Roger Mills wrote:

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Tom Wier <[log in to unmask]>
>         (Replying to Nik Taylor)
> >Possible, but likely?  Hardly, IMHO.   Such a change would require
> >(a) genocide (b) nuclear holocaust or (c) both.  The fact is, it takes
> >a vast accumulation of power to change people's language habits on
> >even a small scale (Atatrk could do it because, hey, you got shot if
> >you didn't).
>     Hmmm...every case is different, of course, but don't forget (d) cultural
> attraction and (e) idealism/nation-building.  Certainly the desire to be
> part of the wider "civilized" culture/world was a factor in Roman Gaul and
> Spain (and note that Latin had little effect in Greece, whose culture was
> recognized as superior even by the Romans).

While it is certainly true that the provincials were culturally "attracted" to
Roman culture (we find Celtic tribes erecting temples to their equivalent
of Saturn in perfect Greco-Roman style during the heyday of the Empire),
my point has been that many of the mass language shifts have taken place
*primarily* because of concurrent population movements which introduced
the language into a given area.  The Roman colonies introduced in the West
were legally the same as the ones that were created in the East, but were
(a) far more numerous in that region and (b) were set in a vastly different
civilizational and cultural context.  The East was already highly citified, and its
population remained quantitatively greater and richer than their counterparts in
the West throughout the period of the Empire, which was incidentally a contributing
factor in both the collapse of the Western Empire and the continuance of the
Eastern one.  In the East, other languages like Greek and to a lesser extent
indigenous languages like that of Egypt already had well established
positions as commercial and cultural languages of public discourse.  For almost
the entirety of the Western provinces, city-life was a recent development which
bore a distinctly Roman stamp.  A great many cities of Western Europe were
founded originally as legionary camps, and knowledge of Latin was a requirement
for all members of the military, from the commanders right on down to the individual
soldiers.   It is only when these facts are taken together with those cultural facts (like
the Pope was the Patriarch of the entirety of the West, while in the East there were
numerous Patriarchs -- Alexandria, Jerusalem, Antioch, Constantinople), that Latin
becomes the overwhelmingly advantaged language of choice for most Westerners.

The analogy between Latin and English does not hold up outside those lands
formerly belonging to the British Empire.  It is only those countries as Ireland,
the US, Australia, and New Zealand which faced wholesale colonization
by the mother country where English is today the (more or less) undisputed language
of public discourse for the overwhelming majority of its citizens.  In places like
South Africa and even Canada, English is not universally used nor even
understood as it is in places like the UK or the US, for example. What this shows
is a general attitude of human beings to their language:  they will not give up their
language unless they *absolutely* have to -- unless their very lives, whether vital
or economic, depend on it.  Note how fiercely the Quebecois are trying to maintain
their linguistic identity:  they are afraid of being swallowed whole by "them", and
are ready to institute draconian language laws to accomplish that.  They are by no
means unique.  For the inhabitants of the western half of the Roman empire, Latin
was their connection to a better life, to both economic and political independence,
in a day-to-day sense.  For most of the people of the planet, English is today, by
contrast, highly esteemed, but not seen as a necessary element of their day to day

>   In the Indonesian case, (e)
> was certainly a factor, especially in the beginning, and the "imposition" of
> BI was seen as necessary to binding together disparate regions, and was
> accepted with considerable enthusiasm.  And it was successful, although,
> when the idealism waned and cynical mis-government took over, it now turns
> out that some people are wondering if this nation needed/wanted/ought to be
> built.

I am not familiar with the details of the case, but I have to ask:  to what extent
was the language already _de facto_ an auxiliary language?  I know that Indonesia's
population is heavily conecentrated in the Western reaches of the archipelago, Java
and Sumatra and such.  If the language was already common in those areas, it becomes
relatively easy for one heavily populous region of the country to dominate the others
(cf. Kissinger's theory of hegemonic state systems).

> >From the linguist's POV, this wholesale adoption of BI as an entree to the
> "modern world" is disastrous to the health of small regional languages, many
> of which are moribund-- and that is considered a Good Thing, sadly, both by
> the political and (many) academic authorities.

We can certainly both lament the death of these languages!

> Ah yes, much can happen.  For an instructive long-term overview, look into
> Toynbee.

Do you mean in _A Study of History_?  I have that on my shelf, but haven't
gotten around to reading it yet.  Is there any part you suggest?

Tom Wier <[log in to unmask]>
ICQ#: 4315704   AIM: trwier
"Cogito ergo sum, sed credo ergo ero."