The Art of Tetman Callis

Some of the stories and poems may be inappropriate for persons under 16

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Franca’s lingua and mother’s tongue

March 3rd, 2012 · No Comments

“Variety is of the essence of language. Uniformity and consistency are inventions of philosophical grammarians whose efforts are most successful when they deal with a language no longer used to satisfy elementary social needs. A living language is one of the mores of a social group; it is neither a biological growth unaffected by human intervention nor a work of art given its form for all time by a single act of human creation. Consequently it will vary within the group somewhat according to the variation in other respects to be found in the individuals comprising it, and between groups it will vary still more. Like other mores it will be subject to modification by time. But the necessity for mutual intelligibility within the group will greatly restrict the play of individual whim; between groups this force will operate somehow in proportion to the immediacy of their contacts. In a cultured city like ancient Rome or mediæval Florence a group of people might raise and maintain a literary standard around which literary people of other groups would rally. Or, again, a convenient dialect might be somewhat arbitrarily chosen for a particular literary task, as Luther chose the dialect of the Saxon chancellary for his translation of the Bible, and this dialect, with more or less conscious modification from time to time, might remain the standard literary language. In all these cases the great mass of people, not wholly uninfluenced by the literary language perhaps, would go on speaking their own dialects.” — Harry Morgan Ayres, The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Vol. XVIII, Ch. XXX. Sec. 2

Tags: Lit & Crit

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