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celebration of bilingüalism and myth October 26, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — onaono @ 10:48 pm
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The day before yesterday there was a party at my flat. Most of the guests were M’s fellows from US, but strangely, there wasn’t a big mixture of languages; they talked mainly in Spanish even among them!

In Montreal when 2 or more Mexicans were together, Spanish was automatically present, and slang loudly emphasized. As if the open door for Mexican idioms in an Anglo-Franco territory were a celebration in itself. Same attitude was evident in C, my German teacher. When at the party heard the sign of a plausible door for her tongue -someone said “Munich”- she fired instantly. The guy who mentioned it didn’t understand much D but that wasn’t a problem, she still seemed notoriously more comfortable and happier after freeing those words.

Among the 25 US guests or so, there was a clear exception in the historian girl. She showed me her fluent Spanish but right after chatted in English. She told me how much she loved learning a bit of German because that made her know the origins of English. Then she explained how the termination –en is no longer useful in current E but it’s a remain of G. There are exceptions like golden where it still seems useful, but we didn’t get deep on that as we jumped to another conversation: in her opinion Mexicans always use “the same”/a few words for everything, in contrast with English speakers who normally use a broader vocabulary. I’ve never heard or think that observation before but it intrigued me. I requested a confirmation that she only ment to the most everyday speech, which she agreed and reminded me of a word with tons of semantic uses: chinga*.

No ego likes the implication of using a poor vocabulary, but I’ve started to notice that may be true, and there are, in deed a lot of Spanish words that we use in several, even opposite senses, like fiesta*, madre*, padre*, chamba*, estrella*, etc. As I blog this I remembered a very unlikely theory by Max Müller were he says language has a strictly logical character, but myth is just the opposite: “incoherent, capricious, irrational”, so he and his fellows of the comparative mythology school said that myth is just the negative side of language, that myth borns from the “vices of language” because of the problems of synonimya and polynimia (diff. words meaning the same, and same word meaning different things). Müller (cold bloodly) proposed that human mind could only have though on the crazy extraordinary narrations of things outside of its direct experience because of the confusions generated in the flow of information from one source to another. Of course there are plenty convincing counter arguments and I do not believe myth as a vice of language neither generated by mistakes, but I still find interesting the link between polynimia and the generation of myths. If there’s really a connection then there is one more cause to add on why Spanish speakers are less pragmatic and more mythological oriented ( & ritualistic) than Anglo speakers. Of course, there’re always golden exceptions.