Marcia Lynx Qualey on Arabic Literature.

Henry Ace Knight interviews Marcia Lynx Qualey, “a household name among students and aficionados of Arabic and Middle Eastern literature, many of whom avidly read her blog ArabLit.org.” There’s lots of interesting stuff there, for instance:

You wrote about the false claim of the emerging Arabic novel, and the distinction of “first Arabic novel” given to Muhammad Husayn Haykal’s Zaynab, in a recent post for Arab Lit. Could you talk a little more about that? Why is Zaynab frequently considered the first Arabic novel, and why is that problematic?

The idea of the “emergence of the Arabic novel” irks me, as if Arabs started writing in a meaningful way when they started writing European-style novels. Instead, I like to view aspects of the European novel as being folded—incorporated, absorbed—into a very long Arabic narrative tradition. I find the “first-novelling” [of Zaynab] problematic because this—like other “first” tropes—is posited as a point of arrival (“first woman —,” “first Black —”). In this case, it’s as though in order to be real modernites, Arabs have to write in a form pioneered by Daniel Defoe. Except DeFoe was probably influenced by Ibn Tufail (twelfth century). So. Also descriptively, I just think it works better to view the Arabic literary tradition not as having a death and rebirth-as-novel, but as having a continuous tradition wherein elements of the European novel are enthusiastically incorporated, toyed with, reimagined.

And this depressing passage was highlighted by Helen DeWitt at Paperpools, where I got the link; Qualey has been asked about “the movement towards writing in a regional dialect, rather than in Modern Standard Arabic”:

[Children’s literature] is a thorny issue. Some authors want to write picture books in spoken dialect—and some have, like Sonia Nimr—but publishers tend to be very opposed, as they want to be able to sell into multiple markets and submit to prizes. Unfortunately, this even goes for dialogue. I loved Rania Amin’s Screams Behind Doors, which won the Etisalat Prize for best YA novel last November, but it felt weird to have these girls speaking to each other in Modern Standard Arabic. Rania told me she’d written the dialogue in Egyptian, but the publisher “fixed” it, worried they couldn’t otherwise submit to prizes and suchlike. A bit galling.

Comments

  1. Bathrobe says:

    Why are you so in favour of using spoken dialects in Arabic?

  2. Because that’s what people speak! I can’t believe you can even ask the question. How can it be a good thing for people not to be able to use (or see) their own spoken language in writing?

  3. David Marjanović says:

    In Chinese terms, Arabic seems to be about as diverse as all of Chinese without Min and southern Wu or something.

  4. Bathrobe says:

    Come on, you of all people should know that people don’t write as they speak.

  5. Come on, you’re comparing differences of register with an entirely different language. Imagine yourself being forced to read and write in Old English; even if you got a thorough grounding in it in school, it wouldn’t feel like expressing yourself in your own language.

  6. David Marjanović says:

    The question shouldn’t even be “why”, it should be “why not”. Where’s the threat? What is anyone afraid of?

    you of all people

    Do you mean me? I’m indeed aware of that, but there are degrees. Let’s look at the German situation:
    – Austria: last common ancestor of dialects and standard around the 14th century; stable diglossia, except in Vienna where the dialect is moribund and the upper half of the distance is becoming a register continuum. When using the standard, especially in speaking, people avoid many grammatical forms that don’t occur in the dialects, and if pressed get them wrong on occasion for rarer words.
    – Switzerland: last common ancestor of most dialects and standard maybe around the 13th century; somewhat tenuous diglossia, in that the domain of the standard is somewhat contracting, dialect is used for some purposes on TV where standard is used in Austria, attempts to write dialects for very short texts are fairly often seen, many people are uncomfortable using the standard.
    – Northern Germany: last common ancestor of dialects and standard around the 6th century or something; dialects highly endangered, replaced by standard with thick dialect substrate.
    – Rest of Germany: occupies the spectrum between Austria and the north.

    Compare the Arabic situation: last common ancestor of dialects and standard around the 6th century or something; standard much more conservative than in German; lots of people who have real trouble understanding the standard and can’t speak it; Egyptian understood, but not spoken, far beyond Egypt because (much of?) the large and successful Egyptian film industry doesn’t use the standard.

    Proto-Slavic, BTW, is a 6th-century affair.

  7. people don’t write as they speak

    True, but the conventions for simplifying and standardising actual speech production into literary dialogue mostly have to do with eliminating disfluencies and converting the lines and stanzas of spoken discourse into grammatical sentences. It’s not a wholesale replacement of a language variety by a different one.

    I haven’t read Screams Behind Doors (not that I could read it in the Arabic original anyway), but I imagine it must feel like having Tank Girl speak in KJVesque English.

  8. What is anyone afraid of?

    Political fragmentation in the Chinese case, religious fragmentation in the Arabic one.

  9. Do you mean me?

    I assumed I was the intended interlocutor, but that may be sheer egotism.

  10. SFReader says:

    Interesting exercise. The last common ancestor of Written Mongol and Khalkha Mongolian (or Chakhar Mongolian or Buryat for that matter) was spoken, according to Janhunen in Late Pre-Proto-Mongolic stage (few centuries before rise of Mongolian empire).

    Written Mongol remains the standard language of Inner Mongolian Authonomous Region today, over a thousand years after ancestor of Southern Mongolian dialects diverged from Written Mongol.

    Still can’t compare with Arabic and Chinese levels of divergence between literary and spoken languages, but Old English is pretty close.

  11. Political fragmentation in the Chinese case, religious fragmentation in the Arabic one.

    Exactly. There are very powerful and deeply rooted vested interests in both cultures that have no interest in fostering dialects and the celebration of regional differences.

    I can imagine there are solid arguments that Arabs attachment to their native dialects have retarded economic and political development in the Arab world, mostly by making literacy so difficult for anyone in the lower economic tiers. In that sense the argument for discouraging Arabic dialects and promoting a simplified Fusha resemble the arguments for abolishing Chinese characters. What the world would lose in aesthetics, creativity, and connection to the past would be more than compensated by the gain in additional efficiency, greater economic output and hopefully wider participation in political and cultural life.

  12. attachment to their native dialects

    You mean their native languages. We’re not talking about trying to sound more like Standard American if you have a local dialect, we’re talking about having to learn to speak, say, Dutch instead of English. It’s absurd, and anyone who thinks the solution to the problem is for everyone (millions and millions of people, most of whom are worried about where next month’s rent is coming from, if not whether a bomb is going to fall on them) to start speaking official (quasi-Koranic) Arabic is not thinking clearly.

  13. I am not proposing a solution to a problem. I am simply wondering out loud if the Arab world would be better off today had some centralized government been able to impose a standard (whether Fusha, Egyptian or some compromise koine) on most of the Arab world the way standard languages were imposed on Japan, Italy or China. I agree the project is absurd, but for political, cultural and religious reasons, not linguistic reasons. A centralized government and economic incentives encouraged Welsh to speak English, forcing Moroccans to learn some Arabic koine would not have been nearly as difficult.

    we’re talking about having to learn to speak, say, Dutch instead of English.

    Maybe not the most felicitous example, given how easily Dutch seem to learn English. I assume it would work more or less the other way if English speakers had the slightest incentive to learn Dutch. Another case in point – the rapid spread of English in much of the EU over the last two decades to the point where even Poles and Czechs now communicate with each other in English.

  14. It’s a perfectly good example, in that even if English-speakers were forced to learn Dutch — which I agree they could do as easily as the Dutch learn English — it would not be natural to them to use it. To try and write literature in a foreign language, to express yourself in poetry or song, is not natural and can only result in artificiality.

  15. To try and write literature in a foreign language, to express yourself in poetry or song, is not natural and can only result in artificiality.

    Agreed on the general principle, especially if “a foreign language” is understood to include stultifyingly artificial and/or archaic versions of what the writer still perceives to be his/her own language. But you’re being too dogmatic about the principle. There are examples from Kalidasa to Cavafy of major poets working in a highly artificial literary language and finding a voice within that language’s calcified conventions, not in opposition to the conventions. (Admittedly Cavafy mixed katharevousa and demotic, but his base was katharevousa.) These are exceptions to the rule, but the exceptions exist.

  16. I can’t judge Kalidasa, but Cavafy is close enough to spoken Greek to be alive and kicking. If he were trying to write in koine (close enough to official Arabic for our purposes), it would be dead as a doornail.

  17. As I understand it, the 19th-century katharevousa that Cavafy used (combined with some demotic) was a “purified”, de-Byzantinized form of koine, and modern Greeks read him with no difficulty because katharevousa is still in use, artificial though it is. (Also of course Cavafy is in the top tier of a canon which retains high status among large numbers of Greeks.) I suspect that, if early in the 20th century Greece had switched comprehensively to the demotic in education, media and the bureaucracy, a modern Greek with no literary / religious education would find Cavafy hard work. But presumably not as much as, say, a modern Moroccan with no literary / religious education would find MSA had work.

    A more germane question, not that Cavafy isn’t interesting, is whether these parallels between the dead weight of foreign/archaic language A and foreign/archaic language B have much validity. I doubt that they do: in each case the relations between literary and demotic, the uses of literacy, the diffusion and influence of popular culture, the distance in time and circumstance of canonical tradition, are so sui generis that parallels just emphasise the differences.

  18. David Marjanović says:

    To try and write literature in a foreign language, to express yourself in poetry or song, is not natural and can only result in artificiality.

    Depends on how well you really know that language.

    But of course not many people know Standard Arabic that well.

  19. Do you mean me?

    Yes, I meant you, Hat, but I’m glad that David commented because he gave a very interesting perspective.

    In the case of Arabic, I’m sure that there must be people who see Western inclinations to break it up into separate languages as a plot to weaken Arabic culture…

  20. whether these parallels between the dead weight of foreign/archaic language A and foreign/archaic language B have much validity

    This is just a specific example of the general issue of analogy. Since an analogy is by definition not an identity, there will always be people who say “That’s not relevant because of the following differences” (going on to point out the fact that the proposed analogy is not identical). But to lean on that is to destroy the utility of analogy, which is to shed light on a familiar situation/argument by approaching it from a different angle. Sure, all those foreign/archaic language situations are different, but the point is the same, and as far as I’m concerned holds for all of them: normal, non-antiquarian people (and this is not a knock on antiquarians, just pointing out that they are in a distinct minority) cannot naturally express themselves in a language that is not their own, and attempts at such expression are bound to be in some sense dead. I will be posting on this today.

  21. In any case, poets are irrelevant. Art involves artifice, and even poets who use the vernacular always make it more or less artificial. AAVE poetry doesn’t resemble conversational AAVE all that much either. It’s ordinary people who use reading and writing instrumentally that need a written language close to the vernacular to truly gain the advantages of literacy.

  22. In any case, poets are irrelevant.

    An all too common, but mistaken, view.

  23. “Oh, come on, now you’re just trying to bait me.” —Languagehat

    I mean, of course, that poetic practice is irrelevant to the question of whether it’s important to be able to write in the vernacular.

  24. Of course, but how could I resist?

  25. As David’s example of Standard German vs. Low German shows, it is possible to force a standard that is quite different from the spoken language on people and get them to speak it instead of their previous variety. Similar things have happened all over Europe – French replacing Occitan, Tuscan replacing e.g. Gallo – Provencal. And as Welsh has been mentioned – we all know the cases where the standard that replaced the previously spoken language was only very distantly related or not at all (English replacing Irish or hundreds of other languages all over the world). So it would certainly be possible for MSA to replace the spoken Arabic languages if the Arab nations would put there minds to it and work on it effectively. It’s probably what would have happened if the Arab world would have developed an effective, modern nation state in the 19th century. Back then, such a replacement would have been mostly regarded as a good thing.
    I don’t know whether the current situation of diglossia with the written language being quite distant is perhaps better for local dialects and for minority languages like Berber than a written standard based on national koine versions (*Egyptian, *Algerian, *Syrian), which would replace the local dialects and the minority languages more easily?
    Maybe people who know the situation on the ground better than me (e.g. Lameen) can comment on that?

  26. This is just a specific example of the general issue of analogy. Since an analogy is by definition not an identity, there will always be people who say “That’s not relevant because of the following differences” (going on to point out the fact that the proposed analogy is not identical). But to lean on that is to destroy the utility of analogy, which is to shed light on a familiar situation/argument by approaching it from a different angle.

    I was being too sweeping in my comment. Analogies are helpful if there are some points of resemblance in the larger framework (e.g. the transition to the vernaculars in the Germanic vs the Romance languages). But when the larger framework is very different, all that analogies do (for me) is confirm that the cases are very different, which doesn’t get beyond the starting point.

  27. Cocobean says:

    An interesting thread. Reminds me of the discussions I’ve had with my father over the years. His family are Kurds from Iran, but his father being exiled meant that he grew up in Iraqi Kurdistan. He scored highly in his baccalaureate exams and went on to Baghdad Law School. As he explained it, even by his 3rd year he still didn’t have a mastery of Baghdadi dialect, yet he routinely outscored his Arab classmates in law exams. He often recounts the story of his first visit to the dentist when he moved to Baghdad: the dentist said something to him in Baghdadi Arabic, my father looked at him with a blank look, until the dentist realised he was probably Kurdish and told him to open his mouth in Fusha.

    It was the same case for a great uncle I had. He came top of his year in his Arabic literature exams at Baghdad University, wrote literary criticism for a few journals, but could only speak Baghdadi dialect haltingly.

    As I’ve come to understand it, it’s highly unnatural for people to speak Fusha in the Arabic world. It’s a different language. My father often testifies to the fact that being a non-Arab in Iraq, the differences were even more apparent, in that it was like learning two different Arabic languages in a setting where everything else was Kurdish. Most non-Arabs would only get exposure because of military service; my father was no exception, as he had to serve for over 18 months in an all-Arab unit, where there were no other Kurds. This is where he really learnt his Baghdadi dialect.

    He still enjoys watching those heated Arabic debate programs on TV and pointing out their grammatical errors. And whenever there’s an Arabic-speaker from North Africa (Maghreb) he comments on the poor-state of their Fusha fluency/grammar/pronunciation.

    Kurdish and Persian, which my father also grew up with, are nowhere near as difficult to master. The written standards do diverge, but it’s pretty straightforward.

  28. Bathrobe: “In the case of Arabic, I’m sure that there must be people who see Western inclinations to break it up into separate languages as a plot to weaken Arabic culture…”

    Why yes – that’s practically the default view, in fact.

    Languagehat: “normal, non-antiquarian people […] cannot naturally express themselves in a language that is not their own, and attempts at such expression are bound to be in some sense dead. I will be posting on this today.”

    I don’t see that post, but it sounds like it would be interesting… I hope to post soon on a comedy video that kind of illustrates that point.

    Hans: For MSA to replace the spoken Arabic languages, you’d need a revival effort on the scale of what happened with Hebrew – nothing less would do. European standardization efforts generally had the advantage of using the grammar, sound system, and basic vocabulary of a language someone actually spoke in daily life – often, in fact, the day-to-day language of significant segments of the upper classes, and failing that at least the home language of many peasants. Diglossia does mean that MSA is in absolutely no danger of replacing local dialects – but only because the dialects of national capitals are busy doing that instead…

    Cocobean:
    “And whenever there’s an Arabic-speaker from North Africa (Maghreb) he comments on the poor-state of their Fusha fluency/grammar/pronunciation.”

    Funny, that’s what my (Algerian) father tends to do with Arabic speakers from the Gulf…

  29. Diglossia does mean that MSA is in absolutely no danger of replacing local dialects – but only because the dialects of national capitals are busy doing that instead…
    Thanks for puting me right on this, I had assumed that the fact that the influence of the national koine would be weaker as it isn’t normally used for written communication.

  30. I don’t see that post, but it sounds like it would be interesting

    It’s this one.

  31. Etienne says:

    Cocobean: your father and great-uncle’s stories remind me of a naïve speaker of Kabyle Berber of my acquaintance who told me that while his command of MSA was excellent, his command of Algerian dialect was (in his words) atrocious. Echoing Hans, it seems to me that such a situation is indeed quite favorable to maintaining minority languages: indeed, a scholar (I don’t remember who, but I think he wrote in German) once observed that had it not been for the diglossic situation in Greece local minority languages such as Aromanian would have lost far more ground than they actually did: as he argued, the fact that the H form of Greek was nobody’s L1 meant that language shift to (this variety of) Greek was not an option (for Aromanian speakers, or indeed for anyone) and that the L form of Greek had as little prestige among its native speakers as Aromanian did among its speakers meant that there was no incentive among Aromanian speakers to shift to what was, to their eyes, simply another vernacular, neither more nor less prestigious than their L1.

    It seems to me that the linguistic situation of the Arab world today is most reminiscent of German-speaking Switzerland: the standard written language is nobody’s L1 (In Switzerland, please note!) but dominates written communication as well as formal spoken communication, while “on the ground” local dialects are alive and well, with the urban varieties influencing or even (in some instances) replacing rural varieties.

    And indeed, another linguist (I think either Antoine Meillet or Albert Dauzat) has argued that the stable diglossia in German-speaking Switzerland was a factor favorable to the survival of Romansh.

    This brings up some very interesting and awkward issues for language planning, inasmuch as it seems, on the basis of the above examples, that the survival of minority languages on the one hand and the improvement of the sociolinguistic status of demographically dominant vernaculars on the other are incompatible with one another (if the demographically dominant vernacular is the language endangering demographically non-dominant languages).

  32. As you say, interesting and awkward; I hadn’t thought about that aspect of things.

  33. minus273 says:

    Ah, that’s the old thing about nationalism: you can either have a pan-ethnic natio polonica which excludes the commoners, or a popular Polish nation which excludes those who are not ethnically Polish, but not both.

  34. That’s only because the PLC was destroyed early. If it had survived to this day, there is every reason to suppose that citizenship would have grown steadily, as in that other hotbed of civic nationalism, the U.S.

  35. Cocobean says:

    Lameen:

    That’s interesting. And I’m really not surprised. I routinely have conversations about Arabic with my father and I think what he meant was that a Maghrebi speaker, in his opinion, was usually less likely to have mastered Fusha than a Mashreqi. This does not mean, however, that it’s always the case, as you’ve pointed out with your anecdote about your father. My father has also done the same “live” grammar correction exercise with Arabs from the Gulf. He also seems to think that Egyptians have the easiest time mastering Fusha.

    What’s also interesting when I spoke to my father the other day about this — although I can’t prove this beyond the anecdote itself — is that apparently in Iraq, some of the most well known masters of Arabic grammar were Kurds or Turkmen. And it seems that this had something to do with the reality that they had to learn mutiple languages outside of their own and had to try harder in some cases to master Fusha, while some Arabs were complacent in this regard. Places like the contested-city of Kirkuk, for example, has always been a place of multilingualism, and in fact was a source of recruitment for the Ottoman civil service. According to family friends who grew up there, most Turkmen and Kurds would speak Kurdish, Turkmen and Arabic, but Arabs would rarely bother learning the other two languages. And if one was studying in a traditional Kurdish-Sufi medrese, then you were also likely to pick up and even master Persian (though this is less likely today).

    Etienne:

    That’s very a illuminating note about Aromanian. I’ve actually thought about this when it comes to Kurdish in the case of Iraq too — where Kurds were probably the least likely to be linguistically assimilated compared with Turkey or Iran.

    Pre-1991 and before the establishment of the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government), Kurdish was taught in many parts of Kurdistan.This had been a case since the 1920s, but it wasn’t seen as important as “serious learning” was done in Arabic; if you took Kurdish in your high-school baccalaureate exams, your grade didn’t count in the end as this was seen to be unfair to non-Kurds and would give your “average score” an unfair boost. This meant that most students would try harder to study for Arabic, as this would have a direct impact upon what they could potentially study at university level, as well as the fact that it was the official language and facilitated social mobility. But, as you pointed out with the Greek case, because many (if not most) Kurds were not fluent in dialect, it meant that they were in effect learning a language that was not spoken natively. This actually helped, in my opinion, to preserve various archaic Kurdish varieties. My grandfather’s mother tongue, for example, was “Gorani” — once a literary koine and prestige dialect. This is probably now spoken by less than 100,000-200,000 Kurds along the Iranian-Iraqi border. Moreover, 30-50 years ago someone speaking Standard Kurdish with a Gorani-speaker would have probably been replied to in Gorani, as there was a sort of sociolinguistic equilibrium, and vice versa. This goes for other Kurdish varieties in Iraqi Kurdistan, like Southern Kurdish (which exists in Iranian Kurdistan too). Post 1991, however, Standard Kurdish has gained ground and most of these varieties/dialects of Kurdish are under threat.

    The above is exactly what you described, but under the umbrella of “Kurdish” — as a sociolingustic term. So the advancement and continued spread of a demographically dominant vernacular (Standard Central Kurdish) has actually threatened minority vernaculars within “Kurdish” itself — in the Iraqi case, Gorani and Southern Kurdish.

    For more information on Gorani and Southern Kurdish:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawrami_dialects

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gorani_language_(Zaza-Gorani)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_Kurdish

    If we look at Iran, however, we can see that linguistic/national/cultural minorities are being assimilated at a greater pace. Persian isn’t that difficult to master, especially for a Kurd. And the spoken and written varieties do not exhibit the extreme diglossia of Arabic. This means that after many non-Persians have been through the education system (and if they’ve done well), they’ve attained a fairly good mastery of written and spoken Persian. Even in the Kurdish and Azerbaijani Turkish cities, spoken Persian is starting to spread and is in some cases even replacing Kurdish and Azeri Turkish within homes. This was never the case in Iraq. Even Kurds who lived in Baghdad for 100-200 years kept their Kurdish alive. However, when I take a look at my cousins who have lived in Tehran for 30-50+ years, they’ve been thoroughly Persianised not just culturally (which is perhaps expected) but also linguistically.

  36. I’ve probably come too late to this debate, but languagehat, I think you greatly overstate the problem of people writing in a language that is “not their own.” People across time and space have written in the language of their education, not necessarily of their daily speech. I can’t tell you how many people I knew in Paris who were native speakers of other languages but, having been educated in French, found it easier and more natural to compose their thoughts on paper in French rather than their native tongues. In Arabic as well there are many writers who would find it more difficult to write in dialect than in standard Arabic – sure, they would have no problem communicating in their native tongue, but when striving for eloquence and elegance, they fall back on the lifetime of reading they have done which has all been in standard Arabic. Arabic literature is an ocean, and the majority of it (whether from the 21st century or the 10th) has been written by people who were educated in standard Arabic while speaking something quite different; many were not even Arabs themselves. I wonder if you think Joseph Conrad would have done better to stick to Polish?

  37. The problem is not people writing in a language that is not their own, but people who are illiterate in their own language. If I, by reason of education, spoke English natively but could only read and write French, I would be cut off from the riches of anglophone civilization. But at least I could apply myself to become literate in English! People who speak an L language don’t even have that option.

  38. SFReader says:

    But what is lost by being illiterate in your own language if nothing is written in it?

    Isn’t that loss a rather hypothetical? Seems a bit a like notion of lost profits in copyright infringement cases.

    You can’t lose it if you don’t have it in the first place.

  39. gwenllian says:

    But what is lost by being illiterate in your own language if nothing is written in it?

    How about the chance to write something in it yourself?

  40. Exactly, and it’s not just you, it’s everyone else in your position. All L speakers are in a literacy liquidity trap, Persian Empire style: all the gold is locked up in the king’s treasury, and there is none left to lubricate trade (until an Alexander comes along).

  41. SFReader says:

    Writing in Arabic dialects is pretty common in Latin script, for SMS messaging and Internet chats, for example.

    I suppose, it could be used if someone has a really strong desire to write something more profound in a dialect.

  42. Novels and other things have been already been written in colloquial Arabic. There are many reasons why they don’t succeed in addition to linguistic purism or narrower audiences (anyone educated in Arabic can read a standard Arabic novel, but only Yemenis–and not even all Yemenis–would be able to read a novel composed in Yemeni Arabic). In English, the great literary works of the Harlem Renaissance were not written in AAVE. They were largely written in standard English and used AAVE to a particular effect in dialogues. And even the dialogues, in many cases, were in a kind of mix of standard English and AAVE rather than pure AAVE. This is all very similar to the strategies employed by Arabic writers. It’s my opinion that a certain kind of distance, and a certain kind of groundedness in a literary tradition, play a big role in producing great literature, and writing exactly as one speaks is not necessary for those ends – if anything, it can impede them.

  43. But (Western) Europe went through all the same arguments when written Latin was replaced by vernaculars. It was a long time ago and, who knows, under different circumstances might have turned out differently (there was about zero chance of mass education in Latin), but immediacy of reading in a language that you speak natively cannot be replaced by anything.

  44. languagehat, I think you greatly overstate the problem of people writing in a language that is “not their own.” People across time and space have written in the language of their education, not necessarily of their daily speech.

    Yes, of course people do it, and it’s often the best solution in a given sociocultural situation. That doesn’t mean it’s ideal and that no improvements need be contemplated. “Would Joseph Conrad have done better to stick to Polish?” is a meaningless question; if he had, Polish literature would have been enriched and English literature diminished, but he made the choice that worked for him in his situation. I am certainly not saying “everyone should be forced at gunpoint to write only in their native tongue”; I am saying people should have that option. If someone chooses to write in English or French, great, more power to them! If an entire population is cut off from the possibility of writing in their own language: not great.

    immediacy of reading in a language that you speak natively cannot be replaced by anything.

    Exactly.

  45. E: Romania has about the same population as Yemen, and manages to publish about 15,000 books a year, which is the same number relative to its GDP as the U.K. Granted, Romania’s GDP is ten times greater than Yemen’s, but you’d think Yemenis could support 1500 books a year — if only there were a language to write those books in that people knew how to read.

    D.O.: s/Western/Eastern/; s/Latin/Church Slavonic/.

  46. January First-of-May says:

    D.O.: s/Western/Eastern/; s/Latin/Church Slavonic/.

    Wanted to mention something similar – though of course you put it much more succinctly.

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