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2022-04-14 Thu

#4735. なぜ Webster は綴字改革をなし得たか? [webster][spelling_reform][sociolinguistics][linguistic_ideology][ame][spelling][orthography][american_revolution]

 一般的にいって綴字改革 (spelling_reform) は成功しないものである.実際,英語の歴史で見る限り成功例はほとんどない.その理由については「#606. 英語の綴字改革が失敗する理由」 ([2010-12-24-1]),「#2087. 綴字改革への心理的抵抗」 ([2015-01-13-1]),「#634. 近年の綴字改革論争 (1)」 ([2011-01-21-1]),「#635. 近年の綴字改革論争 (2)」 ([2011-01-22-1]) などで触れてきた.
 英語史において綴字改革がそれなりに成功したとみなすことのできるほぼ唯一の事例が,Noah Webster によるアメリカ英語における綴字改革である(改革の対象となった単語例は「#3087. Noah Webster」 ([2017-10-09-1]) を参照).
 では,なぜ Webster の綴字改革は類い希なる成功を収め得たのか.この問題については「#468. アメリカ語を作ろうとした Webster」 ([2010-08-08-1]),「#3086. アメリカの独立とアメリカ英語への思い」 ([2017-10-08-1]) でも取り上げてきた.端的にいえば,ウェブスターの綴字改革は,反イギリス(綴字)という時代の勢いを得たということである.アメリカ独立革命とそれに伴うアメリカの人々の新生国家に対する愛国心に支えられて,通常では実現の難しい綴字改革が奏功したのである.もちろん,Webster 自身も強い愛国者だった.
 Webster の愛国心の強さについては上記の過去の記事でも言及してきたが,それをさらに雄弁に語る解説を見つけたので紹介したい.昨日の記事でも触れた Coulmas (267) が,アメリカ英語の歴史を著わした Mencken を適宜引用しながら,愛国者 Webster の綴字イデオロギーについて印象的な記述を施している.

   Webster was an ardent nationalist who had an intuitive understanding of the symbolic significance of the written language as a national emblem. Like many of his contemporaries in England and in the colonies, Webster promoted a reformed mode of spelling; however, what distinguished him from others is that he realised the political significance of claiming an independent standard for American English. Spelling to him was a way to write history. Webster's various publications on the English language were intended to further America's intellectual independence and to prove political nationalism with a manifest appearance for all to see and identify with. 'As an independent nation, our honor requires us to have a system of our own, language as well as government' (Webster 1789: 20).
   Reducing the number of letters, weeding out silent letters, and making the spelling more regular were general principles of reform in line with the Enlightenment's call for more rationality. While Webster subscribed to these ideals, to him the 'greatest argument', as Mencken put it, 'was the patriotic one: "A capital advantage of his reform in these States would be that it would make a difference between the English orthography and the American"' (quoted from Mencken 1945 [1919]: 382). Regulating spelling conventions since the Renaissance had been intended to advance homogeneity, but Webster's new spelling was, on the contrary, designed to bring about a schism. Reversing the printers' plea for as wide a distribution of print products as possible, he argued that 'the English would never copy our orthography for their own use' and that the alteration would thus 'render it necessary that all books should be printed in America' (Mencken 1945 [1919]: 382). The assumed economic advantages of a simpler spelling system that would accrue from savings in the cost of teaching as well as publishing books at home rather than buying them from England were an important part of his reasoning.
   Self-interest and nationalism thus prevailed over rationalism. Webster's new spelling could succeed because it was supported by a strong political ideology, because it was not so sweeping as to burn all the bridges and make literature in the conventional orthography unintelligible, and because the population concerned was favourably disposed to novelty and not strongly tied to a literary tradition, hailing to a large part from less-educated strata of society. If any generalisation can be drawn from this example, it would seem to be that in spelling reforms ideological motives are more important than correcting system-intrinsic flaws of the extant norm, although it is usually properties of this kind --- irregularity, redundancy, polyvalence --- that are first put forth by reform proponents.


 私が興味を引かれたのは,第2段落後半に言及がある印刷と本作りに関するくだりである.アメリカ綴字で印刷された本はイギリスでは売れない.それは結構なことである.アメリカ国内で印刷産業が育つことになり,イギリスから本を輸入する必要もなくなるからだ.この綴字改革の政治経済的インパクトを予見していたとすれば,Webster,まさに恐るべしである.

 ・ Coulmas, Florian. "Sociolinguistics and the English Writing System." The Routledge Handbook of the English Writing System. Ed. Vivian Cook and Des Ryan. London: Routledge, 2016. 261--74.
 ・ Webster, Noah. Dissertation on the English language. Boston, MA: Isaiah Thomas and Co., 1789. Available online at https://archive.org/stream/dissertationsone00webs#page/20/mode/2up.
 ・ Mencken, H. L. The American Language: An Inquiry into the Development of English in the United States. 4th ed. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945 [1919].

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