Claude Hagège at MIT, 2001 – English as Global Language: Real or Imagined Threat?

Claude Hagège at MIT, 2001 – English as Global Language: Real or Imagined Threat?


PRESENTER: CBBS, which is the
Center for Bicultural Bilingual Studies at MIT, has kindly
asked me to introduce Professor Hagege to you this afternoon. And I feel extremely honored
and privileged to do so. So some of you may have
listened to him last night. And if you have,
and have come back, it’s because you know that
you are in for a treat again. And if you have not yet
listened to him and heard him, you will soon find out how
fortunate you are to be here and how fortunate we are to
have Professor Hagege speak to us on campus. But first let me say just
a few words about him. He’s an internationally
renowned linguist who was born and raised in Tunis. And ever since he was a
child, he told us yesterday, he was drawn to languages. And he himself speaks– I just asked him how
many languages he spoke, and he told me, I don’t know. Haven’t counted them. So anyway, at
least 10, maybe 12. Who knows? But many. Many. So he has written many,
many books and articles ranging from very
scholarly works, two about generative grammar, two works
on the origins of languages as well as the social and
cultural impact of language. And all this being the result
of a tireless combination of theoretical
research and fieldwork. And Professor Hagege is
a man who never tires, he tells us, and never rests. And since 1988 he has
titulaire de la chaire de theorie linguistique
au College de France. And he has received many,
many awards, among which, in 1995, the Medaille
d’Or du CNRS, which is a French award given
to people who have given only to people who have contributed
exceptionally to research and [INAUDIBLE] accomplishments. And of course, the
number of you here, the number of people here,
is also a testament to that as well. Plus, you will discover, as
something you may not yet know, that Professor Hagege, on
top of everything else, is a thoroughly delightful man. So his most recent book, a
widely acclaimed one which is entitled Halte a la morte
des langues, and which is, by the way, about to be
translated in English and published by Stanford
University Press, is a [FRENCH],, is a call
for action, if you will, a wake up call about
the catastrophic– at least that’s his
own word– impact the disappearance
of languages has on our overall human, social,
cultural, and intellectual heritage. His topic afternoon is English
As a Global Language: A Threat or Myth? It’s a topic that no doubt
arouses quite a bit of interest in those who feel
sometimes passionately, the way the French
do in particular, that their own language is being
threatened by what is often perceived as the linguistic and
cultural imperialism, quote, of English. I say quote because this is a
word that Professor Hagege uses himself, and I hope you don’t
think it’s too polemic a word to use, but you will tell us. Anyway, and I suspect that this
is a topic that most of you here are interested
in, since you are here. Anyway, in his book Halte
a la morte des langues, Professor Hagege
writes, and I quote, in French first, then
English, [FRENCH].. Feebly translated, it might
be useful to ask oneself what is lost when languages die. The part of genius that
is deposited within each of the languages is large
enough that when some die, it can be called catastrophic,
and that what disappears is forever lost to our
universal well of humanity. So it is about this
[INAUDIBLE] relationship between language, culture,
and humanity that Mr. Claude Hagege, Professor Claude Hagege,
will to speak to us today. And within the
framework of the topic, is English as a global
language threat– threat or myth? Is that right? AUDIENCE: No. [INAUDIBLE] PRESENTER: OK. English as Global Language:
Real or Imagined Threat? I’m sorry. [INAUDIBLE] So he will speak
for about an hour at most. HAGEGE: I would say so. That’s fine. PRESENTER: And since he
speaks so many languages, maybe you could ask some of
these questions in Arabic, Russian. HAGEGE: Yes. I will reply to
any question asked in Chinese, Arabic,
Russian, Spanish, Italian, except English. PRESENTER: Well,
anyway it is high time that [SPEAKING FRENCH]
Professor Hagege. HAGEGE: Before
starting, with respect to the question you asked, I
did not answer immediately. But I reflected, I
thought of your question, and now I have a kind of reply. PRESENTER: To which question? HAGEGE: How many
languages you speak. Well, so in order to answer this
question of how many languages I speak, I think of my
old rabbi in my childhood. He said, when someone
you don’t know, someone who might be a foe–
which is not your case, by any means– asks you a question, he
said with a quite Jewish, Yiddish intonation, answer
with another question. So since you asked that
question, I will answer what do you mean by
speaking a language? If you mean how many languages
do you write, do you give talks in, do you use to write books
without necessarily speaking them, and if you
mean languages do you use when you are
in love of someone, the answer will
vary according to these different circumstances. PRESENTER: Thank you. HAGEGE: What’s the
title of this talk? PRESENTER: Are you serious? HAGEGE: Partly. Thank you. Oh, yes. I might make the wrong talk. Whether we monitor the veritable
army of English speaking econo-technical or specialist
advisors and representatives, or whether we examine
the [INAUDIBLE] of English publications,
films, radio and television programs, literacy programs,
and educational opportunities, it is becoming
increasingly clear that non-English
mother tongue countries are significantly active in
each of these connections. Nor is their involvement merely
that of third world recipients of Western largesse. True third world
nations are themselves fostering massive efforts
via and on behalf of English. On the other hand, however,
equally massive programs via English are being conducted
by the Soviet Union– by the Russians, let us say– the Arab world,
and mainland China, world powers that have their
own well-developed standard languages and that normally
oppose various political, philosophical, and economic
goals of the English mother tongue worlds. Whereas the international and
intranational rules of French also continue to be fostered,
as do, to a lesser degree, such rules for Spanish,
Russian, German, Portuguese, and so forth, such efforts
are conducted exclusively by current francophone,
hispanohablantes, and so on nations, or by
countries under French, Spanish, and so on cultural,
political, or economic domination. Similarly, English is
massively employed particularly in higher level governmental
technological and educational pursuits by countries
under former or current Anglo-American
domination. However, English today has
surpassed the charmed circle of Anglo-American
econo-political control, and is being fostered
both by its opponents and by its third parties. English has become
a major medium of indigenous elites, native
foreigners, of tourism, foreign foreigners,
of popular media, of technical publications,
of the metaphor of mastery, of teenage slang,
and even of language planning models and anti-models,
all of other worlds. While the omnipresence
of English also adds to the
opposition to English, it obviously fosters the
growth of indigenous non-native varieties. Finally, never before
has any one language been so simultaneously sought
after and regulated so that it would grow yet stay
in its place, that is, be used only in
functions for which it was authoritatively desired. Thus, if the continued
spread and growth of English is one aspect of the current
international social and linguistic balance of
power, another such aspect is the recurring need to
control, regulate, or tame their spreads. We more or less
consider that today, whatever the total number,
non-native users of English outnumber the native users. The current sociolinguistic
profile of English may be viewed in terms
of three circles, more or less concentric circles. The so-called inner
circle, as proposed by [INAUDIBLE] in research
he did on this topic, refers to the traditional
cultural and linguistic basis of English. It is made of either USA, the
UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand. Then we have a
outer circle, which is made of Bangladesh, Ghana,
India, Kenya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan,
Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Zambia. And finally, what we call
the expanding circle, which contains China, Egypt,
Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Korea, Nepal Saudi Arabia,
Taiwan, Russia, Zimbabwe. The numerical profile
is impressive indeed. Even if we use a
conservative estimates of the use of English, that
is, approximately 800 millions, about 57% are non-native users. The optimistic figure of two
billion users, of course, increases the percentage
significantly. However, the term users is
rather tricky, particularly in the non-native context. The vagueness of
its use is somewhat reduced by restricting
it to educated speakers, though by the use
of the term two, we are opening a can of worms. The result of this
spread is that formally and functionally, English now
has multicultural identities. The term English
does not capture the sociolinguistic reality. I will propose later another
term which probably does. Such former colonies as
Bangladesh, Botswana, Brunei, British colonies,
Burma, Cameroon– British and French– Ethiopia, Fiji, Gambia, Ghana,
India, Israel, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, and many others are
among the members of the Anglo English speaking world today,
and of course they contribute to increase this number. What are the phases of
spread of English today in the contemporary world? Now after having studied
the situation, and what I call the three circles, I am
studying the phases of spread. The English language
and its literature moved toward multiplicity in
three broad sweeps to, first, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland;
second, North America, Australia, New Zealand,
and South Africa; and third, Asia, Africa, the
West Indies, the Pacific, and other geographical pockets. Important for my present
purpose in this rough chronology of some 500 years are
the generalized factors distinguishing each movement. In the first, the language
spread by arms, politics, and culture as part of
an assimilative process through rearranged
fiefdoms, principalities, and kingdoms of
Anglo-Saxon Norman hegemonies over the Celts. The Irish, for
instance, have hardly had difficulty with
the English language, only with the English regime. And lest we forget, at
the setting of the sun, the greatest English
wits have been Irish. Moreover, many of
them live today in the America, or
their descendants. The difference were part of a
symbiotic relationship arising from a large measure
of shared culture, if not of shared politics. In the second movement,
language and culture spread as English speakers spread. Major institutions of
identity were transferred, at times replicated, and grew. Strong, constant contact with
England, at times paradoxical, maintained bonds that survived
such varied and chronologically separate happenings as the
American War of Independence, the Boer War in South Africa,
the reaction in Australia and New Zealand when Britain
joined the EEC very recently, and South Africa’s expulsion
from the Commonwealth, also very recently. Now if I try to reach
a kind of assessment by comparing the
progress of English with the progress of other
cultures in the past, let me mention the case
of Greek and Latin. Greek, in the
period of Hellenism, carried the culture
of intellectualism in science, philosophy,
and art and became a must for the educated from
Rome to Asia Minor. Latin is resuscitated in
the Carolingian period in the eighth and ninth
centuries for the necessities of ecclesiastic and
mundane administration, and for seven or eight
centuries, remains the vehicle of administration
and of written communication in the Western world. Their chivalric culture
of medieval aristocracy, rising in Provence in France,
carries these languages often not clearly separable over
the Western world and beyond, from England to the
Crusader states. Renaissance Italy brings
us into the modern world with the educated culture who
combines the two traditions of the humanist and the knight. Italian is part
of this equipment. And French, again, in the
18th and 19th centuries, spreads through the
innumerable courts modeled after Versailles, and
the language of the court survives as the language
of international diplomacy, sifting down into
the bourgeoisie and remaining a distinctive
mark of that bourgeoisie far beyond Europe in
Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa. Ours is a day, as opposed to
all that, of American English. And you may know
that as early as 780, John Adams made a
remarkable statement. He proved to be prophetic
when he said English– that is, American English– is destined to be in the next
and succeeding centuries– the next, for him, was
the 19th, and succeeded by the 20th and our century. So he said English is
destined to be in the next and succeeding centuries,
more generally, the language of the world
than Latin was in the past or France is in the
present age when he wrote in the end of the 18th century. The reason, he said, is
obvious, because the increasing population of America and
the universal connection and correspondence
with all nations forced their language
into general use. What is remarkable
in Adam’s statement is his perceptions, at
such a pristine stage, of the history of the country. Indeed, in 1780,
American English is still the underdog, still
a colonial substandard. The colonial regime
reaches its end, but the linguistic class
system is still vigorous. A gentleman, says Princeton’s
President Witherspoon in 1781, will not imitate a peasant. In this diglossia– diglossia,
which is not the same as bilingualism– British English is the
high language, the prestige language, and
American language is the non-prestigious
low language. Loyalty to the British tradition
means, linguistically, purism. Now, are British English
and American English really different
from each other? The story of spoken
American English, of the American
colony, is indeed one of linguistic
democratization. It has been in existence
from before 1700, and it survived, in
principle, into our days in the prestige accorded
to our relatively integrated American vernacular. I speak as if I were
myself an American, which is not the case by any means. Dr. Benjamin Rush, signer of
the Declaration of Independence, rejects the British paradigm. He writes, “The present
is the age of simplicity of writing in America.” And Noah Webster,
well-known Noah Webster, to whom language was national,
as national as customs, habits, and governments,
sensed early in 1789 a divergence of the
language of North America from the future
language of England. Webster was, so to
speak, the discoverer of the national language
of the United States. Now to what extent
can we say or maintain that British English and
American English are different? Linguistically speaking,
these two variants of English, British
and American, are far more similar
than they are different. While BE, British English,
and AE, American English, each possesses its own range of
local dialectical variants, educated usage is by
and large sufficiently similar for easy
intercommunication. At the level of grammar, there
are remarkably few differences of consequence, though there are
a number of trivial differences of the type in hospital,
in British English, in the hospital, in
American English. The book will be published
on Friday in British, and it will be published
Friday in American. I suppose so, at least. I don’t know if this is
your collected usage. Again, American English, I
already had my breakfast. British English, I’ve already
had or got my breakfast, which I must confess, to
me, as a European, is much more elegant
than American English. Or do you have your
passport with you? Yes I do, in American English. British English, have you
got your passport with you? Yes, I have. And so forth. These are minor
differences, I think. They cannot lead us to
decide that there is a great difference between
the two norms, the British and
the American norm. As far as phonetic
pronunciation is concerned, we have differences. I must say that I, as a
European, a Frenchman, having, as you can see,
a very pro-English, did not understand the
Americans at the beginning. First time when I met
some, when they pronounced intervocalic t’s, I mean
t between two vowels, because when I heard
the Americans saying a man or a woman who writes,
a person who is waiting, for a thing I am referring to,
I heard a writer, [INAUDIBLE] matter exactly as if they were
speaking of a rider, a wedding, and a matter. Of course, the pronunciation
is in fact not a D, but what we call in our
phonetic terms a one flap R. The pronunciation– I suppose. I don’t know. I can’t imitate
it the right way. But I suppose the pronunciation
of pretty, a [INAUDIBLE],, is pretty, pretty with
a [INAUDIBLE],, pretty. I must confess– excuse me
for this aggressiveness– that this sounds extremely
vulgar to my ear. Pretty, which is British, is the
right pronunciation, of course. Well, it’s the British one. So we cannot say that we have
here two different languages. At the maximum we
have two norms. Although there have been
many, many studies devoted to study into to what extent
English and American are two different languages,
there are some usages which I recall were well-known. I suppose that,
according to studies which have been written
on this subject, British English says so long
as you’re happy, we’ll stay. American English, as long as
you are happy, we’ll stay. Strange as it may seem in
British English, as strange as it may seem in American. Shall I take it in British,
should I take it in American. I wish I had done it in British. I wish I would have done it,
but probably not quite true. Or try other kinds of
vocabulary particularity, I think, to cater
for is British, and to cater to is American. So this is a lexical difference. Lorry is immediately identified
as British, as opposed to truck, which is
identified as American. Nappy and diaper, sitting
room and living room, dustbin and garbage can, chemist shop
and drugstore, and so on. But of course, all these are no
more than details and cannot– I also have blue movie for
pornographic film, nudie for film with much nudity. They cannot suffice to make up,
decide that we have to do with two different languages. So leaving the subject of
whether English and American are two different languages–
they are just two norms– I will switch to another one
which is more interesting. What are exactly the
kind of situations in which people
are when they are candidates to learning English? First, we can have to do
with an acquisitional aspect of the problem. In acquisitional
terms, we will speak our first language, second
language, and foreign language. But we have also
another possibility, which is to use a
sociocultural parameter. And in that respect,
we will speak of transplanted and
non-transplanted speakers of English. We also have a
motivational parameter according to which we can speak
of integrative and instrumental access to English. And finally, we have a
functional parameter, according to which we
have national language and international language. Such are the parameters
which I would propose as useful to decide
what we have to do with. Now the non-native
varieties of English. This is what I would
like to treat now. I announced that it is
not possible to speak any longer of English. What should we speak of? The term which has been proposed
more and more by sociolinguists is a pluralization of
the adjective English. They speak of Englishes,
and these Englishes are the various forms
that English takes, according to the country. The non-native
varieties of English– because Englishes refers to
these non-native varieties– they furnish fertile and
relatively untapped grounds for study of the processes
of sociolinguistic change. These varieties have
grown up in recent times as second languages in
multilingual former colonies of Great Britain. Hence the alternative terms
New Englishes, Third World Englishes, and also
NNVE, the famous NNVE, which means non-native
varieties of English. [INAUDIBLE] NNVE, it refers
to the Englishes used in many former
colonies of Britain or the United States
in which English is not a native language, but an
acquired second language. The last area to come
under colonization whether as British colonies or
as protectorates of Australia or New Zealand, were the South
Pacific Islands, Tonga, Samoa, Nauru, Fiji, Papua New
Guinea, Tuvalu, Ellis Islands, the Gilberts, and
the Solomon Islands, which were colonized in the late
19th and early 20th centuries. All are independent now, while
the Cook Islands, American Samoa, [INAUDIBLE],, and the
[INAUDIBLE] are not yet free. They are, let us say, without
polemicizing, territories under American influence. All these territories have
English as a second language. Now we can also speak of IVEs,
to wit, indigenized varieties of English. And these indigenized
varieties of English are more or less the
same as the NNVE. And they have been
neglected very long. And only recently have the
linguists and sociolinguists become aware of the importance
of studying these varieties. So what I would
like to do now is to propose a study of
some of these variants. Let me first of all mention
the Indian variants, which are among the
most important number. A wide range of styles can
be found in a small book. [INAUDIBLE],, the 19-year-old
illiterate sweeper who is the title character,
often seems quite childlike in thought as well as in speech. But he represents
what kind of usage many Indians, less educated
Indians, have of English. Occasionally the
reader encounters dialogues such as this. “My father is ill,”
replied [INAUDIBLE],, “so I am going to
sweep the roads in town and the temple
courtyard in his stead.” So he uses ill, which
seems probably a bit odd to a native speaker, ill. And he says also, in his
stead instead of instead. He also used Indian words
such as [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH],, which means honor,
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] which means merchant caste,
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH],, which is Indian sweets,
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH],, which means England abroad. In fact, [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]
is an Arabic word which has been borrowed through Islamisation
by the Indians and which refers to a country. In this particular case
it refers to England. And also [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH],,
which is an Indian word meaning native or indigenous. This is a sample
of Indian English, but of course, I might
mention many other ones. Another one I take
from simply the titles of newspapers in which
almost 3/4 of the title are made of Indian
words which are not understandable to a native
English speaker of United Kingdom or United States. For example, in the rising
in Nepal in Kathmandu, 1978, “Panchayat system upholds
ideals of human rights.” In the Hindustan Times,
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] are gas plants. In the Bangladesh Observer,
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] branch [INAUDIBLE]. In [INAUDIBLE],, a journal
from Lahore, December 1979, “[INAUDIBLE] calls for attack.” In the Sunday
Times of Singapore, Indian Muslims are
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH].. In the Statesman
of New Delhi, GNU, [INAUDIBLE] National University,
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH],, and so on. Of course, this is
understandable only in an Indian context. A much more extreme
case is when syntax itself is Indian while
the vocabulary is English. For example, in an
example I have here, a linguist overheard a young
female Fiji Indian sales clerk. She said, “Sheila, account
book use [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH],, I think.” Account book use is the reverse
order as opposed to that of English, and
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] is to make. So it means, in
fact, in translation, Sheila used the
account book, I think. And in order to translate
used, she uses the word [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] to
make, and she put the object complement before
instead of after, as is the usage in English. This is typical of a new syntax,
a new world order, which, of course, is totally
un-understandable in English of native speakers. Now let me give you
some other examples. But before I switch
to the examples– well, another one is the
example of Malaysian English, in which we find such
usages as this one. In an article in a newspaper,
“Equally certainly, 25 authors and
two editors do not know enough to write this book. And by virtue of
knowledges and viewpoints, they may not provide as cohesive
a book as a single author.” Another example,
“Parents’ eagerness to teach their
six-month-old children the pre-linguistic
routine, bye bye, is one evidence of
their desire to show that their baby is on its way
to being a socialized person.” I think knowledges in the
plural is un-American. And I think one
evidence with one before the mass abstract noun
evidence is also un-American. To some extent, this
usage is in Malaysia, a part of the world in
which British English was more influential than
American English, might be borrowed from
British usage, in which it is possible to pluralize
abstract or mass nouns, since, for example,
in British journals, we find things which would
probably be frowned upon in American English, such as
intimidations in the plural, or other abstract word nouns
used in the plural, too. These examples
are mentioned here in order to show what kind
of Asianization of English takes place in Malaysia. Now let me mention examples
of Africanization of English. This is taken from a letter,
a personal letter to which I had access some years ago. An inhabitant of Nigeria
writes to his relatives, “With much pleasure and respect,
I inscribe you this few lines– this few lines– and with the
hope that it will meet you in good condition of health.” This seems to be
literally translated from [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH],, the
language of this Nigerian child. Other examples taken from people
living in Kenya and Tanzania. “Let strong football
team be organized.” “He won by overwhelming
majority,” without the article. “She gave me tough time.” “I am going to cinema.” “I am going to post office.” Of course, these speakers
have as a native tongue a language which doesn’t have
any article in this context. So they simply transfer their
habits into their English. “I may continue
with the interview or examine few
more applications.” Or many other. Now another, which is taken
from the southeast of Nigeria, where [? Igbo, ?] a very
well-known African language, is spoken, in which
I overheard this. “‘You’ll see red,’ said
the angry carpenter to the frightened boy.” Another example. “To my surprise, I found
him, the driver, resting on the steer and fall asleep. As a result, he lost
control of the steer.” Another sentence. “I ask her to dance,
but she cut me.” Another example. “Thy must pay the town council.” So these usages are taken
from African languages, from Igbo in this
particular case. To see red means it’s a threats
to harm or punish a person. The steer here means
a steering wheel, and the verb to cut in the
sentence on I ask her to dance, but she cut me means she
refused to dance with me. So this is another
examples of the way English is Africanized in this context. Other examples still. “You to be careful with
these been to boys.” What does been to mean? Been to is a special African
expression which is taken from she has been to Britain. And it refers to anyone who has
traveled overseas, particularly to Britain. Another example. “We stopped at
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] to buy some bush meat, which
means game, in fact, in native English. And “I saw your my dear. I saw your my dear
at the church. Your my dear [INAUDIBLE]
means your girlfriends or your boyfriends, my dear
being put together in order to constitute an expression
which corresponds to girl or boyfriend in English. “Ia have been going to
the small room a lot, sir” means to the toilets. And “I was a tight
friend of your sister.” Tight friend, of
course, does not correspond to anything clear
for a native speaker of English, and it means a close
or intimate friend. It’s almost literally translated
from African languages. I could multiply the languages,
but I will limit myself to some more only. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] Swahili
in Republic of Congo also have many uses which do not
correspond to the English American norm. For example, “Don’t
drag your feet, son. Walk quick, quick.” The reduplication of
quick means very quickly. “Life is a big challenge. You have to take
it small small.” Or “You are eating too fastly. Take your time and
eat slow slow.” This way of
reduplicating adverbs is simply the formation
in many African languages of the superlative,
or intensive, which is a grammatical process,
of course, unknown in English, although it’s not quite
unknown in spoken English. But it does not correspond to
the written norm of English. Other examples. “He’s my bench
man,” meaning he’s my crony or intimate friend. “She bluffs too much,” bluff
meaning here, being arrogant or trying to beguile people. Or “The fellow is too
boisterous too much,” the storekeeper said. Here boisterous mean bad
tempered or quarrelsome. Other examples. “I was coupled at the dance.” It means I found
a dancing partner. Or “Are you [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]
for Nigeria yet?” Are you homesick, it means. Or “I opened the door and
visualized a very familiar face.” It means I saw, to
visualize a familiar face. “Sorry not to have been
chance to ride before.” This is also an Africanism, and
many other of the same type. Voice out for voice. Discuss about for discuss. Congratulate for
for congratulate on. And many others. An anecdote, of which I was
myself an actor, a testimony, is one when one important
personality in Nigeria, while visiting a
department of linguistics, was told that this department
was interested in research on Nigerian English. He immediately commented
that that was a waste of time as there was no such thing
as Nigerian English, he said. But a few minutes later, he
said, on being interrupted, “Let me land.” And to land is the Nigerian
equivalent of let me finish. So he himself, of course, spoke
a variant of Nigerian English. Now we also have
Chinese English. And it began as a
pidgin in Chinese as soon as the beginning
of the 19th century. And this Chinese English
was very different from standard English. For example, consider
the following sentence, which I tried to translate. “Tailor, my have got one
piece plenty handsome silk. My want you make one
nice evening dress.” Here the my is used for me. And this kind of creolization,
in which the possessive is the same as the
personal pronoun, is typical of many Creoles. Although not
universally creole, it corresponds to a regularization
of the morphology. And it makes it much
more clear than it is in a language such
as English, in which we differentiate between word
classes, which are not really necessary in terms of economy. Another example taken
from China, from Chinese. In Chinese we have
examples like this one. Do some people
understand Chinese? Well, may I mention
in Chinese, [CHINESE].. This is a structure which is
directly inspired by English. It puts the object complement
in the wrong place, and it makes an inversion,
which is not Chinese. But all the words are
literally Chinese. So word order can be transformed
by the model of Chinese even when the words
themselves, the lexicon, remain something quite Chinese. This is another example of the
way languages are Americanized. Japanese is also an
interesting example. Mori Arinori. Who was the first
Minister of Education of the new modern
Japan, claimed that “I cite our meager
language, which can never be of any use outside
of our islands, is doomed to yield
to the domination of the English
tongue, especially when the power of
steam and electricity will have pervaded the land.” He proposed to replace
Japanese, bluntly, by English. But the Japanese
did not do that. What did they do? They are probably the
one, among the countries of the world, in which the
borrowed word from English are the most numerous. It is extraordinary how many
borrowed term– of course, Japanized with a the phonetic
exist, in nowadays Japanese. They are English, but not
identifiable, not recognizable to someone who does
not know their origin. For example, we have [JAPANESE]. [JAPANESE],, which is playboy,
pronounced the Japanese way. [JAPANESE],, as you know, are
one and the same consonant in Japanese. And also, the Japanese
is a consonant vowel, consonant vowel,
consonant vowel language. So it cannot say playboy. It is transformed
into [JAPANESE].. And also magical power,
magical power for magic power. Also, [JAPANESE] for Dutch wife. Dutch wife is an
inflatable bed partner. Other examples of Japanese
English are [JAPANESE].. [JAPANESE] is love to make,
as you know, in Japanese. [JAPANESE] is a
well-known Japanese verb. And they take an English word,
which is, in this case, the up, preposition up, and they
put [JAPANESE] after, and [JAPANESE],, which
means it to make up, means, in fact, to
improve or go up. And we have many other such
uses in Japanese today. We also have [JAPANESE],,
Christmas, which is Christmas. We have [JAPANESE],,
[JAPANESE],, which is McDonald’s, [JAPANESE],,
which is restaurant, and even [JAPANESE]
nonsense, [JAPANESE],, [? heretic ?]
grotesque nonsense. [JAPANESE],, which is ole
miss to refer to a spinster. [JAPANESE], mass communication. [JAPANESE] for one piece dress. [JAPANESE] for table
speech, after dinner speech. [JAPANESE] for at home. And even [JAPANESE],,
for I love you. These are some ways of Japanese
transformation of English or Japanization of English. Now this is all the
more astonishing as Japan was never a British
or American territory. Japan was never colonized by
the British, who elsewhere left a linguistic legacy in
the form of civil service requirements, government
legislation, or a prestige language. Such factors must
have encouraged people to become fluent in spoken
and written English. English was never the language
of the Japanese public school system, though there were
intellectual incentives to acquire at least
a reading knowledge. Most important, Japan has never
had the cultural and linguistic pluralism which made English
convenient as a lingua franca, at least, or a
national language at most. In short, English in Japan
never became institutionalized. However, that developed a kind
of Japanized English, of which I give you some samples. This also reaches
European languages. And since the
matter is enormous, I will content myself worth
mentioning German borrowing such as English words
which are directly introduced in the context of
an article written in German. We have, for example,
hi-fi, aftershave lotion. We have brain washing
for [GERMAN],, spearhead for [GERMAN],, climber
for [GERMAN] involved for [GERMAN],, and
other such examples. Let us, if you don’t mind,
switch now to French. French has twice been a
world language itself, in the 12th century,
as you may know, and again from the 17th
to the 19th century. But twice it has also
been on the passive end of the process– in the 16th century, when
the giant of the Renaissance, Italy, covered the west
with Italianisms, and now in the 20th century,
when we have the impact of Americanisms. The Italian episode,
although different in certain ways
from the American, is of considerable
interest to us. Since it has
concluded, it allows us to evaluate from a
historical perspective those facets which,
in the present day case of American
English, are still in the midst of evolution. The impact of the
Italian Renaissance hurt the French pride. It hurt what humanistic
tradition labeled the Hercule Gallois, the Gallic Hercules. In states where citizens feel a
political cultural inferiority, language turns into
their foremost symbol of national defense, defense
phrasing– thank you. Linguistic patriots consider
borrowing anti-patriotic. [INAUDIBLE],, the great
sociolinguist of the times, wrote in 1549 “The same natural
law which requires everyone to defend his
birthplace likewise obliges us to watch over
the dignity of our language. Similarly, the foreign
language turns into a symbol of the foreigner himself. Since he is disliked, his
language will be disliked.” Now the battle of the
French intelligentsia against Americanisms
is not devolved from a certain conservative
political and cultural attitude. The anti-attitude symbolizes a
belief in tradition and norm, in elitism, in intellectual
skepticism toward technology. This is the opinion of many
English-speaking linguists. But so far, I agree. But one of them
adds, “Conservatism in France, linguistic
conservatism, symbolizes an anti-democratic
reaction against the women, the young, and mass culture. It symbolizes anti-Americanism
and a rejection of multilingualism
and multiculturalism. The attitude against
Americanisms, in short, reflects the struggle
against the cultural and social revolution which
marks the decline of the traditional
French civilization. This is what [INAUDIBLE],, an
American sociolinguist, writes. I must say I don’t agree. Why? Because, in fact, the
way many linguists and many intellectual writers
and so on in France react against what they feel as an
invasion of American words, or as a pure and simple
substitution of English to French in many
contexts, is not a reaction which is
limited to right milieus. Leftists are also concerned
that this attitude. In general, what we aim
at when defending French and when trying– not only in a defensive
attitude but also in an offensive
one– to promote it is to propose other
models because we feel that in many
cases, the domination of the world by one
and the same language is not something to be
recommended because it results in a world in which
we have nothing to be [INAUDIBLE] about, just
one language, one culture. Of course, this is just an
idealized possible future which will not, I think, take place. But it is the
thing against which people who want to
preserve multiculturalism, multilingualism, fight. And I think that to that
extent, they are not wrong. So I will come
back to this later. It was just a
reflection on the way part of the French
cultural world reacts to the
pressure of English. Throughout the non-English
mother tongue world, English is currently associated
with practical and powerful pursuits. This becomes evident
with the image of French, and on the other hand, with that
of local integrative languages that have been fairly
recently standardized. Relative to the latter, English
is viewed as less suitable for military operations. Local soldiers do not know
that much English yet. For lying, joking,
cursing, or bargaining– for bargaining, English
is not adapted at all– and for unremediated prayer. On the other hand,
English is currently viewed as more suitable than
local integrative languages for science, international
diplomacy, industry, commerce, high oratory, and
pop songs, of course. Now the image of
English vis a vis French is even more revealing in
that the former has risen and the latter has begun to fall
in the international balance of power. In the third world,
excluding former anglophone and francophone
colonies, French is considered more suitable than
English for only one function. This is what Joshua Fishman,
a well-known sociolinguist of Yeshiva University writes. I don’t agree, but I
mention what he says. French is considered more
suitable than English for only one function,
which is opera. It is considered
the equal of English for reading good
novels or poetry, and for personal prayer, the
local integrity of language being widely viewed as superior
to both English and French in this connection,
which is obvious. But outside the realm of
aesthetics, the ugly duckling, Joshua Fishman writes,
reigns supreme. French is widely viewed as
more beautiful, more musical, pleasant, rhythmic, refined,
intimate, pure, soothing, graceful, tender, and lovely. But English is viewed
as richer, more precise, more logical more sophisticated,
and more competence-related. I must say this is a
widespread prejudice which, to me, is on the brink of
being quite ridiculous. Even under the pen of
Joshua Fishman, who is a well-known,
prestigious linguist, I think this should
not be written. Let me just tackle one
aspect of this subject, which is precision. You may know that professional
linguists like me generally do not commit themselves in
debates such as to what extent is one language more
precise than the other one because the notion of
precision is a relative notion. And for me, for any– I suppose for any
professional language, the most precise
language is the one which is native to
you, to each of you. Of course, there is
no precision in itself as an abstract concept. However, I would like to
adduce an example, which I have recently
discovered, which might be interesting
if I proposed it to you to your thinking. And in that case, it seems that
in a very politicized context, French is reacted to as much
more precise than English. This refers to Resolution 242
of the new United Nations. You may know that the
Arabian countries have chosen the French version
of the treaties, and Israel has chosen the
British, the English version. Why? The British– the English
version says, we recommend. Probably they said, we
order withdrawal immediate– it was in 1968 after
the famous Six Days War. “We recommend withdrawal
of Israeli armed forces from occupied territories.” This is the English version. In English, when you have a
plural term like territories, you may not use the article. So “from occupied territories”
is a normal English way of saying. And “from the occupied
territories” could be said. But in this particular case– I am not a native
speaker of English, I don’t know– but it seems to
me that this lack of article is the more natural
way of speaking. So withdrawal of
Israeli armed forces from occupied territories. In French, as opposed to
that, we cannot avoid using the article. We must choose either the
article or no article. So this a retrait– retrait, withdrawal,
to retract– des troupes Israelienne–
of Israeli armed troops– des territoires occupes. De means from the, or
de territoire occupe. If I say des territories
occupes, which is a choice, it means of all the
territories which have been occupied by the Israelis. If I say de
territoire occupe, it means of some of
these territories. And in French we have to choose. So the French version,
which is the one recommended by the Arabs, has chosen
des territoires occupes, which means that
Israel has to withdraw his troops from all
occupied territories, whereas English allows one to
interpret in ambiguous terms either as from some
of these territories or from all of them. This is an example. We might mention
many other ones, we met also, because, of course,
this is very relative matter– mention examples in which it is
English, which is more precise. It depends on the
kind of circumstance. French was– used to be in
the past, is no more now– the language of diplomacy. I do not, as a
professional linguist, make part of those who
purport that French is a clear, precise language. As I said, to each
of us, the clearest is the one we master most. But what I can
call your attention to is that in certain
contexts, like this one, which is a very a politicized,
very political context, the French version can turn
out to be the more precise one. And so what Fishman writes
here is, to some extent, wrong. He adds, “English is
less loved but more used. French is more
loved but less used. Nature abhors a vacuum, which
is a medieval expression, well-known. As the functional load of a
formerly prestigious variety declines, affect rushes
in to take up the slack. The non-Francophone
world has nothing but love for French,” he says,
“and in the cruel real world, that is a sign of a weakness. The displacement of Irish
is suffused with love. The replacement
of Yiddish, which is a well-known matter
for Joshua Fishman, is accompanied by panagyrics
as to its intimacy and authenticity. English gets along without
love, without sighs, without tears, and almost
without affect of any kind. This is not true. There is an affective
access to English for many speakers
of it, which are not native speakers of English,
but we have acquired it. So I don’t agree that English
is something just as unmarked as Fishman writes. English gets along without love,
without sighs, without tears, almost without
affect of any kind. In a world where
econo-technical superiority is what really counts, the
heightened aesthetic affective image of French smacks
of weakness, innocence, and triviality. This is the opinion voiced by
a well-known social linguist. I am not sure that many
linguists outside myself would agree with it. Now this situation which
I have tried to describe, according to which
English is under the form of native English, in one case– a minority, of course– and in another case, in the
form of non-native varieties or indigenized
varieties of English, or of Englishes in the plural– this general situation
is viewed or reacted to by a great part
of intellectuals all over the world as something
not completely acceptable. Why? Because they sense, they feel
that having a language which serves the role of being the
second language for people whose language is not
known to each other when they are dialoguing is
not necessarily something good. When it turns out that this
language belongs to countries– Canada, United States,
Australia, New Zealand, South Africa– which turn out
to be among the most powerful in the world, this makes
English much less acceptable than if it were not
the case that it belongs to these countries. This, of course, is to a large
extent a political matter. And as a result,
people not necessarily accept such a situation. And I would like to
mention a text which was submitted to me recently
by an American university professor. He is American. The text will
sounds very strange coming from an American. But what he says might be
interesting to mention. And I received this on
internet one month ago. He says, “According to the
latest figures supplied by Global Reach, English
content of all internet messages worldwide dropped below 50%. It is clear that as
the net goes global, it also goes multilingual. The internet was
born in English, but it has become quite
obvious that those who attempted to promote it
through the use of English only slowed down its development
rather than accelerating it. Once again, we are
discovering that localization is the key for the international
dissemination of any tool, and more especially when
that tool is designed to facilitate communication. It is well-known
that anyone who is serious about pursuing
commercial endeavors has to use his
customers’ language. This policy– which is,
by the way, I add myself, that of Germany– to a lesser extent, much
lesser extent than the French, was especially pushed by
firms that sought expansion through the development
of international markets. In the old days, the success
of firms such as IBM, as far as the Americans
are concerned, rested mostly on this approach. IBM intelligently translated
all technical manuals, offered seminars and training
in over 20 languages. IBM went as far as
translating pushbutton levels on its hardware and even
coining new [INAUDIBLE] words. That was the case, for instance,
with ordinateur, which is now the French word for computer. I must intervene
this is quite wrong. Ordinateur was not
invented by IBM. It was invented by
a French Latinist, Latin professor in the
Sorbonne, Jean [? Perret, ?] who proposed it to the
AFNOR, Academie Francaise de Terminologie, and who said,
instead of computeur, which was beginning then to
introduce itself in French, we should use a word which shows
that the machine in question is able to ordinate in the
meaning of organize together many data, many
elements of information. And the best word for
that is ordinateur– which he was a Catholic,
and of course he thought of ordination,
which means the consecration of a priest. But he took it from the
ecclesiastical vocabulary. But ordinateur was a success. And we know, because this has
a date and there are documents, that ordinateur was proposed by
this French professor of Latin and not by IBM. But this does not stop
me from recognizing that IBM has proposed many
felicitous neologisms. The success of Microsoft,
this professor adds, mostly relied on
the same approach. As far back as 1995,
Microsoft had already 60% of its market outside
English speaking countries. Again, few people
and analysts note that this tremendous
success rested less on the quantity
of Microsoft products than the capability
of the company to sell in its
customers’ tongues. The internet is
supposed to facilitate international communication,
not to preclude it. Yet it is surprising to
find out that many internet users believe that restricting
expression to English only on the net is necessary
to bridge our differences and make it possible for us to
fully understand one another. Is English really
adequate in this context? English is the native tongue
to a bare 6% of the world population. And even though it is
widely studied, over 70% of the world population
has no knowledge of it. If 20% or so of the
world population has some knowledge of
English as a second language, those of us who travel a lot can
testify that fluency in English in non-English
speaking countries is just wishful thinking. It applies to me,
as you can see. If English may be understood
well enough to us for us to check into a
hotel, order a meal, or tell a cabbie
where to take us, it does not often allow us to go
much beyond addressing our most immediate needs. True, English has
been widely adopted as the international
language for science. But can those of us who attend
international conferences honestly tell us that foreigners
can make themselves understood in English as well as we can? Haven’t we noticed that
apart from a few exceptions, even highly educated
professionals whose mother tongue
is not English have a much harder time
to address our questions, and more especially
when their work is being questioned and criticized? Are we blind to the
post-conference syndrome that affects most of
the participants who speak English as a second
language when they congregate and regroup as soon
as the plenary session is over to communicate freely
in their own native tongues? In the hard sciences
and in technology, when PowerPoint slides
and transparencies can compensate for
the lack of fluency to present an experimental
setup, a pilot plant, or a bunch of equations
to model physical phenomena, English does not seem to
be much of an impediment. But can we really expect a top
level scholar in psychology, in social science, in
history, or in literature be able to present his research
in a fully effective way and in a manner as
convincing and persuasive as if he was conducting– I would have written
as if he were– as if he were. But the American
write as if he was– as if he was conducing his
talk in his own native tongue. Of course not. The widely known
Jacques Derrida used to give his talks in English
when he traveled to the US until his American
audiences told him to switch back to French. Why? Even though they did not fully
master the French language, Derrida was far more
understandable to them in his own native
talk, and even more so as they were already
familiar with his work. Language is not
neutral, and translation implies switching over
to a different system of coordinates. By adopting English as it
means for real international communication, I
will necessarily have to adapt to the
English speaking psyche and use references that are
common to English speaking countries and Anglo
American culture, thereby losing, in the process,
the best of my message. As a minority, what right
do native English speakers have to foist English
upon a world majority? Can we ever expect
non-English speakers to master English
as well as those who have it as their native tongue? Most of the time, a basic
knowledge of German, French, and English was sufficient
in the olden days. Then, in the 19th
century, the free flow of scientific and
technical information went unhampered by
multilingualism. On the contrary, it seems
to have boosted creativity. Scientific creativity feeds
on language and language structures, as the linguist
Benjamin Lee Whorf has clearly shown. A scientist who gives
up his own native tongue to conduct his work can
never reach full potential, and often he will be limited
to technical contributions only, even though he is
able to do much more. The tremendous
variety of languages appears less awesome when we
delineate language families inside which the
acquisition of another idiom can be made
relatively effortless. 100 years ago in
Europe, serious students studied two or three
foreign languages, not to become fluent and
interpreters, not because they were mesmerized by any
superior civilization, but to be able to understand
their neighbors, and mostly those who made
significant contribution to their professional fields. So he conclude by saying,
“International forums and discussion groups
should welcome contributions in all languages if their
participants were really sticking with the best and
most interesting contributions. Instead, the internet shows
today incredible mediocrity. While the average citizen
thinks the internet brings him the world, the serious
intellectual has returned to his book, lecture
halls, conferences, and head-to-head discussions
and roundtable”– I don’t say that I
agree fully with this– “and roundtables that gather
real, thought-challenging professionals and researchers. If people want the
best from the internet, they have to invite
back the best by first realizing that
original thought automatically entail the use of original
modes of expression.” This is the opinion voiced by
someone, an American professor, who is aware or conscious of the
dangers of this uniformization by English. What would I myself propose
as a conclusion in all that? I think English is, in
fact, not so much a threat as it is often said to be. Why? First, because although much
more English speakers than the ones to which it is native
exist all over the world, it is native to a small
minority of the world’s. Second, because it gives rise
to new forms of languages, new Englishes, which might, by
progressive transformations, yield new languages between
which there would not be any communication. This is the story of Latin
yielding Portuguese, Spanish, Romanian, French, and Italian,
so-called Neo-Latin or romance languages. And this is the fate– the word fate is not
felicitous because it is not something bad. It is just the normal
result of evolution. And this kind of
transformation of languages, which come from the same trunk,
the same original source, is something which has always
happened in the world in space and in time. So it has begun to
happen to English, as it does happen to French
also in former French colonial territories in which there are
some forms of French to which I referred yesterday in
a class of one of you, which are getting more and
more different from French such as it is spoken in France. So this second reason not to
be anxious about the future is, for me, an important one. A third one is that
English is frowned upon by those who
fend for diversity, which means that many people– not only in the
so-called elites, but also in the average public– react to the danger of
uniformization, which is the result of a very
dangerous pretext often provided by people who
argue in favor of English, saying that when we
have just one language, this allows us to communicate,
this avoids a war, this avoids
misunderstanding and so on. This is not true at all. We have the example, to
cite a very recent one, of former Yugoslavia in which
the Croats and the Serbs have fought violently
against each other although they speak more
or less the same language. Today I receive many
letters, threatening letters, from Zagreb, the
capital of Croatia, saying, please, Professor
Hagege, please all of you Western linguists, stops
speaking of Serbo-Croation. We do because Serbo-Croatian–
although for reasons of acceptable
nationalism– the Croats want to individualize
themselves and to be considered a speaker of another language. It is true that Serbo-Croatian
is a language, a unified one, if we use a criterion
[INAUDIBLE] communication. Serbs can communicate
in Serb with Croats, communicating in Croat. It is, of course, one
and the same language which has regional variants
like any other human language. So they speak the same language. However, this does not
stop them from fighting and from separating
from each other in the beginning of the ’90s. And this was a very fierce
war of which you are aware, all of you. So this is just one example
which, for lack of time, I give in order to demonstrate
that it is not true that one and the same
language is a promise of peace or this is an illusion and
a prejudice against which I must react. So in what case
could English become a real danger for languages? Just in one case. If English, not content
with being what it is now in many countries in
the world with what I said at the
beginning of this talk, I mean a second language,
an indigenized variety which could exist side by
side with the vernacular languages of the people. If English, not content
with being this, was substituted for the
other ones in private life, in the homes of every
family, if English became from the present state
of a second language in many countries,
which, as I said, reach much more English
speakers than there wants to, to whom it is native, if it
became the first language of all these countries. In other words, if English
knew the same future as Latin did when it
was substituted, when the languages of the
conquered Western Europe were substituted for by Latin,
Gaulish disappeared that way. Etruscan also. Dacian in present day
Romania, which was then Dacia, disappeared in that way. We do not know any
word of these languages because Latin replaced
them, and Latin was introduced not only
in public life, not in the streets, but
also in private life. So the problem– this will
be my latest conclusion– is to what extent can English be
an example of the same process? I mean, is English, in
the present situation of the world, a language, which
can replace, by suppression, by being substituted
for all these languages, other languages which are
native to the people of most countries? I must say in this
case only would I accept to say that
English is a threat to the languages in question. I think that is not
the case, and I am not sure it will ever be the case. Thank you very much. [APPLAUSE] I’m sorry for taking too long. PRESENTER: Professor
Hagege, will you entertain a few questions? HAGEGE: Yes. AUDIENCE: I have an
observation and a question. The observation relates to
your discussion of Fishman and his list of adjectives to
describe French versus English. It occurs to me, as I was
listening to that list, that it corresponds very
closely to stereotypical notions of masculinity
versus femininity, with France, of course, being
the feminine marked object. In listening to that,
or thinking that, it reminded me of the
degree to which Germany, during the Nazi period,
did indeed conceive, in its political imaginary,
of France as a female vessel, in effect, or series
to its own vulcan, to use the ancient god imagery. And I find it somewhat
ironic that Fishman is a Jew, and that he’s applying
these perhaps– or it seems with no
self-consciousness, which leads me to my question,
which is totally naive. In your discipline
of sociolinguistics– specifically sociolinguistics– HAGEGE: And also
linguistics proper. AUDIENCE: Yes. Yes. Well, then I said sub-discipline
of sociolinguistics. Is there a German branch, in
the 20th century, of scholarship that has contributed
to the sub-discipline? Does some of it date from before
the conclusion of World War II, and to what extent do
you as sociolinguists embrace, or have you rejected,
that sector of scholarship? HAGEGE: Well, it’s
a good question. You said that the
adjectives which qualify French and English
in the text I mentioned from Joshua Fishman, represent
[INAUDIBLE] thinking, which, of course, is my opinion, too. I must say that if I
were a woman myself– which is not the
case, as you see– I would think that this is an
unacceptable, anti-feminist, and [INAUDIBLE]
view because it’s quite ridiculous to associate
certain things with women and other ones with men. Women are not necessarily more
tender or more and so on–more feminine in the masculine
sense of the word. And men are not the contrary. This is quite an inspiration,
which is quite anti-feminist, which I can’t accept. Now what is behind this
kind of inspiration? You ask whether I know of
German researchers, scholars who purported such a view. Is that your question? AUDIENCE: Well, I’m just
wondering what the state– I have no idea. I’m not familiar with
the discipline at all. So I’m just wondering, from
a historic point of view, whether the contributions
of German scholarship pre-World War II to your field. HAGEGE: As soon as the end of
the 18th century and beginning of the Romantic period,
nouns such as [INAUDIBLE],, the Grimm Brothers,
the Schlegels, and many of the well-known
German scholars– who, by the way, were the founders
of linguistics and the ones who used the word for the
first time in history– had a certain
tendency, that’s true, to associate language with
certain psychological, cultural settings. And this is a thinking
which, of course, today appears as completely
obsolete and reactionary. But it dominated German
thinking during a long time. This is true. AUDIENCE: It connects
with a certain metaphorics that one uses. HAGEGE: Its formation was
[INAUDIBLE] metaphoric, yes. AUDIENCE: In light of your
presentation last night, in which you yourself
adopted a 19th century– HAGEGE: In another context. AUDIENCE: Right,
in another context, a 19th century
metaphor of vitalism, fully acknowledging
that it didn’t fit. I’m wondering if your
sub-discipline inevitably has to be drawn to metaphors
which are ideologically and politically freighted. HAGEGE: I can mention a fact,
which probably you know, as a testimony of the
importance of the way a political power
views language. I have documents, which
I found some years ago, on Hitler’s
attitudes to Germany. He was, as you know, Austrian,
and he had a very strong Austrian accent. He has a very accurate voice. I have heard his
voice on records. And his Austrian accent was
jeered at the beginning, jeered at, mocked, laughed
at, and ridiculed– at the beginning when he did not
have power until quite later. And as soon as he became
more and more powerful, all the Germans who did not
pronounce German as he did imitate his pronunciation. And in articles I have, we see
that not only in phonetics, but also in morphology
and in the lexicon, many words which
were Hitler words were widespread in Germany
during the whole Nazi period. So I just mention this fact. I don’t to what extent it
responds to your query. But I just mean by that
it is quite possible to politicize a form,
a norm of a language, through a certain
regime, and to associate a certain conception of the
language to a certain regime. This is which it is little
known, but assessed, and it existed. This is what took place
during the Second World War. To what extent does that
correspond to your– AUDIENCE: Well, it just adds
a level of interest, I think. HAGEGE: Yes. AUDIENCE: Actually, I wanted to
ask you about a couple of words that you ed yourself. And I recognize one of
them, maybe someone– did you write the translation
that you were reading of– anyway, one word
is passive, which relates to what Edward
was talking about. That is, when you use the
word passive, which is really a sexualized metaphor to
refer to the condition of a language getting
a lot of loan words from another language. HAGEGE: Did I use the
word passive myself? AUDIENCE: Yes, you did. And in particular,
for example, that’s not a metaphor that
normally is used to describe the post-1066
period in English, when I think many more
words came in from French than ever have come into
French from English. And the other word I wondered
if you would talk about was one you used earlier
in your talk, which is vulgar, where you– HAGEGE: Quite subjective. AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] where
you characterize the sound of American English as vulgar. And I wondered how that matched
up with your characterization of yourself as on the left. HAGEGE: No, the
reason is very simple. Not far to seek. I learned English from
British professors. So the way they pronounced was
the one I tried to imitate. And when I went for the
first time in America, I was startled by the way
Americans pronounced English because it was not mine. So my reaction– vulgar,
for which I apologize, was its integration. And I don’t want
to be aggressive. It was the way I
reacted to this kind– AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] that as
a register for characterizing the way the
differences in speech strikes me as something that
is a problem if you think of yourself as [INAUDIBLE]. HAGEGE: No, vulgar is a word– I am quite ready
to recognize– it is a word which is completely
subjective as I use it, as I said, to refer it
to a part of my biography in which I discovered the
way Americans pronounce English, which was not the one
I have been taught that well, is the most widespread today. But I grew up in
another kind of English, although, as you
may observe, many of my own way of
pronouncing are more or less inspired by the American
way of pronouncing. Well, the word vulgar
is not a good word. And I do not use it
as a scientific word. It’s quite a subjective one. As far as passive
is concerned, I would probably be more
reluctant, more loathe to reject it for a
very simple reason. It’s just a matter
of terminology. If by passive we mean a language
which accepts or receives a great, huge amount
of borrowed words, then the word is not marked more
than just referring to that. And we have many languages
which, in this respect, passive– and if you want to avoid
the implications of the word passive, we will just say
open to borrowing words, which is the case of many languages. Other ones, as you know– Icelandic, for example. Fijian. By the way, both of them
are language of islanders– are not passive in this respect
because they do not borrow, and they are also
watched by purists who want to tap the original
fund in order for them to find neologisms. They do not want to borrow. So there is a choice. There are two adages in neology. Either we borrow great
matches of words to translate [INAUDIBLE] which correspond
to the modern technical word, or we exclusively resort to
words from the original funds. In the case of
Icelandic, Old Norse, which is the origin of all
Scandinavian languages. [INAUDIBLE],, as the case of
Arabic. it is the same thing. And I sometimes cite
Israeli Hebrew and Arabic, in this respect, are
very characteristic. When it came to
designating atomic bomb, the Arabian scholars who
were asked by the governments to look for a word– because the
Koran does not speak of atomic bomb– does someone speak Arabic here? They took a root from the Koran,
they took [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH],, which means a parcel,
because the prophet says [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]. In this context,
the prophet said, you will not bring any parcel
of good to the paradise if you don’t follow my religion. And the word parcel,
which is a Quranic word, and to that extent
very prestigious, was chosen by the Arabic
scholars to express atomic. Of course, it was not a good
word because atomic is a Greek word which means which
cannot be cut more. [INAUDIBLE] is privative, and
[INAUDIBLE] is [INAUDIBLE],, the Greek [INAUDIBLE] means
a thing which you cannot cut further. It is the last result
of a cutting operation. But the Arabians thought
that they had to, instead of borrowing
the word atomic bomb, to take a word from the Koran
because it is respectable, whereas the Israelis adopted– was just a kind of phonetic
transformation– bomba atomica without any further ado. This means that there is a
kind of political attitude behind the choice of neologisms. Either we are passive in the
sense which I [INAUDIBLE] myself to use, and
means open to borrowing without much hesitation,
not reluctant, or we consider that neology
is, to a large extent, a political activity,
and there is a national or nationalist
implication behind. And this is what many
languages in the modern world give us examples
of, I would say. AUDIENCE: Yes. Hi. I guess I have one
comment and two questions. The comment that English
is not a threat insofar as people are not giving
up local languages and taking on
English is certainly false in the case of
the United States, where so many Native American
languages are disappearing. The late Ken Hale, who
was a linguist here, spent his life trying to
rescue many of these languages, a difficult struggle. It is a threat, certainly,
in this country. HAGEGE: I did not refer to
that because it was the subject on my talk of yesterday. AUDIENCE: I wasn’t at the talk. HAGEGE: I devoted it exclusively
to the subject about treating. So I spoke about American
Indian languages disappearing. AUDIENCE: Oh, I’m glad. Thank you. The question is you described
those words in Japanese as Japanized English. But not really
Japanized English. This is English words being
adapted to the Japanese system, and thoroughly adapted
to it, to such an extent that many Japanese don’t even
know that these terms came from English in the end. The question to me is that the
Japanese are not particularly concerned about this. There’s not much
opposition to this. There was in the 1930s
in the military regime where they did make
this effort to create scientific, technological
terms from old Chinese roots. But unlike the French, the
Japanese are not concerned. HAGEGE: They’re not? AUDIENCE: They are not
concerned about this influx of what we think of as English
words into the vocabulary. HAGEGE: It’s true. It’s true. AUDIENCE: And I wonder if
you have a comment on that. The other question is the
change of syntax in Chinese, which is quite interesting
because, again, it complicates the political question. Chinese in general does not
try to sound out English words. They look for Chinese
roots for new terms. And yet, as you know, some of
Chinese syntax and word order is now being affected
by English influences. This is a subtler difference. I haven’t seen Chinese
object to this, but they do know it’s happening. Are there other examples of
this kind of syntactic change in other places? HAGEGE: Yes. To begin with the end, and
concerning the Chinese syntax, you are a sinologist
yourself, aren’t you? AUDIENCE: Yes. HAGEGE: You know that
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH],, meaning and, is not normally
used in traditional Chinese every time we conjunct things,
and is not as often used as the and and the A
of English and French. And now we have texts which are
full of [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH],, whereas the [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]
of genuine Chinese is a preposition meaning with. And [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]
agreeing with him. And this [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH],,
which is Chinese, yields today a conjunction of
coordination, which did exist, in fact, in Chinese, but
on a much lesser extent, and which is pervading–
invading the Chinese syntax and morphology. This is an example
among many other ones. Another one,
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] which are the determiner in
the noun group. I say [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]. The book, I read
the book I wrote. In Chinese, when we have
between the subject [INAUDIBLE],, or no subject, which is
not it is often left away, and the [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH],,
a very long stretch of words, the Chinese avoid having
this [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH],, and they permute and
choose another structure. But Chinese, which is
[INAUDIBLE] on English, has very, very long
relative prepositions with [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH],,
which are not Chinese. And I have many
examples of that, and I was referring
to that exactly. Now as far as the first part
of your question is concerned, you are quite right. And I would accept that I
exaggerated, to some extent, and should not speak so much
of Americanized Japanese, Japanese as a very large
amount of borrowings. I will say I am
not a specialist. I speak Japanese fluently,. But what I see when I give talks
in Japanese in Japan when I am invited– when I speak
with the people later– what I see is that
I would strongly tend to think that there is a
continuity in Japanese history, just the same way as in the
sixth century, this country of Samurais, which
was illiterate, adopted Chinese characters,
just in the same way as it adopted an enormous
amount of Chinese by syllable which it
pronounced the Japanese way, but which way what we
call Sino-Japanese. In the same way, recently,
it has adopted a great, great many English borrowed
words, which lead me to think– which is a hypothesis which
has a cultural or sociocultural and philosophical implication– I am not a philosopher
and don’t want to indulge in a
facilities or things which could be contradicted. But it leads me to think
that, as opposed to French, as you said yourself,
and you say, unlike French, in which language
is a very politicized and very nationalistic thing
of which French have a very high conscience,
and which has always been associated with power
under the monarchy just the same as any other republic. On the contrary– contrary
to that, in Japan– it seems to me that language
is not a political matter. In France it is a very
strongly political matter, and the reaction of many
French intellectuals against Americanization
is directly drawn from this psychology,
which in the case of Japan, is almost non-existent. This is what I would propose. PRESENTER: Maybe
one more question? Yes. AUDIENCE: I’m going to make
an observation, a question from a different
perspective, which is I think connected to
us, our being at MIT, which is you were talking about
the differences in English largely in terms of
different countries in terms of real space. HAGEGE: Of what? AUDIENCE: Of real space,
real geographic space. You mentioned a
little the internet. But think it’s by no coincidence
that the worldwide web was invented by an
Englishman working in a Francophone city for
an international physics committee, and that one of
the ways that English really is becoming a world language is
within science and technology. And in certain fields, such
as physics, biology, computer science, the discourse is
really monolingual in English. And I was just wondering
what’s your take on– and there’s good reasons
for that in the sense that it has to be one
language because there is a premium placed on precision
and the ability to share data and all those kinds of things. But again, this is never
going to be a first language for these people. It’s created a phenomenon
that we already have where the vast majority
of scientific and technical communication in the
world is in English. But the majority of people
who are reading and writing or receiving and
producing that language are not native speakers. And do you see that as a threat? HAGEGE: Oh. I had a question. Are you able to appreciate the
quality and the correctness of their English, these scholars
who are not native speakers? And do you not think that,
as the text I read strongly suggests, there is an unequal
situation because many of these non-native speakers of English
who, in scientific congress, resort to it, cannot express
their thought as fully as they would if they used
their native tongues? AUDIENCE: But they couldn’t
communicate to each other. HAGEGE: I’m not sure. AUDIENCE: Well, actually,
I’ve talked to physicists, and they would say that they
can get much more work done [INAUDIBLE]. HAGEGE: What gives you a good
argument– which of course, I don’t criticize– is
that scientific scholars and scientists have always
had an international language. It was Latin. For some time it was German,
yes, and today it’s English. It’s true. But Latin was a dead
language already. I mean, it did not exist anymore
in everyday conversation. So it was unmarked in the
linguistic sense of unmarked. German reigned during a
very short period of time. And today the reign
of English is not without causing some
political problems. This is the reason
why I am not quite– although I’m not
reluctant, not loathe to– I’m not quite ready to adopt
it without some hesitation. There is something implied
behind that which is– AUDIENCE: Whatever
political [INAUDIBLE],, there’s a huge critical
mass of the fact that the literature
in these fields is now being
produced in English. And that makes it,
in some ways, there is a huge amount of momentum
to keep it in English. HAGEGE: No. I would have a question. I think– you’re
not a journalist. AUDIENCE: No. HAGEGE: You are scholar. So I tell you why I opened
the question whether you might or might not be a journalist. I think this does
not apply to you. But in general, that there is
a kind of terrorist attitude when repeating,
repeating, repeating a thing which has
not been demonstrated by many observations. I mean, many people say what you
have just said, to what extent is it true? The ones who say what you
say, have these people a testimony of
all the congresses in a given subject
in which they have been able to
observe that English was the only used language? And to what extent is it not
a journalist, to some extent, terrorist attitude, the fact
of repeating, repeating, repeating the thesis,
the situation, that you cannot avoid it
and that you have to submit yourself to it? To this I react. AUDIENCE: Well, I can give
you an actual concrete. In physics, the language
of publication is LaTeX. HAGEGE: Is–? AUDIENCE: It’s a typesetting,
word processing language. And all physicists
use LaTeX because it allows the use of the writing
equations [INAUDIBLE].. LaTeX is English-based. But basically, to publish in
physics– and this is true– one has to– especially
since the fall of the Soviet Union, when the only
other real alternative language for
physics was Russian. Since that point, just because
of the fact that, in essence, the only publication tools
in English-based publication, that it really is true. HAGEGE: Well, if it
is true, as you say, then don’t you think that the
ones to whom English is not native, and who may
be great scholars, are in a situation of inequality
because they cannot express their thoughtfully, even though
you may purport that physics is not a literary matter, and that
you have just to expose what you have experience about, and
to speak in terms of numbers and so on. There is also a certain
discourse in physic. And this discourse
requires that you have a minimum mastering of English. And if you don’t, this is an
unequal situation for scholars who are not English speakers. AUDIENCE: Can I ask
you one question? It’s a question, also, to
follow up on your question that you asked. HAGEGE: This is an
important question. Thank you very much for– AUDIENCE: I’m curious,
as you yourself, you keep saying
that you cannot– if you express yourself
in another language, you cannot express yourself
fully, communicate as fully. Do you feel that way yourself,
that when you speak to us, do you feel that you’re
not communicating as fully? HAGEGE: I’m not a good example. HAGEGE: OK. All right. So you would take a [INAUDIBLE]. HAGEGE: I thinK– I am a– if I can
use this neologism– a hyper verbalized man. And to the extent that
I am hyper verbalized, I feel at home in any language. So I’m not a good example. I am, to some extent, a monster. But teratology being apart,
ordinary people, the ones who are very great scholars
and who don’t expose themselves in the parts of their talk
which are literary discourse, linguistic discourse,
are less necessarily disfavored as compared
to the ones who speak the native tongues,
who are English speakers. AUDIENCE: I would actually
argue that the register for scientific discourse
becomes a much smaller set and becomes a smaller
set that people can become confident and
equal because they’re not really discussing a
very large [INAUDIBLE].. HAGEGE: That’s right. That’s right. This is an interesting remark. And when they do– it happens that
they do also discuss huge matters and the things
which are not just details, what happens? AUDIENCE: They go to
their native language. HAGEGE: You know, I alluded to
that in the course of my talk, that in the 18th
and 19th century, many scholars in physics,
chemistry, and other, let’s just say, [INAUDIBLE]
sciences, were polyglots. They were multilinguals. I mean, the
possibility of scholars being able to speak the
language is not something which has not existed. It belongs to the
past of Europe. And without saying that I
have any nostalgia of that– I was not born then– knowing that, I think
that this is an example probably to be considered
and reflected upon. The situation of today
is not quite unavoidable. AUDIENCE: Remember
that if a scientist has to learn five languages
to get [INAUDIBLE],, that becomes a vast barrier
as opposed to having to learn just one. HAGEGE: To some
extent this is true. But this is open to discussion. AUDIENCE: I just
want to say one can worry about the long-term
implications of the discipline when it is conducted
in only one language because if we lament the death
of language, of any language, as the loss of a whole cultural
system and a way of thinking, how much more richer might the
discipline be if, indeed, there were multilingual contributions? HAGEGE: I quite agree. PRESENTER: Maybe one last one. AUDIENCE: Do you think
that the language of American culture [INAUDIBLE] HAGEGE: Every time I
give a public talk, there is an Esperantist
somewhere, which is not your case, probably. AUDIENCE: I don’t
speak the language, but I’ve heard many things
about it and don’t really know. HAGEGE: I have an answer. I have an answer because
this is a question on which I have striven to think
as much as I can. And I must say the
result of this research is a great disappointment Dr.
Zamenhof, when he invented it– he was a Jew of Bialystok
in Polish, in Poland, then occupied by the Czar,
by his white collar Russians. And the majority of the
population spoke Polish, and the Jews, who
had the ghetto, spoke Yiddish and Hebrew– did not speak Hebrew but
used it in the prayers. So Dr. Zamenhof was
an ophthalmologist, as you know, an
oculist, a generous man because end of 19th century is
a very internationalist period. He thought, I will invent
a language in order to– he had the illusion that
a language can lead people to a resolution
of conflict, which is quite untrue, as I said
in the example of Yugoslavia. And he had other
kind of illusions which were widely shared
in the end of 19th century. So he invented Esperanto. In 1887 he published
his manifesto, and in 1905 in
Boulogne, in France, they had their first
congress international, which was a success. And then the contemporanes,
the people who lived there and who left testimonies,
said that Esperanto represented a great hope. But now I give you my opinion. I think that there
was no impediment, there was no obstacle to
the possibility of Esperanto becoming a real international
language, all the more since it did not have any
political power behind it since it was an
invented language. So the drawback which
I mentioned as far as English is concerned
was not the case then. However, my
interpretation is this. Unfortunately,
European countries were engaged in fratricide,
cruel and human conflicts, during less than 50 years. And in both occasions,
the massive intervention on the United States make
American English what I call an Esperanto de facto. And this is my interpretation. In 1917, President Wilson sent
his troops relatively late, but the Americans came. In the Second World War,
the American intervention, due to Japanese attack,
was much sooner. And in both cases, I think that
the advent of American English in Europe was the fate,
the bad fate of Esperanto because American
English became, itself, what I call this
Esperanto de facto. And this is one
of the reasons why I think the fate of
Esperanto is a sad one because human stupidness
and human cruelty were the main obstacle
to its diffusion. [APPLAUSE]

Danny Hutson

3 thoughts on “Claude Hagège at MIT, 2001 – English as Global Language: Real or Imagined Threat?

  1. CLAUDE HAGEGE RESTERA CELEBRE PAR CETTE OPINION : "LES BRETONS ETAIENT DES SAUVAGES . ZORRO EST ARRIVE ( = LES FRANCAIS) : LES HOMMES DES CAVERNES, ILLICO, ONT ETE CIVILISES !!!!!!

    M. Hagège, du collège de France, linguiste pas trop génial, est invité à lire :

    – Le Livre Bleu de la Bretagne.
    – Théorie des nations, par louis Mélennec.

    Bonnes lectures, cher monsieur Hagège !
    Et soyez modeste ! Vous sentirez un mieux être …. jusqu'au bout de vos orteils ! Cela vous évitera la pédicurerie, et même la manucure.
    Vous seriez plus sympha si vous renonciez à cet accent de faux seizième arrondissement ! Trop de chic, aujourd'hui, ça fait plouc …. et plouf !
    Voyez notre amie Elizabeth, de Londres : à 90 piges, elle parle maintenant comme tout le monde !
    Quelle distinction : ça, c'est la vraie classe !

    Bien cordialement tout de même : je ne vous en veux pas : la France vous a formaté par ses sottises : vous aussi êtes une victime.
    Vous voila rééduqué sur les Bretons, par un Breton de surcroît !

    Quelle agressivité, quel mauvais goût !

    LE TOUJOURS BON DOCTEUR.

    https://youtu.be/z8_aYrYMyW8

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *