Saturday, 29 October 2011

Native language?

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NCPs pp 201-2

Ramer:

"We each have a native language of our own - at least potentially.

(...)

"... the inherited, first-learned language - what is usually mis-called 'native' - bites in early and deep. It is hardly possible to escape from its influence. And later-learned languages also affect the natural style, colouring a man's linguistic taste; the earlier learned the more so.

(...)

"In such rare dreams as I was thinking about, far away by oneself in voiceless countries, then your own native language bubbles up, and makes new names for strange new things. "

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Tolkien's understanding of such matters is that we inherit much more than 'genes' - but also cultural dispositions, including linguistic.

And that we are drawn, spontaneously, to that which 'fits' these dispositions.

I think Tolkien also regarded these dispositions as 'normative' - as something which ought to structure our lives and efforts (certainly if we are to achieve waht be are best fitted to achieve).

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I have a hunch that something of the kind described by Ramer in the NCPs has happened to me in dreams - making up new words for new things; but I have zero recollection of the nature of the language used (native or otherwise) or its relationship to actual terrestrial and historic language.

(Indeed, I suspect the language may have been random/ nonsense/ punning stuff.)

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I have, indeed, a feeble aptitude - and perhaps consequently a weak appetite - for learning languages. So what my 'native' language might be 'like' is hard to discern.

The languages I like to hear (aside from English) include Middle English and Old English; and of foreign languages I can recall listening to German radio as a youngster - just to hear the sound of the speech. Swedish sounds pleasing to me.

All these are obviously Gothic-type Northern European languages, but breaking that mould I find Castilian Spanish is lucid and exciting (Tolkien said the same - and he also liked the Castilian-esque Esperanto. Perhaps this preference was related to his half-Spanish Guardian, Fr. Francis?).

I don't much like the sound or sense of French (which I learned for five years, and know better than any other except Middle English), nor Italian, nor indeed Latin (much), nor any of the Gaelics nor Welsh.

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But all of these are very superficial preferences and aversions.

So I have not, yet, found a key to my own 'native' tongue.

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3 comments:

dearieme said...

"So I have not, yet, found a key to my own 'native' tongue."

Then haud yer wheesh.

Felix said...

We're told that the faithful pilgrim will be given a name when he or she reaches Zion.

I suggest that this name will be the key to one's own language.

bgc said...

@Felix - it's a delightful idea.