14 June 2010


In his lecture on Basque literature at the Basque Studies Symposium sponsored by the University of California, Santa Barbara, in May 2008, José Ignacio Hualde used the word "transmigration" to stress the need to define words in a literary text in a way different from the way dictionaries do:

"The meaning of a word cannot be captured in a dictionary. The meaning of a word emerges from the discourse contexts where it is used, as the proponents of exemplar theories of language learning have argued. In 'jarri zuten martziano aurpegia geratu ziztzaidan niri iltzatua' I glossed, for instance, jarri, as put. With this I simply mean that in perhaps most contexts jarri would correspond to English put. It is more exact to gloss it with Spanish poner. As we know, there are many contexts where English put is an appropriate translation for Spanish poner, but there are also many other contexts where it is not (se puso enfermo, me puso verde, no te pongas así, poner huevos, no sé que pone aquí) and there also many contexts where put cannot be translated with poner.

"In a language without monolingual speakers, it seems inevitable that its words will tend to become exact equivalents of the words of the majority language, no matter how distinct they are in their sounds. That is, to continue with our example, the tendency will be to make jarri an exact equivalent of poner. In this sense, those purist writers of some generations ago who invented words that they explained as equivalent to a Spanish word known to the reader, were rather misguided in their means to create a Basque language that would be more distinct from Spanish. In a sense they were inventing Spanish words in Basque clothing.

"Basque words may keep their visible or audible body but their meaning, their soul will have transmigrated, like we have transmigration in the expression quoted above, where we can see the spirit of the Spanish language dressed in Basque forms. This was shown quite a few years ago by Gumperz & Wilson (1971) for a village in India with three nominally distinct languages."

No comments:

Post a Comment