Forwarded from Nestor (language)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Dec 11 10:55:51 MST 2002


1) Carlos is right on the spot, indeed! It is absurd to speak of
"English" as if it were the old Anglo Saxon language of the British
Islands. English, of course, is a particular mixture of Latin and
"Germanic" features, which fact, BTW, was noted by KM himself on
Capital, none the less, when he debates the different meanings of
"worth" and "value", and the tendency that he -as a native German
speaker- could clearly find in current English to name "direct" objects
with the old AS root while the "indirect" object was generally named
following the Latin root.

2) I would also add that while the difference between "bad" Latin and
romance is fuzzy at best, the basic difference, at least for languages
in the Iberian peninsula (BTW: ancient Spanish was a lot more similar to
ancient Galician/Portuguese before the 15-16th centuries than it was
afterwards), lies in the presence or absence of the generalized system
of cases applied to nouns. Neither Spanish or Portuguese apply the
system of cases (Nominative, Accusative, Genitive, and so on) to nouns,
while it is a generalized agreement among scholars (in Argentina at
least) that "late low Latin" still did, even though in a "clumsy" way as
compared to the aristocratic language of Cicero or Virgil.  It is also
widely assumed that

(a) evidence points to the idea that the latter was mostly a written
language or a class language of a very small fraction of the ruling
classes of the Roman Empire, and

(b) at any rate the "low Latin" of their time was sometimes further
apart from the language of the aristocracy than it was from the "late
low Latin".

To give a better description, it should also be noted that at the
pinnacle of the Imperial power, the upper classes also displayed a
tendency to be drilled in Greek rather than in Latin. Although they
never entered the "koyné", the cultivated fractions were Hellenizing in
their cast of mind and were, to a large extent, bilingual.  Decadence
and fall of the Empire was concomitant with the decadence and fall of
Greek as a "lingua franca" (particularly in long haul trade) in the West
(never in the East, of course).

It is only in this sense, one can quite seriously state that both the
songs by Galician/Portuguese trobadours and the "cantares de gesta" (the
local version of the "chansons de geste" in French) are late products of
a language that can be observed in writing as far back as the 7th. or
8th. Century (paying attention to the withering away of the system of
cases as a landmark in the road between Latin and romance languages).

3) The interest of this verification does not lie on any kind of  claim
for "linguistic precedence" (after Saussure, this is a nonsensical
idea), but in that it casts a powerful sidelight on, or portrays, the
_ethnocentric stand_ of this guy Bragg who -as Carlos correctly states-
telescopes the current language of England back into the early Middle
Ages, and informs his readership that -here as well as on every other
field of human action (except for those deemed "evil" or "mischievous",
one should assume)- the "proud Island and its mighty race" can still be
considered the most innovative and modern ones not only of our times but
for ages immemorial. Please keep in mind that we are talking about
_written_ documents of a vernacular language...

This is perfectly consistent with the anti-French roots of original
English nationalism, that explains English history away by means of a
confrontation between evil, French-speaking, Normans against excellent,
"English" speaking, common people.

A final coda: On Sunday last, the Toronto Sun has published a comment by
an international correspondent in NYC indicating that some at the top
levels of the Bush administration are beginning to plan a re-enactment
of the British (now, joint British-American) colonial rule in oil
producing Middle East (to the detriment, _en passant_, of France). It is
not a matter of chance that when Imperial dreams begin to loom in the
horizon Imperial myths begin to fill some writers´ production.


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