25 December 2008

Thinking in English about non-English languages

The issues raised by, among others, T. Ruanni F. Tupas of the National University of Singapore, about so-called "Standard Englishes" appear to be of great interest to linguists. Literary critics can learn from the debates. One thing we literary critics (and not linguists) can learn is the way thinking changes depending on what language we start thinking in. For example, Tupas thinks in English about the relationship between English and vernacular Philippine languages; his conclusions, to be polite about it, look weird to someone thinking in Filipino or Tagalog about the very same relationship. One only has to read Virgilio Almario or Bienvenido Lumbera on the same issues to see that the conclusions of each group depend very much on the assumptions foisted on them by the language they use.

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