Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Paradox of English

English vocabulary is derived from a wider range of languages than Esperanto. It has a structural core derived from Latin , Germanic and Romance influences. Despite all this, there is no language to which it is related that is so close that an Anglophone monoglot could recognise it in conversation or even in writing.
By contrast, a Belgian speaking Flemish can sit at a table with a Dutchman and an Afrikaner and they can all carry on a conversation. Hindi and Urdu speakers can watch each other's movies without locking their gaze on the subtitles. Serbian and Croatian used to be Serbo-Croation before politics magnified their linguistic differences into an acrimonious divorce.
I used to work with a gentleman from Argentina who conversed with his Brazilian wife with each of them using their respective languages. They achieved a better understanding than many who share a common tongue.
When Romance or Slavic languages are written side by side, it looks like a family reunion, at which everyone can comment on the familial similarities.
When I look at linguistics and etymology, I see similarities that bespeak an underlying consanguinity. The study of language feels like a place of refuge from a harsh world in which angry slogans and fighting words are hurled in kindred tongues at fiberoptic speed.
Living in New York ,we mostly get along because we must.
I once went to an Indian newsstand in the early morning. The owner was Hindu. The manager was Muslim. While I checked out the magazines, they each were covering for each other so the store would be tended while each of them prayed. Since America is exporting so many good paying jobs, let's export brotherhood as well.

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