LANGUAGES IN RUSSIA.

A Reluctant Babel, by Maxim Edwards, is a somewhat depressing look at the linguistic situation in Russia today. It’s heavy on anecdotes and light on statistics (and given to silly remarks about “languages such as Abaza, Ingush or Kabardian, rightly called some of the most complex in the world,” which “may simply be unteachable except for the most motivated and dedicated of students,” not to mention the even sillier attribution of James Nicoll‘s famous statement that “English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary” to Booker T. Washington, of all people), but it’s still worth a read for bits like “Leysan Khasanova, owner of a Tatar music shop in Tatarstan’s capital of Kazan, is confident that ‘Tatar will always be spoken on the streets of Kazan,’ before pointing out that many young Tatars prefer to speak in Russian amongst each other, and that her own children are not proficient in the language,” and insights like this:

Alyena Ivanova, a Mari language journalist and activist, is proud of the fact that her “entire professional and personal life is conducted in Mari.” This certainly is a remarkable achievement for a language which UNESCO believes faces some serious problems over the coming decades. Yet, the fact remains that Ivanova is only able to do so because her career is intricately linked with Mari cultural and linguistic activities. The day when a factory worker or forester in Mari El can live his life and access all the services he needs completely through the medium of the Mari language is a long way off, if in sight at all. The Irish writer Flann O’Brien wrote in his novel The Poor Mouth of the arrival of Gaelic-language enthusiasts in the protagonist’s impoverished rural village. “‘What,’” they ask, “‘is the point of speaking Gaelic unless one uses it exclusively to discuss Gaelic matters, Gaelically?’” The danger in making the daily use of minority languages an over-politicised issue can be alienating.

Frankly, I’m glad to support anyone who quotes Flann O’Brien.
Oh, and there’s a poster with a legend that might be translated: “Too few words? Don’t be curt!/ Go and study some Udmurt!”
Update. For an even more depressing look at one region (Mari El), see Christopher Culver’s latest post.

Comments

  1. rootlesscosmo says:

    Brendan Behan blamed the declining use of Gaelic on the fact that learning it had been made compulsory.

  2. Depressing, but certainly not Russia-specific: any country with (near-) universal schooling, mass media, large-scale individual mobility and the like, is practiccally by definition a place where minority languages will lose ground: as a French sociolinguist, Louis-Jean Calvet, put it: a Modern State (unlike a Medieval one!) is a glottophagous (glottophageous?) State (Un état glottophage).

  3. I also note the misuse of the word “paraphrase” in “to paraphrase Booker T Washington” when what is meant is “to quote Booker T Washington” (though, of course, as you point out, Hat, they were James Nicoll’s words anyway). I’ve noticed an apparently increasing tendency for people to use “paraphrase” when they mean either “quote directly” or “adapt a quotation”.
    I have wanted for some time to go to Chuvashia, ever since I discovered it has a beer museum: its geology (lots of gypsum) gives the area good brewing water and it also grows lots of hops. Indeed, the Russian for hops, хмель, is said by some sources to come from Chuvash, although I am sure if I am wrong on that I will be quickly put right.

  4. dearieme says:

    I conclude that schoolchildren no longer have to write paraphrases. What on earth do they do at school all day?

  5. David Eddyshaw says:

    The business about it seeming impolite to use a minority language in public because it excludes non-speakers is not just a Russian thing, of course.
    I knew a girl at university who would invariably and pointedly speak only Welsh to any fellow-speakers, regardless of how many non-speakers were participating in the conversation. This was pretty embarrassing to normal Welsh speakers, even if one more or less sympathised with her agenda.
    (She married an Englishman, but she made him learn Welsh.)

  6. marie-lucie says:

    Brendan Behan blamed the declining use of Gaelic on the fact that learning it had been made compulsory.
    I think he had cause and effect backwards. Gaelic use was declining, so learning it (or rather, teaching it) was made compulsory.

  7. Indeed, the Russian for hops, хмель, is said by some sources to come from Chuvash, although I am sure if I am wrong on that I will be quickly put right.
    In the course of Vasmer’s entry on хмель (one of his longest), he mentions the Chuvash/Turkic etymology, and doesn’t dismiss it out of hand but says there are phonetic difficulties.
    I knew a girl at university who would invariably and pointedly speak only Welsh to any fellow-speakers, regardless of how many non-speakers were participating in the conversation.
    This was what pretty much all the Welsh students did when I was at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies studying Irish. I put it down to youthful nationalist enthusiasm, but it still left a sour taste.

  8. I wouldn’t say that “paraphrase” refers to an exact quote here, because “Russian” is substituted for “English”. For better or worse, “to paraphrase X” has come to be used to mean something like “to quote the well-known words of X, with substitutions to adapt them to the case at hand”. Yes, this bugs me a little.
    dearie, when I was a lad there was not a specific exercise that they put us through at school called “paraphrasing”. That’s not to say that they never told us to read something and then restate it in our own words.
    I find that “paraphrasing” and “periphrasis” are a little mixed up in my head. They both mean some version of “saying the same thing in different words”. I don’t mean periphrasis in the linguistic sense, whatever that is. I mean periphrasis as in the stock phrase “laborious periphrasis”. A quick googling of that phrase suggests that it is beloved of those who teach Latin and Greek.
    If you look up “periphrasis” in WiPe, the disambiguation page sorts you out so that if you didn’t want the linguistic term you will go the article about “circumlocution” (a word which is always available as a periphrasis of “periphrasis”, or vice versa). Lovely.

  9. marie-lucie, I think Brendan was telling a little joke based on the natural contrariness of youth towards anything forced on them by authority (that is, teachers and parents). If they are being forced to learn Gaelic, it’s uncool, which makes its “opposite”, English, therefore cool and desirable.

  10. I don’t know whether Behan intended it as a joke (I wouldn’t have thought so), but by now this is conventional wisdom among many Irish people. Certainly there has been a great deal of resentment towards Irish among many secondary school students. But English, mathematics and, in practice, French (or some other European language) are also compulsory throughout secondary school, and they don’t inspire anything like the same antipathy, so at the very least there has to be more to it than compulsion itself. Pedagogy, curriculum, perceived (lack of) utility, the relative absence of the language from the social environment, inherited negative attitudes towards the language itself, long-standing associations with narrow nationalist/conservative views – all these are likely to be part of the story.

  11. By the way, “Buranovskie Babushki” who will represent Russia in this year’s Eurovision – will sing in Udmurt language…

  12. This piece by Manchán Magan from the Guardian five years ago, which talks about how the middle classes in Ireland were sending their children to Irish-language schools because the education was allegedly better, which was making Irish acceptable amoung the young, was picked up by the Hat at the time here. It would be interesting to know if Magan’s anecdotal findings would still be repeated today.
    My wife (from Dublin) has a British post-graduate teaching qualification and teaches in a school in London but could not teach in Ireland because her grade in Irish in her leaving cert from three decades ago is not high enough.

  13. seeming impolite to use a minority language in public because it excludes non-speakers
    Well, that is always a good way to force uniformity. Everyone has to speak the imposed/invasive majority language in case the imposer/invader feels left out. The imposer/invader never feels the need to learn or use anything as useless or irrelevant as the local language, so of course you have to bow to their ignorance/arrogance.
    I remember many years ago an Australian of Italian descent (bilingual) who met my Japanese teachers on one occasion telling me later that their habit of at times speaking among themselves in Japanese in front of her was considered rude in Australia. Ever since then I’ve felt a strong aversion to this unwritten social rule. It is really a very nice way of boxing language into in-group usage and out of wider usage. It is one reason Australian society is so boring.
    So now, when, for instance, Mongolians speak in front of me in Mongolian (in Mongolia), I feel more apologetic for not being able to understand their language than offended at their speaking a language I don’t know. As long as someone is willing to tell me what is going on once in a while, I’m quite happy to listen to them chatter in Mongolian.

  14. dearieme says:

    My wife and a chum once walked into a pub on Skye: the locals immediately switched out of Gaelic into English as a courtesy. She has experienced the opposite in Wales.

  15. It may not be so much courtesy as the feeling that the L1 minority language is only for intimate use, and not appropriate for addressing strangers even if they know the language (still less if they know only a standardized form of it). Nancy Dorian talks (MS Word format) about how difficult it was for her to talk East Sutherland Gaelic to the cameras, the antithesis of the intimate environment in which she learned it.
    L2 speakers of a language, on the other hand, may think of it as a private language in a different sense: they use it specifically so that others will not understand.

  16. mollymooly says:

    While paraphrase usually means “saying the same thing in different words”, it sometimes means “saying a different thing in the same words”, i.e. adapting a well-known quotation in something between an allusion and an eggcorn. Some examples from The Guardian:
    To paraphrase Mencken, nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the British public.
    Bands, especially new ones, are often compared to other bands, but some, to paraphrase George Orwell, are more comparable than others
    To paraphrase a great philosopher, with training for a marathon comes great responsibility.

  17. David Eddyshaw says:

    I was once on a train (the Orient Express no less, though by then actually only Strasbourg-Vienna) in a compartment with only me, a Bavarian nun, and an Austrian professor of philosophy, who were talking animatedly about religion while I sat listening. When the inspector came round and they astutely deduced from my accent (somehow) that I was not a native speaker of German, they immediately switched and continued their discussion in English. I was equally impressed by their ability to do this and their courtesy in doing it.
    @dearieme: apologies to Mrs dearieme on behalf of my compatriots.

  18. I also hold that when I am in a group of people, courtesy requires me to speak in such a way that as many as possible of the others can understand and perhaps join in. This is so not merely with regard to the language spoken, but also the subjects spoken about.
    However, I have not always had encouraging results on the joining-in and shared-content fronts. When someone sat silent for a long time while everybody else was nattering along, I used to feel it incumbent on me to draw this person into a conversation. Often enough, though, I found out either that the person just didn’t want to talk, or really did have nothing to say.
    Sometimes the person turned out to be a bore who knew this and had been silent as a public service. So when I found myself trapped in conversation with this person, I had only myself to blame.
    My worst experiences have been with mixed male and female groups in which the males, as so often, hold forth about football and string theory while the women sit silent. I don’t know where I got my 19C feeling that this is Impolite and Wrong. But my attempts to draw the women into the discussion usually ended with me listeníng to them talk about pots and pans, about which I myself have nothing to say.
    My conclusion was that I am not qualified to be the hostess with the mostest, a pretty manipulative occupation anyway.

  19. The attribution to Booker T. Washington is really odd, isn’t it? It doesn’t sound like something he’d say, or even like something that would be amusing if attributed to him. The mind boggles.

  20. mollymooly says:

    @self: s/eggcorn/snowclone/

  21. Stu, it’s happened again, hasn’t it? You try to start a conversation, and we all just sit here saying nothing. What does it mean? Is there something else you should be doing to draw us in, or provoke us?

  22. marie-lucie says:

    Grumbly: … mixed male and female groups in which the males … hold forth about football and string theory while the women sit silent. … my attempts to draw the women into the discussion usually ended with me listeníng to them talk about pots and pans…
    Surprisingly coming from you, it sounds like the people you associate with are socially very conventional, stereotypical even, and feeling they have to act that way in a mixed group. I can’t recall when I last had a discussion in a group of women in which the main topic was “pots and pans” (and not all my friends or either sex could be considered intellectuals).

  23. marie-lucie says:

    … my friends of either sex …

  24. I will strengthen that: I have many times been the only male in an animated discussion, and never has the topic been pots and pans! Though I may have mentioned once or twice that I wish I could find a replacement for my favorite pot/pan hybrid: it’s a very large pot with a lid, but with a frying-pan handle, and I use it to cook pasta, rice, eggs, and all sorts of things. The no-stick coating is getting scratches on it, hence the need for a replacement.
    For the record, LH has discussed pots and pans here, here, here, here, and here.

  25. J.W. Brewer says:

    Of course, speakers of minority languages can misjudge the linguistic capacity of those around them. I don’t think I’ve told this anecdote here before . . . Scene: Paris metro a decade or two back. Everyone in the car is white except for two immigrants from Senegal, who launch into an animated and extremely graphic conversation in Fulani (I think) about the attractiveness of a particular woman sitting across from them and what they’d like to do to her. She gets off the train and the conversation peters out. At the next stop, a priest in full clerical garb gets up to leave and as he does turns to the men and says in fluent Fulani “did you really mean that when you said [paraphrasing back one of the more extravagant suggestions]?” At this point, the fourth (at a minimum!) Fulani speaker in the car, a college contemporary of mine whom the Peace Corps had sent to Senegal for a few years, decided to bite his lip rather than join in the conversation.

  26. On yet another topic: I heard a surprising pronunciation of bilingual yesterday. “Bi-ling-gyoo-al”. Is that how they say it in Canada?

  27. I was once on the Orient Express with a Bavarian nun and an Austrian professor of philosophy.
    Have you ever considered writing mystery stories?

  28. marie-lucie says:

    Ø : “Bi-ling-gyoo-al”. Is that how they say it in Canada?
    Certainly not. Every anglophone Canadian is very familiar with the word. If your heard that pronunciation in Canada, I guess it would have to be from a very recent British immigrant, or perhaps a very elderly person who had been locked up in a padded cell for the past 50 years.

  29. marie-lucie says:

    DE: I was once on the Orient Express with a Bavarian nun and an Austrian professor of philosophy.
    AJP: - Have you ever considered writing mystery stories?
    Please, do! Mystery stories are my favorite genre!

  30. And if you get it published, I will promote the hell out of it at LH.

  31. it sounds like the people you associate with are socially very conventional, stereotypical even, and feeling they have to act that way in a mixed group.
    I gave up socializing several decades ago, except with people in my IT projects during work. The pots-and-pans experiences were ones I made 35 years ago, at social events put on by the mathematics department of the University of Bonn. The men were professors of mathematics, the women were their wives. The third subject, after cooking and children, was how hard life is being married to a mathematician.
    A moral tale
    On Friday, the ICE train was pretty full as I boarded it in Mannheim to whiz back to Cologne. A tall, young woman with a large suitcase had just occupied one of a pair of empty seats near the door. I wanted to grab the one in front of which she had parked her suitcase. She sort of stood there helplessly while I was being squeezed between the suitcase and other passengers pushing through the aisle behind me. So I asked her tartly whether she was considering moving her suitcase so I could sit down.
    She answered in English that unfortunately she didn’t speak German. I suddenly felt myself on surer ground, in a familiar situation. Not because she spoke English, but because I had yet again acted like a bastard for no reason except that I didn’t know what else to do. Similarly, she hadn’t known what to do either. So now I could structure the situation by being nice to her in compensation – beauty-and-the-beast kind of thing.
    I asked her what language she did speak – Italian. She had been in Germany for several years, but was ashamed of not having learned any German. At her work there were people of different nationalities who spoke English with each other. I brought up the subject of language learning difficulties, and mentioned the misleading “German default plural” and “pizzas” business we discussed at @H@ recently.
    Her English was very good, so I enquired if I might ask what kind of work she does. She said she is finishing her doctorate in astrophysics. Having just read Brian Greene’s latest book, I was all primed to ask quasi-intelligent questions. Turns out she works on gravitational lensing. After talking animatedly for what seemed to be an hour, she had to disembark at the Frankfurt airport only 30 minutes later, to fly to Italy for a visit.
    Even our last words were evidence of harmony and goodwill. She said: “I just hate flying”, and I replied: “So do I”.

  32. Connoisseurs of narrative technique may complain that I did not say how the problem of the suitcase was resolved. But I did: that is the moral of the tale.

  33. empty: You will have remarked the anachronism in my implying that math professors discussed string theory in the 70s. Of course they talked about other stuff, I just wanted to make the situation sound a bit more like the ones that happen today.
    Unfortunately, nobody here seems to have noticed I was saying that football and string theory are the male equivalents of pots and pans. It was unlikely that anyone would cotton to such artfully concealed PC, coming from me.

  34. marie-lucie says:

    Grumbly: The men were professors of mathematics, the women were their wives. The third subject, after cooking and children, was how hard life is being married to a mathematician.
    Typical! just what I said: socially very conventional, stereotypical even. The men were nerds or geeks, socially awkward except among their peers, while the women were probably good-looking and much better socially but lacking in intellectual sophistication. This conventional type of marriage works because the man earns a good living and relies on his wife not just for managing the house and children but for social interaction with a wider circle of people, while the wife admires her husband for his brilliance (which she has to take for granted), relies on him for economic and emotional security and gains her own satisfactions from managing his social life as well as the rest of the household. But there is a disconnect between two such people if there is a lack of true communication at a deeper level, or even shared interests beyond the family, and things start to fall apart after a few years (even if the couple stays together). When several such couples get together in a mixed group, the men (who work together) have plenty to say to each other about their shared interests – “shop” and sports – and the women have nothing to contribute on those topics. Their conversation falls back on what they share with the other “faculty wives”: household concerns, and the difficulty of communicating with such husbands.
    So yes, Grumbly, in this social context the “pots and pans” were the equivalent of “football and string theory” (granting some poetic license about the meaning of “string theory” here).

  35. Bathrobe says:

    the wife admires her husband for his brilliance (which she has to take for granted)
    An interesting description of circles I have no occasion to move in. So I assume that if the husband is not actually brilliant, the situation is even more untenable :) Geeky and brilliant might be tolerable; geeky and mediocre would be insufferable. The implied ideal in conversational compatibility is two geeks together, although somehow that doesn’t quite click.

  36. The implied ideal in conversational compatibility is two geeks together
    This is true as a mathematical “limit case”, in that it means no conversation at all. Each one is scribbling on her blackboard, or typing away, concentrated and mute, in front of her monitor.
    Verbal synchronisation is needed only when it comes time to order lunch from a delivery service, and decisions must be made about what kind of low-cal salad to order (with men it’s pizza).

  37. By the way, I was attending the lectures of one of the mathematicians whose wife was complaining about him to me. I can’t remember his name, only that he was an expert Go player and later went farther north to another NRW university. I expect empty knows all of them.

  38. marie-lucie says:

    the wife admires her husband for his brilliance (which she has to take for granted)
    I mean that since she is not trained in his field and does not have comparable attainments or even ambitions in another she is not in a position to understand his work or its significance.
    The implied ideal in conversational compatibility is two geeks together
    If they are in the same field, that happens too. But many geeks are attracted to a partner who will lead in courtship and in conversation, between the two of them and with most other people. They may realize this (and admire their wife’s skill in this respect) or take it for granted that that’s what women do.
    Each one is … typing away, concentrated and mute, in front of her monitor.
    That’s what you see in many cafés nowadays, especially around universities. But not all communication is verbal: presumably, crucial non-verbal communication does occur in private.

  39. a very recent British immigrant, or perhaps a very elderly person who had been locked up in a padded cell for the past 50 years.
    No, this is a lifelong Canadian, middle-aged, a friend of my sister. She has recently become certified as bilingual: she is employed by the Canadian Federal government, which recently treated her to a lot of instruction in French as a precondition for promoting her to a supervisory position.
    Her pronunciation of that one word must be a personal quirk.

  40. It was the Bavarian nun wot done it. She wanted retribution for the death of her elder sister, many years earlier. Too bad the little Austrian philosophy professor had to die, we all liked him.

  41. marie-lucie says:

    Yes, it must be her own idiosyncrasy, an instance of hypercorrection. The word is frequently heard on Canadian radio and TV, always as bi-ling-gwal, that’s why I am very surprised at your friend’s pronunciation. Perhaps she thinks that everyone else is wrong!
    Starting during the Trudeau era, which made bilingualism official in federal affairs, the Canadian government has “bilingual” requirements (in French and English, the two official languages) for many positions within the civil service, the level of second-language competence depending on the importance of the position. Before that time, francophones were expected to be totally fluent in English, but anglophones did not have to know any French, a blatant form of inequality. In order to meet the new requirements without firing a majority of anglophone civil servants or rejecting most anglophone applicants, the government sends unilinguals or people whose second-language competence is insufficient for their current level in the hierarchy or the one they are otherwise qualified for, to its own, excellent program of language courses (mostly to learn French, but also to learn English). But there are several degrees on the scale of “bilingualism”, so “certified as bilingual” does not mean much without an indication of a person’s level of competence in the second language. Not everyone needs to be just about equally good in both languages.

  42. Yes, “certified as bilingual” was my own way of saying that she had learned enough French to satisfy whatever rule applies. She does not seem to consider herself totally fluent now, but I gather that it was a months-long full-time program of study.
    its own, excellent program of language courses
    She said that the government contracts with any of a number of private firms for language instruction. She also said that most of the teachers were from northern Africa or from Haiti.

  43. Do we have the prospect here that those who have studied proper Metropolitan French (from Haitians and North Africans, no less) will be tempted to tell French Canadians they speak it wrong?

  44. Bathrobe: actually, they would not need to: most francophones in Ottawa live in what is DE FACTO a monolingual English-language work environment, and thus their French quickly begins to atrophy (in the case of the Ottawa-born semilingualism seems more common than genuine bilingualism, in my experience at any rate). Indeed, despite my being Canadian-born, it has happened a few times in Ottawa that local francophones prefer speaking English to me: they feel too insecure about their own French.
    As for anglophones who take all these French classes, they basically are “taught to the test” and wholly forget most if not all of it after they have obtained their “bilingual” certification. So the nationality of their teachers is pretty much irrelevant.
    More broadly, however, it is true that educated foreigners from former French colonies with L2 French often have a better command of the standard than native speakers: this is perhaps more pronounced in the case of Candian French speakers, where even in Quebec until recently the teaching of the standard and its position in society were weak. This is one of the many themes in the recent movie MONSIEUR LAZHAR, Canada’s most recent contender for best foreign picture: the story is about an Algerian immigrant who ends up teaching in an elementary school, despite not having any teaching experience, and who among other things ends up teaching his pupils much more French grammar than they otherwise would have been taught: like the rest of the story, it rang true.

  45. marie-lucie says:

    One of my best Anglo-Canadian friends is a woman from Ontario who speaks French serviceably but would never pass for a native speaker (of any origin). Her husband, also an anglophone (but with a non-English immigrant background) recently retired from a high-level government position, for which he had to take French courses. He was not at all thrilled to have to take those courses, and found them hard-going, but he persevered and in the last years of his career was able to participate in frequent discussions conducted entirely in French. In his case, the French training was certainly not wasted, although he probably still made many mistakes.
    educated foreigners from former French colonies with L2 French
    Such people often learned French starting in primary school, or even earlier, rather than as teenagers or later, and used it much more than their native language, so they are not quite L2 speakers. They may not have a “Metropolitan” accent, but their command of “standard” grammar and vocabulary is often flawless. Of course, they often lack the more casual language register first learned by true native speakers.
    As for “the standard”, as I wrote before, this is basically the written standard, not the spoken French of Parisian streets or poor suburbs, or of rural areas. (To people from France, the distinctive “parisien” accent – which is not the most common “Metropolitan” accent – is a mark of low class, not something to be emulated or taught to foreigners). In terms of vocabulary, one dictionary of Canadian French has columns dividing “Canadian French” from “Standard French”: in most cases the Canadian French entries are not peculiar to Canada but are simply common French as spoken in urban centres in Northern France, while the Standard French words and expressions belong to a more official or literary written style and would often sound stilted in ordinary speech. This format confuses the spoken and written registers and exaggerates the linguistic differences between the two countries.

  46. getting scratches on it
    Make that “all the coating is scratched off the bottom”. It still works for boiling; for sauteing, not so much.
    acted like a bastard
    I don’t think so, not in the situation, unless “asked her tartly” is a euphemism for “snarled at her”. But I recognize here the remains of a Southern education in Courtesy To Women. Still, if the guilt induced you to be nice thereafter, tant mieux.
    football and string theory are the male equivalents of pots and pans
    Except that football and string theory are actual subjects of conversation. Cooking and children (church being out of fashion, except in American fundamentalist circles) are quite genuine topics, however. Fortunately for me, I have an absorbing interest in both, far more so than football or even string theory. I used to refer to myself as “just one of the girls”, but I’ve had my nose rubbed in the unacceptability of this, so I don’t any more.
    two geeks together
    My wife is certainly not a geek: rather, she is a student by nature who also loves to teach. Our conversations, when they aren’t about children (and grandchildren) and cooking (and “little bills”, only not so little), thus have a flavor of really good seminar about them. Thanks to my polymathicity or cowaniscience (defined — by someone else — as ‘knowing at least something about almost everything’, even football), I tend to take the lead much of the time, but by no means all: if her passion is to learn, mine is to explain (which is not the same as teaching).
    But in any case, geeks do talk together, and such conversations are anything but dry. In one case, I needed to mention a fraction in a mailing list post, and I used 355/113 (a remarkably good approximation to π). Out of the blue, I got a private email from someone quite unknown to me: “Isn’t it amazing how much shared emotion a simple fraction can communicate?” I wrote back that I agreed entirely.
    even in Quebec
    Especially in Quebec, I should think, where Standard French is not a mark of identity.
    Monsieur Lazhar
    We’ve seen the preview for this, and look forward to it. It looks like it escapes the Teacher Movie Formula (new teacher gets handed a class of losers, motivates them to be winners), which is a close variant of the Sports Movie Formula (new coach etc.) at least partially, which will be refreshing.
    dictionary of Canadian French
    I would hope that such a work would contain the vocabulary of Canadian French, whether shared with Standard French or not (just as dictionaries of American English do). Given the relative situation of CF and SF, it might make sense to add SF equivalents as well for CF words that aren’t part of it, whether because they are regional or because they come from the wrong level.

  47. Over the past few years in northern Europe, there has been a long-running son et lumière spectacle – in Germany in particular – in which the various proponents of “integration” on the one side, of “multiculturalism” on the other, have been at each other’s throats in the media. In Germany the quarreling often focuses on the Turkish subpopulation.
    It is a fact – as experienced by little old me vor Ort in Köln over 40 years – that the Turks by and large have shown little practical interest in accomodating themselves to the extent of learning German. That is what this comment will be about, ultimately. It was prompted by the above discussion of the discourteousness of certain people in a group speaking with certain others in a language not everyone in the group understands.
    The Turks keep to themselves, their family traditions, culture and religion as far as possible – and why not, sez I ? What chaps many Germans, but also myself, is that far too many of them speak only rudimentary German even after decades in Germany. You get the impression that they just don’t give a damn.
    A high percentage of the taxi drivers in Cologne are older Turks who need a navigation system to get from A to B. They know only certain routes, and apparently learned street names only to the extent necessary to pass the taxi driver exam, and subsequently forgot them. To explain where you want to go as a passenger, and how, is often frustratingly difficult, because they don’t understand what you are saying. Similarly chapping is the attempt, in a Turkish grocery, to get information about some food item you are considering buying.
    Political and social relationships between Turks and Germans in Germany have been fairly fraught from the very beginning in the ’60s, but certainly not only on account of isolationist tendencies in Turks. Many ordinary Germans, rather xenophobic in that decade and the following ones, treated the Turks as Dreck laborers to be countenanced only for economic reasons, since they did the jobs Germans preferred not to do, such as working for the garbage disposal services.
    After this superficial background sketch, I have almost reached the point of this comment. The inability on the part of Turks in Germany to speak adequate German extends even to the generation of 16-20 year olds who were born and bred in Germany. Groups of Turkish young people in public places – in the streets, in the trams and trains – always spoke Turkish with each other, and could only reply in broken German when addressed by someone. But this changed suddenly last year, at least in Cologne where my observations are based.
    Two years ago, the German Social Democrat politician Thilo Sarrazin published a real publicity stinker of a book called Deutschland schafft sich ab [something like "Germany Takes Itself Off The Agenda"]. I tried to plow through it, but gave up after the north 40 acres because of all the muddy arguments and rocky statistics. Anyway, in the book the Turks in Germany come in for criticism of their linguistic isolationism, among other things. I put the book aside, and did not even try to follow all the media squabbling about it.
    Sometime last year I noticed that young Turks in the trams in Cologne seemed to be speaking German with each other a lot of the time, despite grammatical, lexical and other difficulties. As I mentioned here once before, it often sounds as if they were breathing in when they should be breathing out, like a taped voice played backwards. I began to observe this as objectively as I could, and gained the impression that I was not kidding myself.
    The question is: am I kidding myself after all, or has some systematic change of attitude taken place in Turkish families ? I have always had the impression that even young male Turks are more obedient towards their fathers than young German males are. So I have a little theory to explain this switch to German, a theory backed up by not a shred of evidence.
    I imagine this: a decree has gone out (public stink about Sarrazin’s book) that all the Turks are to be taxed with stubborn isolationism. Turkish fathers gather together and decide that this won’t do after all, after all these decades. They tell their sons and daughters to clean up their act and speak German with each other in public.

  48. Going to see Monsieur Lazhar tonight! (Sunday is our date night, after Thursday became the new Friday.)

  49. John Cowan: Enjoy the movie, do tell us what your impressions are!
    Marie-Lucie: the conventional type of marriage between a University professor geek and a “normal” woman who manages her husband’s non-University social circle which you described above is a type of marriage I have seen all too often. It gets *VERY* unstable and fragile after the children have left home, and often before, not least because the geeky husband, as a teacher/professor, will run into plenty of starry-eyed admiring young female students, while the wife tends to increasingly see that being a geek and socially incompetent can be unaccompanied by brilliance, or intelligence, or indeed any redeeming quality.

  50. Sounds like Middlemarch.

  51. marie-lucie says:

    dictionary of Canadian French
    JC: I would hope that such a work would contain the vocabulary of Canadian French, whether shared with Standard French or not (just as dictionaries of American English do). Given the relative situation of CF and SF, it might make sense to add SF equivalents as well for CF words that aren’t part of it, whether because they are regional or because they come from the wrong level.
    I agree, and the work in question (which may have been updated and improved by now – perhaps Etienne knows) is intended to do that but does not give enough information about levels of language, etc. It’s as if a dictionary of American vs British English used baby on the American side and infant on the British side, ignoring the fact that Britishers too use baby in everyday speech, while infant is more formal on both sides of the Atlantic. Imagine someone telling Americans (or English Canadians) “stop saying baby, say infant because that’s what they say in England.” Yet this is a type of thing that is often being said to French Canadians by their own self-styled pundits.
    Another example: at one point I used to listen to an English-language program about everyday life in French Canada, which included a feature on language, including the presentation of a French “word of the week” for anglophones to learn. On this program I remember hearing a self-styled expert mention the Québécois word quétaine, a part of casual everyday vocabulary meaning approximately “old-fashioned” (I think). The “expert” said that this word should not be used, instead Canadians should use the “standard” word ringard. However, ringard, while it is used in metropolitan French, is not “standard”, it is a slang word with a derogatory and mocking connotation (backward, stuck in the past, etc), OK for casual use but unsuitable for most types of writing.
    I certainly agree that it is a good thing to expand one’s vocabulary, but banning words which have a long history, as well as emotional resonance, among regional speakers is not the way to encourage them to increase their command of the resources of the language, especially when the suggested substitutes for the banned words turn out to be inappropriate because of wrong level or different connotations.

  52. marie-lucie says:

    Etienne: geeks married to non-geeks:
    I think this situation must be especially common in academia (not the most realistic type of social milieu). But perhaps this type of conventional marriage is becoming less common among younger academics, now that academia includes many more women. (Not that there aren’t a few geeks among women).

  53. From minority languages in Russia to Quebec French and geeks’ marriages…err, how did we get here again? Topic drift indeed. Anyway:
    1-Marie-Lucie: I can assure you that, apart from a tiny minority of terminally snobbish people (as a local humorist called them, the type who will only have maple syrup imported from France on their pancakes: see Robert Lepage’s movie NÔ for a nice caricature of such a type of person), replacing such terms as “quétaine” by “ringard” is *not* something educated speakers of Quebec French are in the habit of doing, or ever were: what is happening is that, increasingly, most such speakers are aware of the difference between local Quebec vocabulary items and more-widely used terms, the latter through exposure to written French (which indeed is what “the standard” is held to mean), and will use the more “standard” vocabulary items in the presence of non-Canadian francophones.
    “Quétaine”, incidentally, is a hard word to translate: it doesn’t so much mean “old-fashioned” as “tasteless, unfashionable, in a very blatant and obvious way”. A thing which is QUÉTAINE needn’t be so because it is old-fashioned, whereas overtly old-fashioned things are all too often QUÉTAINE. I hope that makes sense. And no, I have no idea as to its etymology.
    But that the English arm of the CBC gave such an impression is to my mind unsurprising: their coverage of francophone Canada can range from hysterically hostile to nauseatingly condescending, according to topic, but total ignorance seems a job prerequisite for all anglo-Canadian journalists who are assigned to cover francophone Canada.
    2-Among younger academics the situation seems to be in flux, and indeed my impression (nothing more than that!) is that more and more younger academics, male and female alike, simply never marry. Most younger academics would rather have a spouse who is an intellectual peer, but when two academics marry the problem is that the couple is uncertain as to which of the two will be the first to get a stable position (nor do they know where this position will be, nor what kind of work will be available to the other spouse) and hence who will be the breadwinner: this uncertainty creates tremendous strain and makes any kind of planning ahead difficult (doubly so if they wish to have children). The geeky male professor and his stay-at-home wife who takes care of his social life at least could provide a stable environment for raising children (after that things tended to fall apart, as I pointed out above): but the younger generation of academics seems to be muddling through without any clear expectations or ideas as to how to navigate more fluid gender roles and a much tighter job market for academics.

  54. marie-lucie says:

    Merci, Etienne. About the CBC program, it was run by a francophone journalist called Bernard Saint-Laurent. I don’t remember the name of the program. Oh, yes, it was C’est la vie. (I don’t listen now because my radio gave out quite some time ago).

  55. Two words, Grumbly: ius sanguinis. Treat immigrants and their children and grandchildren as perpetual foreigners, and perpetual foreigners they will be.

  56. It isn’t that simple, John, as I was at some pains to explain. Each group, the Germans and the Turks, has behaved in ways not conducive to getting along with the other, and despite that the situation today is not entirely bad. Last year I reported on very welcome, hang-out-with-your-German-and-Turkish-buddies-in-public phenomena among young German and Turkish males – of all people.
    In Germany there have not been “isolationist” problems with Spaniards and Italians, however and for instance. There have been with many Serbs, though – I have experienced it first-hand.
    It sounds a bit as if you lean towards the Multi-culti-and-all-will-be-well camp. Well, that hasn’t improved matters over the last few decades – not here with regard to the Turks and, without regard to other immigrant populations, not in the Netherlands, not in France, not in Denmark. It’s a complicated political and social situation in which many people, over a long period of time, have behaved in ways not apt to win friends.
    But the problems are not all imaginary, and cannot all be put down to religious bigotry and xenophobia. Not for nothing is there little political or popular support in Europe for taking Turkey into the EU as a full-fledged member. There are too many incompatibilities whose possible social and political consequences people fear.
    The only thing I myself hold against Turks is that the men have butts that are too flat for my aesthetic sense. That hardly amounts to discrimination. On the whole, Turks are much more hard-working than Germans, who have become lazy. I also admire many things about the Turkish family, however patriarchal and frauenfeindlich it may seem. You still don’t see hords of drunken young Turks on the weekends, while you do see ditto Germans.
    It’s hard for me to know what to think, apart from the fact that for too long many Turks have just not bothered to learn decent German, even though they work at jobs where they deal with the general public.

  57. And anyway I was not criticizing young Turks on the trams for speaking German, however broken, with each other, when it would be much easier for them to converse in Turkish. My point was: high time, and good for them !

  58. Above, I meant “with regard to other immigrant populations”.

  59. Many older Turks in Germany have liked to pretend to themselves that they will not stay here for long, and will return to Turkey to enjoy a ripe and rich old age on the family farm. So they figure that neither they nor their children need to learn German. This has had disastrous consequences for their children.
    Here is a 2009 article from Spiegel – hardly a right-wing journal – a year before Sarrazin burst out of his birthday cake onto the medial stage. The first paragraph says this:

    A study carried out by scientists at the Berlin Institute for Population and Development contains dismaying conclusions: 30% of Turkish persons and persons of Turkish descent in Germany have completed no level of schooling. Only 14% have graduated from high school, a figure not even half the corresponding percentage for Germans, and less than that for any other immigrant group. Persons from a Turkish immigrant background also have the least success rate of all immigrants at finding jobs: they are frequently unemployed, the “housewife percentage” is high, and many are dependent on social welfare.

    This situation is clearly not the fault of the young people, who were led into it by their parents. Up until this century at least, the majority of immigrant Turks were uneducated country folk who live in patriarchal, L’il Abner dream-worlds – even when they went to work for Turkish businessmen who had been here longer and had set up their life in a more enterprising, not to say exploitative manner. Turks have no compunction about taking advantage of their poorer fellow citizens, no more than Americans and Germans do ditto.
    Add to this the German Spießbürger xenophobia that was still prevalent through the ’90s, and you can imagine the plight of the young Turks today. They have my every sympathy.

  60. It isn’t that simple, John, as I was at some pains to explain.
    You didn’t say a single word about ius sanguinis, so it’s hard to see how you could have been at pains to explain it, and I agree with John that it is at the root of things. That is not “Multi-culti-and-all-will-be-well,” it is, as John says, a matter of treating people as perpetual foreigners. Why should Turks learn German if they will not be allowed to be Germans? And if you come back with another dig about “multi-culti,” I’m going to assume you prefer lazy stereotypes to (what I continue to think of, in my traditional way, as) reality.

  61. “Why should Turks learn German if they will not be allowed to be Germans?”
    One answer to that is that plenty of Turks have indeed learned German, and speak it quite well. The ones who don’t tend to be less educated, more religious, and more traditional. That complicates any explanation that sees ius sanguinis as the principal explanation. Especially since, as Stu points out, most Turkish immigrants had no intention of becoming German in the first place.
    I know plenty of Americans in Vienna (who would have difficulty becoming Austrian citizens), who speak no German and who also live in little
    English language ghettos with little contact with the natives. Then they spend half the day criticizing Austrians for their insularity and unfriendliness. I don’t find that behavior particularly attractive when Americans do it. Granted they are richer and more educated than the average Turkish immigrant, but most Turks in Germany/Austria are also economic migrants by choice, not refugees.
    I have noticed that a lot of Russian immigrants to Austria just want their kids to learn English, which in some ways is even more insulting to the host country.

  62. Vanya: One answer to that is that plenty of Turks have indeed learned German, and speak it quite well
    Very true, and some of them are prominent in German politics. I have been talking primarily about the ugly situation in which many 16-20 year old Turks find themselves.

  63. Contrast this situation with that of the ambitious, noisy, bilingual young chicanos in the southwest USA. There’s a folk after my own heart.
    Hat’s reply reminds me of Morgenstern’s neat little sarcastic poem Die ummögliche Tatsache: Es kann nicht sein, was nicht sein darf.

  64. I know plenty of Americans in Vienna (who would have difficulty becoming Austrian citizens), who speak no German and who also live in little
    English language ghettos with little contact with the natives. Then they spend half the day criticizing Austrians for their insularity and unfriendliness. I don’t find that behavior particularly attractive when Americans do it.

    I agree, of course, but I’m a lot more willing to cut people slack when they’re at the bottom of the totem pole. I would also point out that Germans, like other Europeans, consistently oppose Turkey’s bid to join the EU no matter how many hoops the Turks jump through; to quote Wikipedia, “In December 2011, a poll showed that as much as 71% of the participants surveyed in Austria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the UK were opposed to Turkey’s membership in the European Union… German chancelor Angela Merkel has long rejected Turkey’s accession bid…” This is clearly based on the most reprehensible sort of prejudice, and I don’t think it can be separated from the question of how Turks in Germany react to their situation.
    Contrast this situation with that of the ambitious, noisy, bilingual young chicanos in the southwest USA. There’s a folk after my own heart.
    Do you expect that they’ll stay that way if the current anti-immigrant backlash strengthens and they’re treated in even more states as suspicious aliens, liable to have their documents demanded every time they turn around and presumptively denied equality with white—excuse me, I mean good honest hard-working American—folks?

  65. Do you expect that they’ll stay that way if the current anti-immigrant backlash strengthens
    No, and I expect and hope that they will not put up with it. Putting up with it is exactly what they are now not doing, as far as I can judge from reports on CNN and German TV. Their parents gave them a good start, unlike many Turkish parents in Germany who are equally “less educated, more religious, and more traditional”, as Vanya puts it.
    You sure do seem to have a black-and-white way of analyzing social phenomena, all bullies and good guys.

  66. This is clearly based on the most reprehensible sort of prejudice, and I don’t think it can be separated from the question of how Turks in Germany react to their situation.
    It is not at all clearly based on prejudice alone, as I explained in considerable detail. And I did not attempt to separate the prejudice from the bone-headedness – on the contrary, I pointed the finger of blame at both sides.

  67. Unfortunately, the recent success of the gaelscoileanna in Ireland is in no small part due to the fact that they are much less attractive to immigrants, and thus much more attractive to middle-class parents.
    It isn’t the only factor to consider, but it does play a role.

  68. I happened to look in on this thread while on a brief trip to Quebec, so I found the discussion of Canadian linguistic matters quite interesting. I have nothing very knowledgable to add, but having spent some time in that part of the world many years ago (late sixties-early seventies) I can testify to having heard the pronunciation bi-ling-yoo-al more than once from English Canadians. I never heard it anywhere else, nor have I heard it recently.
    My father, incidentally, taught for a while at the Université de Sherbrooke. As a condition of his employment he was required to learn French. Since he liked languages and had some aptitude for them, he didn’t find the requirement onerous. He could already read it fairly well, and before long was speaking with a pretty decent Quebec accent. He had a lot of praise for his students, and often wondered what it was about French Canadian upbringing that made them so much more enjoyable to deal with than comparable American or English Canadian students. Maybe they just appreciated his willingness to learn their language.
    I didn’t know the word quétaine. Sounds a little like a certain Russian word known to Nabokov fans.

  69. @ Grumbly, @ Vanya re: using English in Germany and Austria. I still remember coming to Vienna with two semesters of German and a burning desire to improve it. Well, every time I tried speaking in German, people would almost invariably switch to English (except for the cops and security guards who’d typically switch to a mix of Slovak and gesticulation). My German had to be relegated to reading supermarket labels, and similarly passive uses. In the dorms where I stayed, native German speakers were non-existent, and nobody talked in German either.
    It’s like coming to Chuvashia hoping to pick some language and discovering that, out of convenience of politness or both, everybody uses Russian in your presence :)
    The weirdest (although in hindsight understandable) conversation language-switch experience happened to me in Israel, where almost universally, I would start talking to strangers in English, and they’d switch to Russian right away (sometimes indignantly).

  70. I didn’t know the word quétaine. Sounds a little like a certain Russian word known to Nabokov fans.
    My thought exactly!

  71. Which word is that ?

  72. ius sanguinis …at the bottom of the totem pole … reality …
    Here is a description of one reality, in the form of excerpts from a brief survey of economic relationships between Germany and Turkey, published by the German Foreign Office:

    1. Of the approximately 2.5 million persons of Turkish descent living in Germany, just over half have German citizenship. Turkey has around 73 million inhabitants, Germany around 81 million.
    2. Germany is Turkey’s most important trading partner. German investment in Turkey amounts to almost 8.9 billion American dollars. Germany has been the largest foreign investor in Turkey since 1980.
    3. In Germany, approximately 75,000 businessmen of Turkish descent employ around 370,000 persons and achieve a total yearly business volume of around 35 billion Euros.

    There are many Turkish-owned television and radio stations in Germany that broadcast in Turkish to all of Europe. Even only in Cologne, Turks own and run a very large number of businesses – supermarkets, car dealerships, hairdressing salons, first and second-hand stores for furniture, cellphones and electronics. They also run industrial-scale bakeries for exclusively Turkish products, and of course Dönerbuden.
    A spectacular mosque (not the only one in Cologne) is currently being built here at the intersection of two major thoroughfares, and is scheduled to open this month. There is speculation that it will have cost between 15 and 20 million Euros. Officially the money comes from donations within the country, but there is speculation that it is being financed in part from Turkey, perhaps even by the government there.
    So no totem poles, no bloody juice. The young people I have been talking about, who used to converse in Turkish in public but now often speak German with each other, are not dressed in rags. They are as well-dressed as Germans of their age – and CERTAINLY better behaved. It’s just that they live most of their lives in a parallel economic subsociety, but attend German schools where too many of them stumble at the language hurdle.
    Motivated by certain bien-pensant fantasies of prejudice and oppression that have been aired here, I checked the internet on the subject of “Turks in Germany” for the first time in my life here. Because of the parallel, isolationist universe they are pleased to run, I have not really paid much attention up to now, and don’t know a word of Turkish. I have allowed myself to be fooled by reality. I am going to put a stop to this.

  73. Robert Berger says:

    Minority languages in Russia are still doing a heck of a lot better than the American Indian languages
    have been doing .
    Unfortunately, very few of them are spoken much, and the vast majority of native Americans
    speak only English.

  74. K Saarinen says:

    J. W. Brewer Of course, speakers of minority languages can misjudge the linguistic capacity of those around them.
    My father had several of those.The funniest one ended badly. The offended stranger surprising him by saying: “But I am a Finnish potato farmer.”

  75. K Saarinen says:

    So I asked her tartly
    That would be fairly normal on a German train. She should have been more systematic in her considerateness.
    My wife is certainly not a geek
    My wife and I are both professors of something or other. Intellectually, we’ve stritten the most about linguistics. Maybe because it’s a field where everyone and their uncle has an opinion.

  76. I would also point out that Germans, like other Europeans, consistently oppose Turkey’s bid to join the EU no matter how many hoops the Turks jump through; to quote Wikipedia, “In December 2011, a poll showed that as much as 71% of the participants surveyed in Austria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the UK were opposed to Turkey’s membership in the European Union… German chancelor Angela Merkel has long rejected Turkey’s accession bid…” This is clearly based on the most reprehensible sort of prejudice
    That is not clear at all. There are all sorts of reasons one might have for opposing Turkish accession at this time, some of them rather good ones.
    And important reforms in the area of civil and human rights, for example, cannot surely be dismissed as mere hoops to be jumped through.

  77. we’ve stritten the most about linguistics
    I did a double-take here, thinking that the German word stritten [past tense, 1 and 3 person plural] had been slyly inserted into the sentence. It took me a moment to remember the English verb “strite”.
    But I can’t find “strite” or “stritten” in the OED. Wot gifs ?

  78. That should be “Vot gifs ?”. My spelling has really gone downhill, and I never knew the Captain that well anyway.

  79. marie-lucie says:

    Of course to strite must be what you do on a street.

  80. Ah, that must be it. In certain areas of Cologne, the stritewalkers are indeed rather forward.

  81. K Saarinen says:

    ius sanguinis
    Importantly, it is not just the bare law that is the problem, but the whole self-definition of European nations as ethnic states. Maybe citizenship should be compulsory in Germany, for these stubborn old Turks.

  82. the whole self-definition of European nations as ethnic states.
    Yes, the world took a wrong turn a couple of hundred years ago with the whole ethnic-nationalism thing. How I hate it!

  83. What, you preferred the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires? I think of ethnic nationalism as a stage that the world has to go through to get to the next and better stage.

  84. What, you preferred the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires?
    Yes, absolutely. They may have been inefficient and randomly brutal, but they did not practice ethnic expulsion/extermination until World War I, which resulted in the Armenian genocide and of course ended both empires and was itself the result of nationalist rage. If it hadn’t been for the rise of the ideology we associate (somewhat unfairly, as I recall) with Herder, people would have gone on identifying with their city or valley and feeling an idiotic but harmless warmth toward the emperor/sultan/tsar, and would have gotten along reasonably well with people who happened to speak or worship or dance differently. It was when they learned that those differences were not superficial and harmless but signifiers of a deeper difference that made them the Enemy that the groundwork was laid for the horrors of the last century. Bring back Franz Josef!

  85. J.W. Brewer says:

    Hmm. Sounds like the book you want may be “Diglossia and Power: Language Policies and Practice in the 19th Century Habsburg Empire.”

  86. Yeeks, $50 plus shipping. I think not.

  87. Sounds great; I’ll look for it in the library.
    …On the other hand, using the “Search inside” feature at Amazon shows me it uses lots of phrases like “intertextuality and interdiscursivity,” which makes me think it may be too jargon-laden for me. I’d like to take a look at it, though.
    $50 plus shipping
    Did someone buy up all the cheap copies? Amazon now has it for $133.00, used from $129.00!

  88. “Bring back Franz Josef!”
    I’d rather have Crown Prince Rudolf. Franz Josef probably deserves a fair amount of blame for the messy and nasty way everything fell apart.

  89. I’d rather have Crown Prince Rudolf.
    That’s what his girlfriend said. Played by Omar Sharif, no doubt.

  90. Franz Josef probably deserves a fair amount of blame for the messy and nasty way everything fell apart.
    Yeah, but he’d been emperor since the Pleistocene, so you can hardly blame him for being set in his ways and unwilling to adapt. He should have let Crown Prince Rudolf make the decisions, but Omar Sharif was keeping Rudolf all to himself.

  91. Note to impressionable youth: do not repeat what you read here on your history exams or you will come a cropper.

  92. Strange phrase, that.

  93. Yes, the world took a wrong turn a couple of hundred years ago with the whole ethnic-nationalism thing. How I hate it!

    Most of the things the Romantics came up with or advocated were misguided and destructive; cf. also that romantic love in their sense is a terrible basis for a marriage and a life together.

  94. J.W. Brewer says:

    But doesn’t that flawed vision of romantic love go back to the 12th C. and Provencal troubadors etc etc? My favorite new-to-me bit of 19th century history (and this you could repeat on an exam w/o coming a cropper) is that Marshal MacMahon was also the Duke of Magenta. (Alas, the name of the color and of the dukedom have a common origin w/o the dukedom coming from the color.)
    More generally though, hat seems to be stumbling into my own view that the sort of lovely polyglot societies of which language buffs are enamored are in considerable tension with vulgar modern innovations like “democracy” and “elections” and are most likely to be stable under a frankly premodern and illiberal regime of the Hapsburg/Ottoman variety. Franz Josef from time to time found elections quite irksome because people would vote for odious candidates and as time went on his advisers would tell him he nonetheless had to suck it up and recognize the results.

  95. I recently came up with an idea: elections should be conducted entirely in a foreign language that would be chosen at random. It has advantages.
    I mentioned Omar because he appeared in the 1960s film Mayerling as Crown Prince Rudolph (what a Ruritanian name that is). Warning spoiler (except it’s not a huge surprise if you know anything about European history): Their love was not to be. His girlfriend is chasing a butterfly in a field of hay and just as she catches it the frame is frozen and he shoots her and then himself. It’s a metaphor for something or other, possibly allergies.

  96. (Alas, the name of the color and of the dukedom have a common origin w/o the dukedom coming from the color.)
    The dukedom is named after the site of a battle. Exactly why the dye, discovered the same year as the battle, bears the same name is unclear to me after glancing at some contradictory Wikipedia pages.

  97. Oh, it does, absolutely, J.W. Brewer, and I’m pretty sure people had nationalist feelings before the turn of the nineteenth century, too.
    Our modern re-implementation of the Hapsburg monarchy here in Europe, the EU, is multi-lingual, multi-cultural, unwieldy and under-democratic. But the quality of life is pretty good, and we’ve no real alternative, it’s difficult to re-establish colonial empires once they’ve been given up.

  98. the sort of lovely polyglot societies of which language buffs are enamored are in considerable tension with vulgar modern innovations like “democracy” and “elections”
    Well, as an anarchist I’m not as bothered by that as some might be.

  99. Trond Engen says:

    This isn’t about democracy versus monarchy versus anarchism or imperialism versus nationalism. It’s about creating societies without intolerant majorities or exclusive elites, be they religious or ethno-linguistic or socio-political or whatever. A society without intolerant majorities can be achieved by preventing majorities, a society without exclusve elites is much harder, since they form themselves by force of gravity. [Deleting undigested rant about the Habsburg monarchy.]
    Our host might disagree, but I see anarchism not so much as an ideology meant to be implemented on real-world societies as I see it as a boiled-down untainted-by-worldly-considerations expression of a live-and-let-live attitude towards all expressions of human culture. Since I don’t think society will be leaner on the Poor and Powerless without the rule of law (nor do I think anyone actually believes that), the real-world issue is rather how to ensure that the rule of law isn’t tilted in favour of the (supporters of the) Rich and Powerful — essentially preventing the growth of elites.
    But there’s obviously a limit to what sort of regime one should obey for the sake of Law. It follows that the more dysfunctional the local brand of democracy, the easier it is for the reasonable progressive to define oneself as an anarchist. It also follows that I sympathize with anarchists when they defend the indefensible, I’m all against when they oppose (however fallible) attempts to civilize international society.

  100. J.W. Brewer says:

    hat is certainly not the first person I’ve come across (although I have a perhaps eccentric circle of acquaintances) to combine self-proclaimed anarchist sympathies with affection for the Hapsburg regime. On the other hand, the self-proclaimed anarchist who assassinated poor Empress Elisabeth presumably did not view these as mutually reinforcing points of view.
    I was myself not so much talking about the best regime in general as making the point that the best regime for the preservation of linguistic diversity may be suboptimal in terms of other desirable goals. For example (leaving elections out of it), I myself think it’s ceteris paribus desirable to live in a society where people are free to marry as they choose, including across class and ethnolinguistic lines, but taboos/barriers against exogamy are in the medium to long term pretty important in maintaining minority language communities against assimilation, because otherwise the children or at least the grandchildren of mixed marriages will disproportionately end up speaking the more dominant and/or prestigious language.

  101. hat is certainly not the first person I’ve come across (although I have a perhaps eccentric circle of acquaintances) to combine self-proclaimed anarchist sympathies with affection for the Hapsburg regime.
    With the important proviso (which perhaps does not need stating) that my affection is entirely for the lax, inefficient, bumbling order it provided, not for the regime per se, let alone the idiotic Hapsburgs themselves.

  102. Also, I might as well mention that my anarchism has essentially no real-world consequences other than a failure to exercise my democratic franchise, since I am not foolish enough to think that an anarchist society is possible in the world I or my foreseeable descendants will inhabit; it may take tens of thousands of years for my feckless species to learn how to get along without the knout. As I wrote elsewhere:

    I like to compare my situation with that of someone living a couple thousand years ago who knew slavery was wrong. Every known society had slavery and depended on slavery, there was no apparent way to do without it, and yet my hypothetical person knew at gut level it was wrong. It would have been folly to try to take action against slavery (though of course one might feel compelled to do so anyway), but it would have been intellectually and morally repugnant to accept it on that account. Life is messy and inevitably will not conform to our beliefs and desires, but we are under no obligation to make our beliefs correspond to the random historical moment we find ourselves in.

    Or, as the man said, Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders.

  103. I must just say that I’m in awe of Trond’s English. I can’t imagine being capable of writing so articulately, and without any errors at all, in a foreign language.
    I like to compare my situation with that of someone living a couple thousand years ago who knew slavery was wrong.
    Yes, this is how I feel about the rights of animals.
    Does anybody think the Hohenzollerns and Romanovs might have held things together?
    I’m pretty sure people had nationalist feelings before the turn of the nineteenth century, too.
    In Europe it dates back roughly to the Thirty Years’ War, so early 17C.
    It’s sad that C.B.Fry turned down the throne of Albania, in 1920. So perfect to have had a cricketing nation in the Mediterranean, half way between England and Pakistan; later “he failed to persuade Ribbentrop that Nazi Germany should take up cricket to Test level”, so maybe he wasn’t up to the job.

  104. I must just say that I’m in awe of Trond’s English. I can’t imagine being capable of writing so articulately, and without any errors at all, in a foreign language.
    Same here.

  105. Bathrobe says:

    Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders Welcher Mann hat das gesagt? (Pardon the crappy German)

  106. Trond Engen says:

    Hey! Don’t change the subject!

  107. Trond Engen says:

    Thank you both, but in this company of lpolyhistoric polymathic polyglots I fall short on most accounts. Even my English isn’t all that good, bur in my better moments I’m able to choose my opinions after my ability to express them.

  108. Welcher Mann hat das gesagt?
    Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders. (Not sure if you were serious, but just in case.)
    Even my English isn’t all that good
    Sorry, you won’t get away with that kind of thing around here. Our X-ray vision cuts through self-deprecation like a knife through lutefisk!

  109. Yeah, like an ostehøvel through geitost.

  110. There’s something here that you guys may not have considered before praising Trond.
    In the first 10-20 years of living in Germany, I graciously countenanced occasional praise of my command of German. But after 40 years, I get a bit p.o.ed when someone, knowing how long I have been here, hits on the idea of congratulating me on my German.
    It’s like congratulating an adult on his being able to ride a bicycle. I mean, for Christ’s sake, it would be really bad news if my German weren’t good after all that time. Yes, yes, it is probably well-intentioned. Still … I just know that the remark is just as likely to have been occasioned by my slight American accent in certain words. I’m not perfect, goddammit.
    Suppose Trond too is in fact miffed behind the lutefisk ? Or what would you do if he revealed that he grew up in Arizona, so that actually you should be congratulating him on his Norwegian ? Anyway, Trond is more a cause for alarm than admiration – his puns are SO GOOD that I have had to see a cardiologist about my heart consumption.

  111. Hey, he started it. Now shut up and eat your heart-friendly gruel.

  112. Trond Engen says:

    Self-deprecation is the only proper Norwegian reaction to a compliment. The art is to do it half-hearted enough for the compliment to stick but strong enough for the complimentator to repeat and add to the original statement. As an immigrant from Arizona, I’m quite proud of my near-native competence.

  113. eat your heart-friendly gruel
    I meant I’ve been eating my heart out from envy. Gruel would be a welcome alternative.

  114. MOCKBA says:

    OT but I just ate a slice of heart in the morning. Then added gruel to the rest of minced heart, and the dogs were really happy. In this part of the world, one has to go a Mexican carniceria to get some corazon de res to make the pooches jump with joy…

  115. What a coincidence. Just yesterday in a Turkish diner I ordered a plate of something yummy-looking along with spaghetti. Upon being consumed, it revealed itself to be a kind of heart-and-liver-and-potatoes stew. The whole sported a dollop of yoghurt sauce on one side and a dollop of mildly spicy tomato sauce on the other.
    It’s a good thing you always get bread with such meals at Turkish diners, because otherwise I would have had to lick the plate at the end. Instead, I was able to decorously mop up the last wet bits.

  116. Trond Engen says:

    My most recent heartwarming story involves two smoked reindeer hearts from the Sami at the Røros winter market this February. We had them for evening snacks in the cottage the next couple of days.

  117. Hickory Smoked Reindeer, or “Bring us the figgy pudding”.

  118. Breffni says:

    @Lukas:
    Unfortunately, the recent success of the gaelscoileanna in Ireland is in no small part due to the fact that they are much less attractive to immigrants, and thus much more attractive to middle-class parents.
    It’s dozens of comments and several days back, but I’m uneasy about letting that rather jaundiced claim go unchallenged. Do you have any evidence to support it?

  119. Breffni, for example the article “A new class apart” by Nadine O’Regan which appeared in the Sunday Business Post on 15 April 2007. Unfortunately I cannot find an ungated copy online, but here goes:

    There is now at least one [gaelscoil] in every county in Ireland. But popularity, academic success and trendiness aren’t the only traits that could be used to define gaelscoileanna in this country. With the speed of immigration and the failure of the system to cope adequately with it, some believe there is a new and unpleasant reality lurking behind the shiny, happy isn’t-it-great-that we’re all-learning-to-speak-Irish statistics. One Dublin parent — we’ll call her Emily, although she wasn’t prepared to give her real name — has told The Sunday Business Post that the local gaelscoil is one she would be happy to have her son attend. Emily likes this school not just because it’s in a good area. Not just because it gets good results. And not just because it’s a gaelscoil. No. The reason she would be happy to have her son here is much simpler: at this school, she pointed out, “[her] child wouldn’t have to mix with ‘blacks’.”

    Now I do realise that in any sufficiently large group of people, a journalist will always succeed in finding an eejit who will gladly provide a quote to juice up her story. But from personal experience, I can confirm that this attitude does exist, even if it’s not expressed quite as frankly .

  120. J.W. Brewer says:

    I guess “Emily” better hope that this fellow http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/17/us/an-irish-tradition-with-an-only-in-america-star.html doesn’t decide to enroll in a gaelscoil.

  121. Nowhere near as forthright as the not-yet-as-drunk-as-he-needed-to-be-for-that fellow in the rural pub in Ireland who asked my wife and I how we could stand having all the “nig-nogs” in “our” country. Fortunately, that was before we had our brown daughter or browner grandson.

  122. Breffni says:

    lukas: I don’t doubt that there are Gaelscoil parents with ignoble motivations, though I haven’t either come across them or previously heard of their existence ( I have heard allegations of more general class snobbery). So while I’ll accept that ‘this attitude does exist’, I remain sceptical that ‘the recent success of the gaelscoileanna in Ireland is in no small part due to’ racism.
    To go slightly beyond anecdote, this graph (an Excel file) shows a very steady increase in pupils attending Gaelscoileanna since 1990, with no obvious jump around the beginning of large-scale immigration (which was around 2000, wasn’t it?). That doesn’t seem compatible with the view that racism is a significant factor.

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