Whither Linguistics?

LINGUIST Disc: Re: 10.1092, Review: MacSwan: Code Switching

From: Dan Moonhawk Alford

Date: Fri, 16 Jul 1999 18:25:50 -0700 (PDT)


I'd like to propose, as a meta-theoretical point, that CODE-SWITCHING be seen as a human universal, with any mono-lingual/dialectal/register/code-ism being taken as a special (vacuous) case of a more general rule.

However favorable this would be to the majority of the world's human beings, this would put monolingual English (and other lg) speakers in a vulnerable position when positing language universals, as well as disturb English-only advocates everywhere, and would present a caution sign to be delivered on the packaging of English as a global language, in the spirit of truth in advertising, coming as it does from a special and proud monolingual society with a unique langscape of worldview born of borrowing and amalgamating cultural words from around the world (as if borrowing the word borrowed its context of meaning as well) -- pretending to be universal in its understanding while filtering everything through its langscape of an inanimate cosmos dancing to a tune of linear time that even our quantum physicists consider a verbal hallucination born of our enculturation.

This posited universal could open dialogue regarding the distinction found in indigenous societies between daily and sacred language -- a distinction non-existent in English and so virtually invisible when looking at the world's other languages through its Latin-oriented WIE linguistic lens. Ceremonies, for instance, are often done in sacred language, in a different state of consciousness, as are phenomena such as glossolalia, mantra, prayers, clairvoyance, clairparlance, etc.

Of course, that would open another dialogue regarding the role of language in significantly different states of consciousness, going beyond the normal English langscape of *language* being defined, functionally, as that workaday formal register of the language traded between strangers, such as linguists at a professional conference -- recognizing as well that humans are also and even more usually involved in less-formal social/formulaic, intimate/emotional, kinesthetic, and wholeness/spiritual uses of our whole range of evolutionary language.

And that could lead to our professionally recognizing that the same set of social, emotional, and kinesthetic components we ignore in our own lives because of this self-imposed lens is exactly what we disallow in animals when we crow our uniqueness according to our mono-level definition -- which of course could spark another discussion about why modern linguistics has no accepted scientific evolution of language theory, and how a larger notion of language would complementarily contain synchronic AND diachronic evolutionary views.

And if all that weren't enough, the discussion could even veer toward a scarier topic -- that many Native American languages do something significantly different than we do, focusing on process and relationship to the detriment of precise objects, reporting the dancing rather than the dancers -- mirroring the structure of quantum spacetime eventings rather than our own Newtonian Space plus Time reportings. Or so the 1992 Bohmian Science Dialogue between physicists, linguists and Natives found.

Hmmm -- maybe we're not as ready for these discussions as was our founder Wilhelm von Humboldt was, whose notion of linguistic relativity influenced Einstein (who used it to validate non-euclidean geometric languages) and changed our lived realities.

Whither 21st-century linguistics? More of the latter-20th-century same born of autonomous left-brain formal analytic abstraction which nobody outside our discipline can understand anymore, or coming full-circle to a complementary truce with indigenous knowledge, modern physics, Piagetian developmental levels of thinking (which imply qualitatively different levels of language and syntax), Darwinian evolution and more?

warm regards, moonhawk