Date: Tue, 31 Dec 1996 13:16:08 +0900 From: Subject: Re: What Can We Do? Sender: To: MIME-version: 1.0 Precedence: bulk

John McWhorter asks "What can we do?" [to enlighten the populace]

Ignorance is a mighty foe and not easily defeated. And the ignorance of the general population is so dark and profound on linguistic issues that we as linguists [or language-aware scholars] are in much the same unfortunate position as "round-worlders" in the Middle Ages.

For "flat-worlders" the linguistic facts are simple. Language (like culture) is genetically inherited from parents. Some languages are superior to others. For example there is no doubt that English is simply a BETTER language than Yoruba. Anyone who doesn't speak English RIGHT speaks with a dialect (which is inherently bad) and some dialects, among them Southern and "Black English", are taken to imply mental retardation -- can anyone here imagine Forrest Gump with a New York accent? The only way to teach language is with drills and translation (inquisition style preferred). Those who do not speak the ONE TRUE LANGUAGE are somehow evil and should be banished or tortured into conformity. There is no language but ENGLISH and "STANDARD AMERICAN" is its only version.

The problem is not just that these "flat-worlders" do not go to Berkeley -- or for that matter other universities. This ignorance is wide-spread even within the university environment. As soon as one sets foot outside the humanities buildings and into, say, Business Administration the Weltansicht of the flat-worlders dominates. Many, many flat-worlders occupy positions of power both in government AND in educational institues. The CEO's of most major corporations as well as most media people are surely within their ranks. And let's not kid ourselves: the Internet is flooded with "flat-worlders" and related sects (such as the ever vigilant Surf-Watchers).

In general flat-worlders do not read books and most certainly not books on linguistics no matter how "popularized". Nor is the much touted "media" of much use -- if I were king of the world I would FORCE all Americans to read Noam Chomsky's chapters on economic constrants on a "free press" in his book "The United States and Third World Fascism" despite its unpleasant title. The true story of this book's publication is itself a sad parody on the sacred American belief in "free speech".

All of the above does not paint a rosy picture for the immediate future. Until someone comes up with the linguistic equivalant to "sailing to India across the Ocean Sea", something that will fire the minds of the general populace, the flat-worlders will dominate and minority speakers (both bi-dialectal and bilingual) will suffer.

******************************************************* Donald Carroll, English Department International Communications Program Shikoku Gakuin University Bunkyo-cho 3-2-16, Zentsuji-shi, Kagawa 765 JAPAN Fax: +81 (877) 63 4329 Email: ******************************************************* "Grammar, of course, is the model of closely ordered, routinely observable social activities." Harvey Sacks Lectures on Conversation Vol. I