11 July 2009

Saving languages

Jules Feller said it succintly in Notes de philologie wallone (1912): "Political necessity, material interest, constraint, and the moral superiority of the conqueror and his [sic] language can create within a single century the troubling phenomenon of a tongue being entirely forgotten by its nation. The first generation does its best to gabble the idiom of the foreign invaders. The second generation, if it be to its advantage, already knows the new language better than the old. The third generation for all practical purposes knows and employs only the new."

Writers have the ability, nay the duty, to keep alive the old language by deliberately using it in literary texts. Everything else may disappear within a century, but literary texts (if they are well-written) do not. As William Shakespeare said of words and poems:

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

Multilingual writers are heroes not only in the realm of literature, but in the realms of language, culture, national identity, and even humanity itself.

No comments:

Post a Comment