The Hand That Rocks The Cradle
Blessings on the hand of women!William Ross Wallace
Angels guard its strength and grace,
In the palace, cottage, hovel,
Oh, no matter where the place;
Would that never storms assailed it,
Rainbows ever gently curled;
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.
The development of all European languages has been something of a contest between the natural language which children learn from their mothers and the artificial constraints imposed by pedagogs and politicians. These are the two primary forces controlling the evolution of any language - the antagonistic forces of change and stability.
In the natural course of events, babies will pick up words and rules in the family home. In a society where women stay at home and men work away from home, children's language will be dominated by maternal influences. The core of the language, its grammar and its most common words will be stabilised by maternal influences.
There is only one force that can overcome the influence of mothers on language, and that force is agendist education. It requires a large degree of snobbery and a huge superiority complex for someone to declare that their own use of language is 'correct', and that everyone else's is flawed, debased or primitive. The lessons of history show that there has never been a shortage of snobs to sneer and sniff and snipe at the users of natural language. Unfortunately, they are all too often supported by force of law and arms.
In a previous blog I stated that Latin is dead because it was killed off by an intellectual snobbery which pressed it into too tight a mould. It is a fact that when there are no more mothers speaking a natural language in the presence of their children, that language is dead. The death of a language most frequently arises when a dominant group imposes its language choices on a subject group.
In the case of French, as with English, the language spoken before the Romans arrived continued to evolve and was eventually restored as the national language. By an ordnance of Villers-Cotterets in 1539, French was made the official language of the courts, supplanting Latin. French at one time comprised over thirty dialects, of which one was eventually adopted as a standard through official policy. English had fewer dialects, and it was more by natural evolution than by diktat that a uniformity of language came to be established.
The English language has had more than its share of critics, decriers of the 'debasement' of the language, the 'encroachment' of foreign words, the 'fact' that most mothers speak appalingly bad English. Such people would complain on the one hand that children were not learning 'proper English' from their mothers, and on the other hand deny women access to the very education that could enhance their linguistic abilities.
A baby is born knowing no language. Within about five years the child has acquired a command of the grammar of its mother tongue that would put many a grammarian to shame. Children know intuitively not only how to construct sentences, but the rationale behind the process. For example, the prescriptive grammarian decries the splitting of the infinitive and the ending of a sentence with a preposition. On the other hand, a child might say: "I want some cookies." When asked why, the child might say: "Because I want some." In the case of "I want to play a game.", the question "Why?" will probably provoke the response: "Because I want to." The child understands that 'some' is a cue to an object word, and 'to' is a cue to an action word. A child understands "Where are you going to?" because that is a perfectly normal English construction. The child's grasp of grammar is an intuitive grasp of the slots into which words may be dropped. Without that understanding, a child could never grasp the grammarian's ideas of nouns and verbs, adverbs and adjectives.
The prescriptive grammarian, on the other hand, has no intuitive grasp of how language works. Most especially in the early rise of English as a national language, prescriptive grammarians wrote books in Latin showing how barbaric the English language was, and how it could be improved if only it could be forced into the Latin mould. These people would cite Cicero as a supreme example of a master of a pure language and its literary style. It is somewhat ironic that these Ciceronians failed to observe that Cicero, in his own writings, shows himself as a believer in the superiority of Greek philosophy and rhetoric to that of Rome.
The Mother Language
Babies acquire language merely by being in the presence of their mothers, siblings, family and friends. For all that people have different vocabularies, different accents and different speech preferences, if they are to communicate they must have a shared fundamental communication code - a grammar. A grammar is simply a communally shared method for the stringing of sounds together to make meaningful speech. A child, even a Greek child, needs no instruction in the formalities of synonym, antonym, metaphor, syntax, morphology. Language is a gift to us from our mothers. In matters of language, mother knows best.
The beauty of a language is not something to be imposed by authoritarians. It is not based on the opinions of long dead scholars and artists. The beauty of language is a gift from mother nature. The beauty is in the association of home and mother with all things good. What country can there be on earth more fair than this, the homeland, the motherland? What woman can there be more kind, more charming, more fair than a mother? How does anyone then dare to see an ugliness, a barbarity in a mother tongue?
The hand that rocks the cradle rules the word.
References and resources:
European charter for Regional languages TheFrenchCase.pdf