; Language-and-Nationalism
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									Language and Nationalism

 Ch 2 of Language, Society, and
   Identity by John Edwards
    Language, Identity, Nation
• How/Where/When do these concepts get
• The linking of these three concepts “is in
  large part a product of the German
  romanticism of the late eighteenth and early
  nineteenth centuries”.
Three main German philosophers
• Who were the three main German philosophers
  who contributed to the formation of ideas of
  nationalism and linked nationalism to language?
 Johann             Wilhelm von      Johann Gottlieb
 Gottfried Herder   Humboldt         Fichte
             The Rise of
        Linguistic Nationalism
• 1772 Johann Gottfried Herder asserts the identity
  of language and nationhood -- a nation cannot
  exist without its language.
• Ancestral language = national continuity
• A Romantic reaction to rationalist Enlightenment
• Self vs. Other – Who is the “Other” here?
• The “Other” is French, and rejection of superiority
  of French culture
Quotes from Herder’s prize essay
• “Has a nation anything more precious than the
  language of its fathers?”
• “What a treasure language is when kinship groups
  grow into tribes and nations. Even the smallest of
  nations…cherishes in and through its language the
  history, the poetry and songs about the great deeds
  of its forefathers. The language is its collective
        Herder’s contemporary,
        Wilhelm von Humboldt
• (philologist and brother of the famous scientist)
• Foreshadowed Whorfian relativism
• Language is the “spiritual exhalation” of the
• “Its language is its spirit and its spirit is its
• “Language is the formative organ of thought”
       Johann Gottlieb Fichte
• 1807 Addresses to the German nation
• Germans are the only Europeans who
  remained in their original location and
  developed their original language (instead
  of borrowing from Latin)
• German language and nation are superior
• Adoption of foreign elements weakened a
  nation’s language
           Quotes from Fichte
• “men are formed by language far more than
  language is formed by men”
• The infiltration of Latin influence produced “a
  lack of seriousness about social relations, the idea
  of self-abandonment, and the idea of heartless
• Germans are the natural inheritors of the Greek
• German nation and language are superior
  The Germans were not alone…
• What other nation espoused similar ideas at that
• French philosophers of the time (Maurras,
  Limoge) promoted French as the European
  language of sophistication and culture
• But Germans did lead the way
• “The notion that nations are really language
  groups, and therefore that nationalism is a
  linguistic movement, derives from Herder’s
  influence” (Smith 1971)
    Language and Nationalism
• Is the link between language and
  nationalism essential?
• The link between language and nationalism
  is not essential, but it is powerful and
  attractive to nationalist movements
• “emphasis upon language follows the
  growth of nationalistic fervor; it does not
  create it”
        Linguistic purity:
    Academies and dictionaries
• Policies of linguistic purity are
  based on misunderstanding of facts
  of language
• Concept of language purity is
  older than linguistic nationalism
• Linguistic prescriptivism and
  national consciousness have
  become closely entwined
    History of Institutionalized
        Linguistic Purism
• 1582 Academia della Crusca in Florence
• 1635 Académie Française
  – By far the most influential
  – Populated from ranks of church, nobility,
    military (linguistic training is rare)
  – Failed to produce a good dictionary due to lack
    of expertise
  – Continues to “protect” French from English…
    History of Institutionalized
    Linguistic Purism, cont’d.
• 1713 Real Academia Espanola
  – Produced dictionary and grammar
  – Spawned associated academies in Spanish New World
  – Led primarily by linguists
• Other academies: Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan,
  Ethiopia, Sweden, Hungarian, German, Hebrew,
• What’s missing?
           There is NO
    English language academy
• Anglo-Saxon aversion to linguistic
• Dictionaries are one-man projects, not the
  work of committees (James Murray’s OED,
  Noah Webster)
• De facto status makes official recognition of
  English unnecessary in US and elsewhere
             Lingua franca
• May assume symbolic significance in the
  language-identity link
• Greek (Near & Middle East 4th cent BC),
  Latin (Europe through 17th cent), French,
  Arabic, English, pidgins & creoles
          Pidgin vs. Creole
• Do you know the difference?
           Pidgin vs. Creole
• Do you know the difference?
• Pidgin is a limited code used for a specific
• Creole is created when a pidgin is learned
  as a native language and extended into all
  the functions of a full language
Do you agree?
  • Einar Haugen 1972:
    “when the time is ripe,
    we will move beyond
    the nation, into world
    government, and with it
    we will find our way to
    a world language”
   Assessments of Nationalism
• What are the factors that contribute to
• Based on same sense of groupness that
  informs ethnicity
• No objective criteria are necessary
• A non-rational phenomenon
 19th c criticisms of nationalism
• Lord Acton -- nationalism erodes personal liberty
• John Stuart Mill -- favorably disposed toward
  unity of gov’t and nation, but in-group solidarity
  may lead toward prejudice against others
• Renan -- nationalism depends not on any
  characteristics, but on will, sense of sharing, and
  capacity to forget certain things of the past;
  nationalism may also be temporary (cf. prediction
  of EU)
    20th c views on nationalism
• Kedourie -- nationalism is another set of
  shackles, seeking redress for past injustices,
  it creates new conflicts and catastrophes
• Smith -- nationalism has positive features
  too and inspires culture, research
• Fishman -- nationalism and ethnicity are not
  inherently negative
        More 20th c views on
• Marx-Lenin -- nationalism should be
  replaced by proletarian internationalism,
  and struggles should follow class lines
• Toynbee -- saw nationalism as backward,
  retarding progress, within a capitalist
        More 20th c views on
• Porter -- ethnicity is regressive, promotes
  and sustains ethnic stratification, is
  historically naïve, and acts against the best
  interests of individuals.
           Discussion point
• Are nationalism and conservativism
  inevitably linked? What examples and
  counterexamples can we find?
       Does nationalism look
       backward or forward?

• Fishman 1972: “Nationalism is not so much
  backward-oriented…as much as it seeks to
  derive unifying and energizing power from
  widely held images of the past in order to
  overcome a quite modern kind of
  fragmentation and loss of identity”
         Edwards’ own view
• [Nationalism] “is a force which attempts to
  counter the inevitable. A more sinister
  interpretation is that nationalism seeking to
  repair or forestall social fragmentation is
  also an exercise in power…leads inevitably
  to a striving over others.”
  Potential perils of nationalism
• What are possible negative effects of
• Promotion of “us-and-them” boundaries
• De-emphasis of individual rights & interests
• Hardening of group interest into perceived
  superiority and racism
• Romantic yearnings for an imagined past
• Often reactionary and regressive
  Why is nationalism not always
• Nationalism is often latent -- it is a feeling
  that is not always translated into action
• It is neither good nor bad and “passively
  treasured by nearly all citizens of modern
  societies, even if they do not know it”
  (Seton-Watson). We are ALL members of
        What is the solution?
• To stress human rights above group rights
• Remember that nationalism is a lasting
  force, one to be reckoned with

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