let alone learn about their language.

Although Johnson defines origins of the alphabet, “A, the first letter of the European alphabet, has, in the English language, three different sounds, which may be termed the broad, open, and slender” that seems informative but can easily block out subordinate origins of languages and show where true language comes from. This is a separation tactic so there is no comparison or mix up of an obviously dominant language and other languages that do not compare. English had and has help from many other languages in its development, although it seems to still be a confusing language with rules like i before e except after c. It has borrowed and manipulated other words from other languages and sometimes not even changed them but pretended like they were their own; I thought piñata was English until my first grade Hispanic friend explained the word to me. People that do not speak English as a dominant language can see through the rose tinted glasses while people that do speak only English still just don’t get it even today.

 

— Alison Vining

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English the Language

Language is a very convoluted subject as it is already because it is the way in which people communicate with one another. However there are many different languages that scatter the world already that help to send a sort of miscommunications with others who cannot understand the same language. English for starters was thought to be the universal language back in the day, the superior race was to “educate” those who are unable to speak it. The thought of English being a tool of suppression for others has never really occurred to me. I though that it was a means to communicate and expel thoughts but by expelling thoughts, where do these thoughts go to? Do they just become stuck in someone else head or do they become a threat to the mind in which they are being placed in? The English language is a priority as it was then, it is now. When students go to school here in the United States, instruction is always given in English and never in the language of a foreigner say Spanish or Chinese or other. People are expected to know the English language because they are from this place where the norm is English. Any other form just becomes disregarded by the fact that they are . Although the idea was not bad in thye sense that they wanted people to be able to communicate with each other without there being a miscommunication, the miscommunication still happened. They used force and violence in order to “educate” and slowly stripped others of their individualism.

-Alexis Blanco

Ya’ll Need to Learn Sum English

From the groundbreaking work that Samuel Johnson pioneered, to Macaulay and Roy’s influences in India, a lot has progressed for the English language. The work Johnson completed was the first dictionary of its kind and in comparison, surpassed the “French Dictionnarre” given the resources and time period. This dictionary would further the rapidly increasing literacy in England and allow more people understand what was being discussed. I am a bit weary of the fact that Johnson would alter words that were not to his liking. I am curious if the words were altered significantly, or in a way that they would favor credit in his direction in a selfish intent. ” Johnson recognized that language is impossible to fix because of its constantly changing nature, and that his role was to record the language of the day, rather than to form it.” (Notes 4) It is important to know that with all that the English language was experiencing (traveling, emerging colonies, commerce), it was like the weather. We cannot control its outcome but we can try to best prepare and anticipate what may come.

Thomas Babington Macaulay was able to carry the significance and refinement of the English language successfully into India. “A radical reform of the existing educational system was necessary to modernize Indian society”. ( Roy 143) For Roy, a native to India to say this,  it is saying that imperialism brings about benefits. Roy makes the claim that the traditional educational system is keeping them in the darkness by not allowing them to access this effective new educational system. Imperialism is not always a bad thing. Granted, there are always ulterior motives, but there are people that can benefit from this knowledge that the English and English itself provides. Currently, it is said that engineering is basically a religion in India. It may be that by a STEM based education being introduced in India during the time of Roy, it allowed India to start developing compared to maybe if they would have stayed traditional. As for the status of English as a language, what has made it unique is the fact that it has had exposure from so many cultures and continents. Exact and precise words have blossomed because of this.

 

-Daniel Estrada

 

Standardizing? Weaponizing?

It seems apparent that in the time of Samuel Johnson, the dictionary, and the standardization thereof was a method to allow foreigners to enter English controlled or English ruled areas, and live among the English, with English customs and courtesies. Johnson’s view of English is very much innocent as well, remarking that “Language is only the instrument of science, and words are but the signs of ideas” (3) Again, it becomes apparent, when reading Johnson’s words that his view of the English language, and truly all language, is nothing more than a way of sharing ideas. Sure, Johnson wants to codify the language and has classist issues with slang, but in essence, his dictionary is a way of distilling, or reducing the English language to something simple and clean and designed to unite people in pursuance of scientific discourse.

Contrast this, however, with Macauley’s words, roughly 80 years later. Macauley is planning on using Johnson’s standardized English as a weapon. No longer is English the “instrument of science” and “signs of ideas.” Now, Macauley wants to see languages used and abused. He wants to see native languages taught to the native peoples with the express intent of showing them the errors of their religion. Specifically, Macauley says “It is confined that a language is barren of useful knowledge. We are to teach it because it is fruitful of monstrous superstitions.” Here it is shown that the native languages are of no value, and by extension and linked, the “Hindoo” language, as Macauley refers to it, contains a religion that is false. The linking of the language to the religion is quite the attack on non-English languages, when viewed through the European, Christian lens.

What’s more, Macauley goes so far to say that “when we pass from works of imagination to works in which facts are recorded and general principles investigated, the superiority of the Europeans becomes absolutely immeasurable. It is, I believe, no exaggeration to say that all the historical information which has been collected from all the books written in the Sanscrit language is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgments used at preparatory schools in England.” This too is a massive attack, and a vicious one at that. The idea that all information in a language can be of less value, simply because the language chosen to convey that information is perceived to be of less value is an incredible assertion.

By Macauley’s time, English is more than a thing to be standardized, more than a way of sharing ideas. By Macauley’s time, English is a weapon. English has been weaponized, rather than standardized.

-Ross Koppel

Whitewashing Learning

By 1835, when Macaulay’s Minute was sent to the English Parliament, the English vernacular carried with it science as well as the bible. Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary helped accomplish this. It was a huge literary accomplishment: Language became a science. Just in time to save it from The Royal Society.

In English, the English found their science and their religion. But once Indian literature began to be interpreted and shared with Europe by orientalists, it posed a challenge to the English language, and the Status of English. Instead of learning and sharing knowledge with India, Macaulay advocates for a educational system that produces “-a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect.” (34).

The Status of the English improves, because of the production of ideologies that place the English in a dominant social category. How can Mecaulay suggest this, he doesn’t even know what he is talking about: ” I have no knowledge of either Sanscrit or Arabic” (10). It is a good bureaucratic move that uplifts English voices, but feeds to the cycle of white supremacy. “Indian in blood and colour.” So basically the color of their skin and their culture is reduced so low and unmoral. It’s disgusting, and  I think it feeds to the contemporary idea of “professionalism” in this country today, a world that kneels to lighter complexion and steps on anything different.

  • Israel Alonso

 

Back at it again with the imperialism

The English language has changed from the time of Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary to Macaulay’s a call for English language in India. Johnson’s standardization seemed to be more technical in trying to find a universal use of the language, while Macaulay uses language to exercise power.

The English language has been more than just words, it has been about power. English holds no power if it were to only be kept among high society or England for that matter. The fact that English has reach most parts of the globe has been a form of verbal imperialism. It’s unbelievable how righteous these people feel that they deem the Indian language as insufficient for the grasp of knowledge. As Macaulay explains, “that the dialects commonly spoken among the natives of this part of India contain neither literary nor scientific information, and moreover so poor and rude that, until they are enriched from some other quarter, it will not be easy to translate any valuable work into them”. There seems to be a negative connotation when people refer to a language as a dialect. When a language is called a “dialect” it sounds as if the language is considered to be untamed and unrefined. As if people of little to no intelligence speak dialects because language is for those who are refined.

Macaulay admits that he “[has] no knowledge of either Sanscrit or Arabic”, but that his decision is well informed because he “[has] done what [he] could to form a correct estimate of their value. [He] has read translations of the most celebrated Arabic and Sanscrit works”. That’s like saying, “I’ve only tried Little Caesars’ pizza, so I have a good idea about the quality and value of all pizzas”. The fact that he has only read translated works is not enough to form an opinion about the value of language. He doesn’t seem to consider that works can get lost in translation, especially considering who translated the work. How can he trust that those translations he has read are the best translations? He is reading translations, not the language itself and therefore cannot judge the language. English works translated into other languages do not sound the same, sometimes they even suck or loose the significance they had.

In some way, it seems that Macaulay is criticizing the English language itself without even knowing it. He is judging the “most celebrated Arabic and Sanscrit works” because of their English translations. Maybe the English language isn’t sophisticated enough to translate the greatness of these texts. Furthermore, in trying to consider English as the greatest language and deemed other languages as less than, Macaulay has impeded the pursuit of knowledge by limiting knowledge as something that is exclusive to the English language.

Nancy Sanchez

The Status of the English: Furthered Through Language

“How  has the status of the English changed, if at all, from the time of Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary (1755) to Macaulay’s and Ray’s call for English language education in India?” As I read this prompt I was prepared to talk about the idea of English as a living language because Johnson tells us that, “… our language is yet living, and variable by the caprice of every one that speaks it, these words are hourly shifting their relations … .” This is certainly true today, especially with slang and the addition of “Internet slang” (which is almost its own language). However in reading the prompt a few times I discovered something. While the title of the blog is, “The History of the English Language,” there is something wonky in the wording in the prompt itself that I didn’t catch at first. It states, “How has the status of the English changed… .” How has the status of THE English changed, the English as in the people not only the language. It it’s possible that that “the” was a grammatical error, but I’ve decided to run with it.

Within the limited scope of the reading, I probably won’t really be able to give a proper account of the “status” of the English or how it has changed, but I want to talk about how status of the English has been partially achieved through language. Yup, I am going to talk about imperialism/ colonialism again, a lot of our readings have this historical idea within them. Macaulay’s call for English in India supports this idea of conquering through language the minutes state, “A sum is set apart “for the revival and promotion of literature and the encouragement of the learned natives of India, and for the introduction and promotion of a knowledge of sciences among the inhabitants of the British territories,” (1). So here is this idea of using language to control other people.   Also, Consider the “noble savage” they don’t speak right,  or act right, or worship the right god… so it’s our duty to help them (by taking there land and trying to make them conform to European ideas). Language is one of the forms used to further imperialistic ideas and this certainly effected the status of the English. So the status of the English is deeply effected by the English language.

Katie Oswald

English: the best in the West

Here were are centuries later, far from the beginnings of when the English language started.  So, how did it get started? Pretty much the way writers like Johnson, are being highly critical of.  A melting pot, so to speak of a language, consisting of French, Spanish, Latin and Greek.  But the issue with the language doesn’t stop there. Macaulay with an ethno/eurocentric, upholding of the English language, feels appalled that there is even a debate about the matter of incorporating the teaching of the English language; and there is Ray with the strong belief that certain studies should be added to the curriculum.

While they all have different stances, and pitches when it comes to schools of thought, what they do have in common is that they disregard the afterthought of this way of thinking.  In other words, a set group of people’s way of reading, speaking, and thinking will cease to exist and, therefore, putting an end to a culture. Another common theme between all of them is that they have automatically taken on this authority, as if they all have the credibility to do so.

We have Johnson, who feels as though he has been divinely sent to correct such a mess of an entanglement, and the irony is is as he speaks ill of others forms of communication by referring to it as “jargon,” he himself, is going against the very claim he is arguing about -using specific words that most likely did not belong to his ancestral line.

Macaulay, felt that it was only through English that education could be properly transferred, and this attitude has is not far behind us..  It is still quite prevalent, and even in so much as to say that many of us whom are bilingual, have been told, directly or not, that if we choose to speak a foreign language (whatever that means), then we ought to “go back to” our “country.”

And finally, Roy, who while with what I believe had the best intentions, still intervened on the natural state of  learning in India, where the natives could have evolved with their own unique identities.

Essentially what we are looking at is the repeated act of unsolicited interference, and a lack of reciprocity when it came to learning new thoughts.  It was merely one sided teaching!

-Maricela (Marcy) Martinez

Image result for ethnocentrism comic

 

English, it’s Stolen

“A Dictionary of the English Language” by Samuel Johnson played a major role in shaping the English language today. Personally, I feel like not much has changed in regards to the status of the English language. Like Johnson and Macaulay, English is put on this pedestal as an imperialistic language that is considered “better” than other languages and cultures. Johnson states that English is “without order and energetic without rules”(Johnson 2). Johnson illustrated his frustration with the English language a few times as he believed there could be improvements.

Macaulay on the other hand, believed that English was and is the key to success. He believed that other languages such as Arabic and Sanscrit are not good as English. The ironic thing about the English language is that it derives from many different cultures and many of aspects of our language is borrowed. However, for some odd reason English is idealized across the globe and everyone wants to learn it.

-Rahma

Evolution Of English

The English language is a tangled web that takes influence from many different european languages. Some of the influence that lead to the creation of english include French, Spanish, Latin and German. English, like most active langangues, evolves alongside the ever changing tide of cultural views and societal norms. In 1755, Samuel Johnson released Dictionary. Johnson objective for this release was to impose structure and untangle the english language. Johnson did not withhold his bias when choosing what words are acceptable to be included in his Dictionary. This attempt to control the english language studies the evolution of the language. In the preface to the book Johnson writes about the “energetic” unruliness of English. In his view, the language was a tangled mess, and was in desperate need of some discipline: “wherever I turned my view”, he wrote, “there was perplexity to be disentangled, and confusion to be regulated.” Yet through the process of attempting to fix the English language and give it structure Johnson realised that language is impossible to fix, because of its constantly changing nature, and that his role was to record the language of the day, rather than to form it.

Spreading the English language was a major aspect in British colonialism. When comparing the views of Johnson and T. B. Macaulay there are many similarities and differences. Johnson saw english as a broken language that could eventually serve the world, while Macaulay felt that “intrinsic superiority of the Western literature is indeed fully admitted by those members of the committee who support the oriental plan of education.” Basically, Macaulay viewed english as a language that could better and promote the advancement of the sciences in all corners of the british territories. Both men saw the impact and importance of English, but due to almost century long gap between these two writings the cultural view of English had evolved.

-Conor Morgan