Saturday 29 October 2011

Native language?


NCPs pp 201-2


"We each have a native language of our own - at least potentially.


"... the inherited, first-learned language - what is usually mis-called 'native' - bites in early and deep. It is hardly possible to escape from its influence. And later-learned languages also affect the natural style, colouring a man's linguistic taste; the earlier learned the more so.


"In such rare dreams as I was thinking about, far away by oneself in voiceless countries, then your own native language bubbles up, and makes new names for strange new things. "


Tolkien's understanding of such matters is that we inherit much more than 'genes' - but also cultural dispositions, including linguistic.

And that we are drawn, spontaneously, to that which 'fits' these dispositions.

I think Tolkien also regarded these dispositions as 'normative' - as something which ought to structure our lives and efforts (certainly if we are to achieve waht be are best fitted to achieve).


I have a hunch that something of the kind described by Ramer in the NCPs has happened to me in dreams - making up new words for new things; but I have zero recollection of the nature of the language used (native or otherwise) or its relationship to actual terrestrial and historic language.

(Indeed, I suspect the language may have been random/ nonsense/ punning stuff.)


I have, indeed, a feeble aptitude - and perhaps consequently a weak appetite - for learning languages. So what my 'native' language might be 'like' is hard to discern.

The languages I like to hear (aside from English) include Middle English and Old English; and of foreign languages I can recall listening to German radio as a youngster - just to hear the sound of the speech. Swedish sounds pleasing to me.

All these are obviously Gothic-type Northern European languages, but breaking that mould I find Castilian Spanish is lucid and exciting (Tolkien said the same - and he also liked the Castilian-esque Esperanto. Perhaps this preference was related to his half-Spanish Guardian, Fr. Francis?).

I don't much like the sound or sense of French (which I learned for five years, and know better than any other except Middle English), nor Italian, nor indeed Latin (much), nor any of the Gaelics nor Welsh.


But all of these are very superficial preferences and aversions.

So I have not, yet, found a key to my own 'native' tongue.



dearieme said...

"So I have not, yet, found a key to my own 'native' tongue."

Then haud yer wheesh.

Felix said...

We're told that the faithful pilgrim will be given a name when he or she reaches Zion.

I suggest that this name will be the key to one's own language.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Felix - it's a delightful idea.