Linguistic alternation in scientific awakening

By Famworld
Linguistic alternation in scientific awakening

Review of lessons on linguistic alternation

For several decades, linguistic alternation has still been the subject of various studies. Schematically, we can say that most of these studies have taken two directions: on the one hand, we explore the social implications related to linguistic alternation (Myers-Scotton 1990, 1992, 1993, 1995); on the other hand, we describe the linguistic aspects inherent in the production of alternation (Poplack 1980, Sankoff and Poplack 1981).

Despite the scope and relevance of this work (some have become classics in this field), we believe there are still interesting avenues that have not yet been sufficiently explored in this field. In diglossic communities, for example, where a prestigious language ensuring so-called institutionalized communications coexists with one or more other languages reduced to individualized communications (Corbeil 1980: 79), the alternation of languages can serve as a basis for exploring the relationships between the macrosocial functioning of diglossia (and the resulting linguistic conflict) and the linguistic behavior of individuals. Hence the question: is there a relationship between the socio-cultural repercussions of diglossia and alternation?

Diglossia and linguistic conflict

The concept of “linguistic conflict” was born and consolidated, need it be recalled, in the context of language contact in Catalan and Occitan countries. According to Kremnitz 1981: 65, this term comes to reinterpret the concept of diglossia then in vogue among sociolinguists (especially North Americans).

To better highlight the particularity of the concept of "linguistic conflict", we should briefly recall the evolution of the conception and study of language contact. Generally speaking, it can be said that Western societies have not always been tolerant of bilingualism and multilingualism. It is because, in this field, these societies have long been nurtured by the so-called unitarist ideology, the latter resting on the “myth of a single original language common to all humanity.

The biblical episode of the Tower of Babel illustrates this situation. This so-to-speak thousand-year-old myth was consolidated by the resounding nationalist philosophy of the 19th century which, by establishing an organic and unambiguous link between language and nation, made the Nation-State an ideal model to which all human communities should aspire. It is in this context that multilingualism is still perceived today (overtly or insidiously) as unsafe.

In a simplified way, the dominant attitude has long been that of considering monolingualism as the ideal for a State, bilingualism as a regrettable situation and multilingualism as misery and damnation (Pattanayak 1981). This conviction will have repercussions on the direction of research in the field of bilingualism and multilingualism in general, and language contact in particular.

Initially, while conceiving of bilingualism as harmful to the intellectual, social and psychological development of the subject, we will confine its study to isolated individual facts. Prudent 1981:18 reports, for example, that before the 1950s, the dominant attitude towards bilingualism can be summed up in these revelations by Pichon.

Linguistic alternation and linguistic conflict

In the United States, this harmfulness of bilingualism can be explained; because on the one hand the effort required for the acquisition of the second language seems to reduce the available quantity of intellectual energy for the acquisition of other knowledge, on the other hand above all the child finds himself stuck between different systems spent from one another : his mind finds no basis in either one and he adulterates them both by depriving them of their originality and thereby depriving himself of the resources accumulated over centuries by his predecessors in every idiom.

As Mr. Laurie so aptly puts it, his intellectual growth is not doubled, but halved; his unity of spirit and character has great difficulty in asserting itself. Even Weinreich 1953, who was the first to propose understanding the phenomena of language contact as they arise in situations of group bilingualism, does not completely escape the negativist view of bilingualism and language contact: the effects of language contact are outside the norm and are implicitly considered as deviations, errors, faults to be avoided as much as possible.

Subsequently, we will recognize that the notion of bilingualism can go beyond the individual framework to extend to entire communities, precisely under the name of “diglossia”. Even if we end up admitting it, we continue to deplore the harmful and devastating effects of group bilingualism on the normal development of cultures and societies.

As we know, it was Ferguson 1959 that kick-started less “normative” approaches to group bilingualism based on his “revised” conception of diglossia. This author conceives of diglossia as a community situation where two complementary linguistic varieties coexist, a higher one, ensuring the functions of social communication in so-called high domains, and a lower one, used in the less prestigious domains of social communication.

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