4.1079 Languages/Humanist, French/Canada (8/236)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Sun, 24 Feb 91 21:24:43 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 1079. Sunday, 24 Feb 1991.

(1) Date: Wednesday, 20 Feb 1991 23:12:14 EST (15 lines)
From: "Patrick W. Conner" <U47C2@WVNVM>
Subject: 4.1061 French (was Languages of Humanist)

(2) Date: Wed, 20 Feb 91 21:30 PST (12 lines)
Subject: Re: 4.1054 Misc: Languages of Humanist &c

(3) Date: Thu, 21 Feb 91 08:47:14 MST (28 lines)
Subject: Re: 4.1061 French (was Languages of Humanist)

(4) Date: Thu, 21 Feb 91 09:58:17 -0600 (33 lines)
From: "John A. Dussinger" <dussinge@ux1.cso.uiuc.edu>

(5) Date: Thu, 21 Feb 91 12:47:05 EST (81 lines)
From: "Ian M. Richmond" <42100_1156@uwovax.uwo.ca>
Subject: Minority languages

(6) Date: Thu, 21 Feb 91 23:32 CST (19 lines)
Subject: Bilingualism

(7) Date: Fri, 22 Feb 91 14:51 GMT (14 lines)
From: David Zeitlyn <ZEITLYN@vax.oxford.ac.uk>
Subject: RE: 4.1061 French (was Languages of Humanist) (3/86)

(8) Date: Sun, 24 Feb 91 11:26:15 IST (34 lines)
From: "David M. Schaps" <F21004@BARILVM>
Subject: Re: 4.0964 Le Francais on Humanist (3/62)

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Wednesday, 20 Feb 1991 23:12:14 EST
From: "Patrick W. Conner" <U47C2@WVNVM>
Subject: 4.1061 French (was Languages of Humanist) (3/86)

There even are places where English completely disappears.
In America, they haven't used it for years! Alan Jay Lerner

Some English (even some Londoners) think American English isn't
English, either. 'Course, Alan Jay Lerner grew up in the Big Apple
and attended Harvard, so his excuse is that he's writing lines for a
character modeled on the great linguist, Henry Sweet, and created
by an Irishman, George Bernard Shaw, who said the English required
an Irishman to teach them to speak their own language. I think that
when you get right down to it, nobody speaks English. Perhaps no
one ever has.... Rather comforting, actually.
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------258---
Date: Wed, 20 Feb 91 21:30 PST
Subject: Re: 4.1054 Misc: Languages of Humanist &c. (5/109)

re Languages or a language for Humanist networkers: All my life I have
been tol d by those who should know that one can go almost anywhere in
the world and be understood if one speaks Yiddish. Practically, I have
found that often very tru e indeed. So forget English, French,
Afrikaans, and Hottentot: let it be Yiddis h, and we can all go to
sleep, eh? Kessler out here on the Pacific Rim, a milli -second away
from you all, us all, we all.

(3) --------------------------------------------------------------34----
Date: Thu, 21 Feb 91 08:47:14 MST
Subject: Re: 4.1061 French (was Languages of Humanist) (3/86)

I understand and agree with Germaine Warkentin when she asserts that
language is a powerful symbolic force -- of nationalism and national
identity, though she does say this last part. But that's exactly what
seems to me to be unfortunate. It seems to me that the effort of
humans to transcend the tribe, to form larger political units, is one
of the more commendable achievements of our species. The insistence
that every language deserves its own country is a survival from a very
dangerous 19thc nationalism and is, in my opinion, to be deplored.

Speak other languages, encourage other languages, out of respect for the
differences of others. But don't make language a political issue. Of
such issues are wars made. Assimilation does not mean the death of your
native culture, it means its transformation. But that transformation
includes the transformation of the dominant culture as well. We in
America can attest to the power of immigrants to transform and invigorate.
It seems to me that if we had kept the Chinese or the Africans or the
Mexicans in one geographic corner of our country, speaking their own
tongue, forcing localism and particularism, then our country would have
been much the poorer for it. And I think Canada is the poorer for the
intransigent tribalism of the Quebecois.

Ellis 'Skip' Knox, Ph.D.
Historian, Data Center Associate
Boise State University DUSKNOX@IDBSU.IDBSU.EDU
(4) --------------------------------------------------------------45----
Date: Thu, 21 Feb 91 09:58:17 -0600
From: "John A. Dussinger" <dussinge@ux1.cso.uiuc.edu>

After quoting my admittedly provoking report that "more than once
I've heard Parisians declare that the language spoken in Quebec
Province is not REALLY French," Benoit Melancon asserts: "There
is absolutely no evidence of this linguistically." Evidence of
what, may I ask--of what I've heard from native Parisians or of
the dialectical status of the language spoken in Quebec? Perhaps
in the heat of the moment M. Melancon did not recognize the
ambiguity of his dogmatic assertion. When my friend Hubert du
Che (sorry about not having accent marks in this medium--another
problem using French on e-mail), a graduate of the Sorbonne,
tells me that he could hardly understand the dialect in Quebec,
isn't this information empirically true, even if politically bad
news? A "different accent," not to mention the many differences
in usage, is surely begging the question of linguistic evidence.

I did not say anything about banning French or any other language
from this net. As a matter of fact, although my professional
field is English studies, I read French with ease as well as
German, Danish, and Latin. Not having used Greek for many years,
I've lost my confidence in that language without a dictionary
close by. So write on in French! Maybe M. Benoit can express
his wrath more effectively in French than in English.

My original remarks had to do with the political agitation in
this country for making Spanish a second language; and the
separatist movement in Canada, it seems to me, is not being
resolved by maintaining two official languages. On the contrary.

John Dussinger

(5) --------------------------------------------------------------86----
Date: Thu, 21 Feb 91 12:47:05 EST
From: "Ian M. Richmond" <42100_1156@uwovax.uwo.ca>
Subject: Minority languages

Germaine Warkentin's response to my posting about the bilingual
nature of Canada (or lack of it) raises some interesting questions
about minority language groups, although it in no way addresses the
question of Canada's alleged French-English bilingualism.

There is no doubt that the presence of various ethnic groups in Toronto
adds greatly to that city's exoticism. There is also no doubt that a
variety of language groups is well served there. For example, it is
much easier to find a newspaper in Chinese than to find one in French.
Toronto, after all, has one of the largest Chinatowns in the world.
Other language groups are also well represented (app. 600,000 speakers
of Italian, for example). And, yes, some, perhaps many, of these people
do live in their native culture without coming into contact with the
dominant English language. The question is whether this is a matter of
choice or necessity. Certainly a Chinese speaker in Chinatown can live
reasonably well without having to use English, as long as he/she accepts
to remain within the confines of that linguistic area. Speakers of
other languages can also no doubt live within the confines of their
linguistic group. This is true anywhere, not just in Toronto. However,
these people must be prepared, or, as is most likely, be forced to pay
the socio-economic price of their independence from the main stream of
Canadian society. An interesting case in point is the husband of one of
our graduate students. This man is a university-trained engineer from
mainland China who speaks no English. He has found that he can indeed
live and function even in London, Ontario within the limits of the local
Chinese community. He is nevertheless working hard to learn English as
quickly as possible so that he can find a better-paying position than
the one he now has; the man is washing dishes three days a week in a
Chinese restaurant. Through my late first wife and her family and now
through my children, I have had the opportunity for many years to live
in close contact with various Asian communities. I have met a good many
members of those communities who have lived and worked in their own
language with little contact with the dominant culture. It would be fair
to say, however, that every one of them would gladly have exchanged that
privilege for a decent-paying job, a job that was denied them by their
lack of English or French. The point is that the "multi-cultural mosaic"
to which Germaine Warkentin points so proudly is really only the socio-
economic marginalization of minority language groups in our society. The
price of living and working in your own ethnic language and culture in
Toronto or elsewhere is a place on the lowest rungs of the socio-economic

A similar price is paid by those who try to live in French outside the
"well-defined geographic areas" I referred to in my original posting.
Quebec is, of course, one of those areas, as are eastern Ontario along
the Quebec border and New Brunswick. Although Ontario has the largest
francophone population in Canada outside Quebec, that number is now less
that 500,000 and has been dropping steadily for the past 20 years. In
fact, one highly-placed official in a federal government department
concerned with the French fact in Ontario recently confided to me the
view that French-speaking parents who wanted to ensure that their
children were raised in the francophone culture should move to Quebec,
because French is "a lost cause" in Ontario. This is a depressing view,
especially for one who has devoted his entire adult life to teaching
French language and culture and to furthering the progress of French in
Canada. A similar view is expressed, however, though not as strongly,
L'IMMERSION by Bordeleau, Calve, Desjarlais and Seguin (Conseil de
l'education franco-ontarienne). This report documents the largely
negative impact of French immersion programs for anglophones on the
Franco-Ontar ian community. It should be required reading for all the
"gens bien intentionnes" who have used official bilingualism to further
their own socio-economic status while claiming to defend the interests
of the francophone minority.

I am sorry if Germaine Warkentin took exception to my use of the word
"specious". The fact is, however, that official bilingualism has been a
specious (in the sense defined by Germaine Warkentin's dictionary)
policy from the start, a fact recognized by most Quebecois intellectuals
from its inception. After 20+ years of official bilingualism, French
immersion programs and tearful appeals to Quebec to remain part of
Canada, we are now closer to the separation of Quebec than at any time
in our history. One has to wonder why.

Ian M. Richmond, Department of French, University of Western Ontario,
London, Ontario, Canada N6A 3K7. 519-661-2163 Ext 5703
(6) --------------------------------------------------------------21----
Date: Thu, 21 Feb 91 23:32 CST
Subject: Bilingualism

In response to John Burt's note about English/French bilingualism in
Moncton, with people speaking both languages in a given converstaion,
even within the same sentence: we have the same phenomenon here ins
San Antonio and much of the rest of South and West Texas. Bilingual
conversations with both parties switching back and forth between
English and Spanish are so common that no one thinks anything about it.
I have also experienced something analogous as a graduate student
living in an international student residence at a European univeristy.
Persons from ten or more countries engaged in macaronic conversations,
sometimes in a variety of languages at once. Sometimes it was because
some things can be said better in one language than in another; at other
times it was just the sheer playfulness of polyglots. Certainly language
is profoundly symbolic, as Germaine Warkentin insists. but let's lighten
up a bit, folks, and get on with un poquito de joie de vivre. Charlie

(7) --------------------------------------------------------------20----
Date: Fri, 22 Feb 91 14:51 GMT
From: David Zeitlyn <ZEITLYN@vax.oxford.ac.uk>
Subject: RE: 4.1061 French (was Languages of Humanist) (3/86)

I propose Mambila (a non-Bantu Bantoid language spoken on both sides
of the Nigeria/Cameroon border) as the only language to be used in
Humanist. That way everyone is equal. This would lead to the
added challenge of developing computer terms in Mambila.
So far the only recorded metnion (between two non-native speakers)
is "b`o floppy disc"

sebatu bi ye
Huomnuar David
aka David Zeitlyn
(8) --------------------------------------------------------------40----
Date: Sun, 24 Feb 91 11:26:15 IST
From: "David M. Schaps" <F21004@BARILVM>
Subject: Re: 4.0964 Le Francais on Humanist (3/62)

I agree strongly with Andrew Oliver's encouragement of French on
HUMANIST, while disagreeing strongly with his reason. I do not think
that reasons of national pride should take precedence over a very
reasonable decision to maintain an international discussion in the most
widely-understood language now available. For each of us to write in
his own language would make discussion much harder to maintain. To use
an example: I read an article recently whose author, speaking before an
international conference, began in German, continued in French, and
ended in English. I am sure that as a speaker he was being exceedingly
polite, letting each listener understand at least part of a long speech;
as a printed article he was offering something that was comprehensible
only to those comfortable in all three languages -- not as large a
percentage of scholars as we like to pretend. I think adults, and
scholars, should be willing to speak in a common language even if it is
not the language that they prefer.

Nevertheless, I do think that another reason would more than justify
writing French (or German, or Italian, or Spanish, or any other language
that -- unlike my country's -- uses Latin characters): many scholars who
read English comfortably do not compose well in it. One of the great
barriers among humanists has been precisely the language barrier:
Anglophone scholars are usually ill-read in French material, often
entirely unaware of German; and vice-versa. If there are -- and a
recent contribution makes it clear that there are -- "silent partners"
who do not contribute because they have trouble composing English, I
think they should feel free to write in another language -- and as I
remember it, the HUMANIST guide said as much. Since most Anglophones
are as ignorant of what goes on in their language as they are of English
(and generally more so), their contributions would probably be
particularly valuable for those who can read them.