Language as homogeneous

It is often derided that slang or ‘invented’ words are not of equal or similar status as ‘proper’ words, or words which have been established in the english language. Sometimes we may see that these vocabularies emerge and form their own languages in the form of pattois systems. The mass media is negative to the proliferation to the english language in the sense that ambiguity is not acknowledged.

Greek names such as Peisistratos have multiple translations that may be acceptable. Even modern phrases and nouns, when media exposure was lax on them, had a whole set of referring terms, rather than a single one. It is sometimes in the interest of politeness to use more accurate terms: ‘coloureds’ is thankfully a long-outdated noun. I also noticed the differing spellings of the english ‘Al-Qaeda’. Often cities can be renamed or our naming customs change. Peking is now Bejing and Bombay is now Mumbai. In terms of food, however, we still refer to ‘bombay mix’ and ‘peking duck’, and it looks like such rituals are unlikely to change. It seems queer to me when I see that it was even until the 1990s that the term ‘moslem’ was still acceptable but now ‘muslim’ is our standard noun. I won’t even start on the term of ‘Mohammedan’ here…

I wonder how far an ‘established’ english is being put forward; especially now as ‘British English’ stands as a distinct form of english from ‘American English’; but even more interesting is the notion of ‘International English’; as English is seemingly the universal second language. Is the mass media as negative to the rules of english as MS word?


One thought on “Language as homogeneous

  1. There seem to be two divergent themes here: the difference between words with and without long history, discussed in the opening, and the issues in transliterating “foreign” words. The entire middle paragraph is on this theme.

    Both subjects interest me, but the issue of transliteration is immensely complex! In principle, one formal transliteration scheme is supposed to be used for converting from one language to another (at least, so the academics would have it!) but even this is flawed. Take the fact that the Chinese general “Cao Cao” is tranliterated with a ‘c’ but his name is pronounced “Tsao Tsao”. In this instance, as with many similar cases, the transliteration scheme is quite simply misleading.

    “Bombay”, similarly, is a terrible mishearing of “Mumbai” – because Indians often pronounce the “Mum” with a plosive that sounds like “b” (rather than “m”) to non-native speakers. I can’t quite see how Beijing (whose name has not changed in millenia) can be misheard “Peking”, but…

    The interesting thing about the maintenance of the English language, though, is that with a few exceptions (Websters) it is mostly done in the UK – the lexicographers at Oxford (in particular) maintain records for all the variants of the language, such that academics in all nations rely on references like the Oxford English Dictionary regardless of what their variant of the language might be.

    But now I’m just rambling. šŸ™‚ Must fly!

    Best wishes!

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