A language that we speak or rather one we shape?

Our class discussion on Tuesday over the Dark Ages was truly eye opening as I discovered how little credit we give to the Dark Ages as, in fact, a great amount of development actually occurred in language, society, art, and culture in that period of History. As a History major, I was also astonished to have had little to contribute to our discussion because I found myself lacking important knowledge of important events that occurred throughout this time period beginning in the 9th century up until the High Middle Ages. Still more surprising, however, was the realization that a language takes so much time to develop in order to become a standard in everyday life. I dare say that today we surely take it for granted to hear (despite differences in accents) a common language on the streets and to see a readable and comprehensible text when picking up a book at the library. Perhaps, as Dr. Murray said in class, it is because we live in America and speak English that we are victims of this ungrateful behavior, having never developed a true appreciation for the evolution of our language because of our relatively recent birth as a nation.

France, on the other hand, has always prided itself on its beautiful language that has evolved due to influences of different conquering empires throughout its existence. Beginning with Gaulish and moving to Frankish (proto-French) to finally pick up the d’oil dialect spoken in the Northern region, France has seen a great deal of linguistic and cultural movements in its time. This particular study of the history and development of the French language is very interesting to me as I hope to focus my graduate research on French sociolinguistics. I truly have an appreciation for monks that would spend hours recopying manuscripts and debating for hours on a standardized form of the language that would allow future reproductions more feasible and easier to understand.

A language such as English is not something that is merely something we speak because we are taught it early on in our childhood but it is rather something that we shape according to our needs as we wish to express ideas and feelings that have yet to be implemented or even created in our limited vocabulary. Perhaps it is because of my ability as a human to shape something that future generations will come to use in their everyday lives, that I see my studies in French to be anything but a “waste of time” as others have so “kindly” let me know. For it is our goal as scholars to leave a footprint with our knowledge and our work and I am confident that my appreciation for language development and the study of its history will inherently bring about changes to the way we speak and even live in the future as ideas evolve. There will then exist a language that we have invented that keeps up with such developments that I can proudly say I played a small part in shaping. Perhaps this is something we as Americans can learn from the French (despite our tendency to see it as snobbish), to embrace our language as a beautiful thing that was not always so easy to comprehend and reproduce and is today a luxury we do not appreciate when having coffee with friends or reading a book on a rainy day.

 

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