#448. Vendryes 曰く「言語変化は進歩ではない」[language_change][teleology][drift]


 [2010-07-03-1]の記事で,言語変化それ自体は進歩でも堕落でもなく,ただ移り変わってゆくということ以外の何ものでもないということを示唆した.英語史などの言語史を通覧すると,言語変化に一定の方向,大きな流れ,漂流 ( drift ) があるように見えることは確かだが,それは一時の傾向であり,目的論的な ( teleological ) 意味をもつ絶対的な方向ではない.言語については,鴨長明『方丈記』の冒頭の如く「ゆく河の流れは絶えずして,しかも,もとの水にあらず.淀みに浮ぶうたかたは,かつ消えかつ結びて,久しくとどまりたる例なし.」
 Vendryes の名著の最後を飾る以下の一節も,言語変化に定まった方向があるという見方を否定している.言語は現在の社会的な諸要因と過去からの言語的な遺産とが掛け合わさることによって,日々流れるように変化しているのだという無常観が読み取れる.力強く印象深い一節だ.

We can now see how the hypothesis of progress in language must be understood. Progress in the absolute sense is impossible, just as it is in morality or politics. It is simply that different states exist, succeeding each other, each dominated by certain general laws imposed by the equilibrium of the forces with which they are confronted. So is it with language. In the history of languages a certain relative progress can be observed. Languages may be adapted in a greater or lesser degree to certain states of civilization. Progress consists in the best possible adaptation of a language to the needs of the people using it. But, however real this progress may be, it is never definitive. The characteristics of a language are maintained just so long as the people speaking it preserve the same habits of thought; and they are liable to modification and degeneration, or to complete disappearance. It is quite wrong to think of language as an ideal entity evolving independently of men and pursuing its own ends. Language does not exist apart from the people who think and speak it; its roots go deep into the consciousness of each one of us; thence it is that it draws the sustenance enabling it to blossom in speech. But personal consciousness is only one of the elements of the collective consciousness whose laws are imposed upon every individual. The evolution of language thus constitutes only one aspect of the evolution of society: we should not see in it anything in the nature of direct advance toward a definite goal. The task of the philologist comes to an end when he has recognized in language the play of social forces and the influence of history. (359)

 ・ Vendryes, J. Language: A Linguistic Introduction to History. Trans. Paul Radin. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1925.

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