history and culture home old english middle english separate or connect? heart and soul words goodnight bronchitis
to separate or connect?
Theories of race, which first arose in the 18th century, originally posited biologically distinct races of “Caucasians,” “Orientals,” and “Africans.” The purported differences between “races,” which served mainly to justify the slave trade, have since been shown to be theoretically bankrupt and pragmatically unhelpful in accounting for real-world diversity across societies, cultures, and ethnicities.
Like the concept of race, the concept of “standard” languages dates from the same period in European history. These “official,” “national,” and “standard” dialects or languages have often served to maintain unjust and inequitable social institutions around the world.
Language arts instruction in our schools must follow the disciplinary models of anthropology, biology, and genetics; we English teachers must deconstruct socially-constructed and politically imbricated models of “standard” languages. We must also demonstrate that variations across dialects and languages actually unite--rather than separate--societies, cultures, and ethnicities.
As just one example of how such an approach might work, try comparing the English words fish, father and school to their Italian cognates pesce, padre, and scuola with a focus on connections (a language-family relationship rooted in history, geography, government, culture, and religion) rather than differences.
Reconciling the two groups of words is less a matter of translating a native language to a foreign language, and more like arranging a linguistic family reunion, or more to the point, a face-to-face understanding between two students in the same classroom.
In fact, it makes more sense to look at pesce and fish and say not that they are different words, but instead, that they are the same word. To see that, we’ll have to spend some time working with the sounds of the English language. Click here for more.