#2487. ある言語の重要性とは,その社会的な力のことである[linguistics][language_myth]


「#1072. 英語は言語として特にすぐれているわけではない」 ([2012-04-03-1]),「#1082. なぜ英語は世界語となったか (1)」 ([2012-04-13-1]),「#1083. なぜ英語は世界語となったか (2)」 ([2012-04-14-1]),「#1607. 英語教育の政治的側面」 ([2013-09-20-1]),「#1788. 超民族語の出現と拡大に関与する状況と要因」 ([2014-03-20-1]) で,近代以降の英語の「成功」は,言語内的な特徴によるものでは一切なく,ひとえに言語外的な原因,すなわち社会的(政治的,経済的,技術的,軍事的等々)な優越ゆえだということを主張してきた.英語に限らず,どの個別言語も,その重要性なり価値なりは,言語的にではなく社会的に決せられる.Baugh and Cable (3--4) がこのことを雄弁に論じているので,そっくりそのまま引用したい.

4. The Importance of a Language. It is natural for people to view their own first language as having intrinsic advantages over languages that are foreign to them. However, a scientific approach to linguistic study combined with a consideration of history reminds us that no language acquires importance because of what are assumed to be purely internal advantages. Languages become important because of events that shape the balance of power among nations. These political, economic, technological, and military events may or may not reflect favorably, in a moral sense, on the peoples and states that are the participants; certainly, different parties to those events will have different interpretations of what is admirable or not. It is clear, however, that the language of a powerful nation will acquire importance as a direct reflection of political, economic, technological, and military strength; so also will the arts and sciences expressed in that language have advantages, including the opportunities for propagation. The spread of arts and sciences through the medium of a particular language in turn reinforces the prestige of that language. Internal deficits such as an inadequate vocabulary for the requirements at hand need not restrict the spread of a language. It is normal for a language to acquire through various means, including borrowing from other languages, the words that it needs. Thus, any language among the 6,000 languages of the world could have attained the position of importance that the half-dozen or so most widely spoken languages have attained if the external conditions had been right. English, French, German, and Spanish are important languages because of the history and influence of their populations in modern times; for this reason, they are widely studied outside the country of their use. Sometimes the cultural importance of a nation has at some former time been so great that its language remains important long after it has ceased to represent political, commercial, or other greatness. Greek, for example, is studied in its classical form because of the great civilization preserved and recorded in its literature, but in its modern form as spoken in Greece today, the Greek language does not serve as a language of wider communication.

 Baugh and Cable (8) にも,同趣旨の議論がある.

[T]he spread of a language---whether reconstructed Indo-European, Latin, French, or English---results from demographic, military, political, and economic forces rather than from any features intrinsic to the language. It is often noted that Latin as the language of an empire was not hindered in its spread by the grammatical declensions of five cases for its nouns or by the complex conjugations of its verbs. The subjunctive mood was irrelevant to the conquest of Gaul.

 「英語は簡単だから世界語となった」というような俗説がいまだに広くはびこっているので,それはまったくの誤解であることを改めて強調しておきたい.拙著『英語史で解きほぐす英語の誤解 --- 納得して英語を学ぶために』第9章「英語は簡単だから世界共通語になった」も参照されたい.

 ・ Baugh, Albert C. and Thomas Cable. A History of the English Language. 6th ed. London: Routledge, 2013.

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