De vele stemmen van intelligentie

Eind 2009 overleed Dell Hymes. In het uitermate inspirerende opstel ‘Inequality in Language: Taking for Granted’ noteerde deze vooraanstaande Amerikaanse sociolinguïst en taalkundige antropoloog onder meer:

“Character does not come in one accent alone; intelligence has many voices. We take this so for granted within linguistics that we may forget to teach it […] The truth is that we must never take for granted that what we take for granted is known to others. Elementary assumptions of linguistics can be liberating for those to whom they are unknown. The task of confronting misconceptions about the status of languages, as languages, may never be over […]”

“In the United States there are people, progressive in outlook, who are surprised to meet or hear of someone who studies Indian languages. Are they really “languages”, our daughter was asked by such a person. […]”

“Wherever there is a variety of English that differs from a certain standard, there will be those who will see it, not as different, but as deficient. Yet the burgeoning creativity of those in Africa and Asia and the Pacific, replanting English, cross-breeding English, their novel integrations of resources, add color and beauty to the world, to those who can see them as configurations of their own.”

“The task may continue to be true indefinitely with what can be called the ‘hidden injuries of accent’. I have argued in the past that there are those with a vested interest in bemoaning the decline of the language, and that even if everyone, say, spoke a recognizably standard English, they would create a hierarchy, say, of adverbs, and continue to lament. At present we are far from so esoteric a condition […]”

“In this context one should note the widespread assumption that a brain has room for only one language. If that were true for Americans, they would have to be classed as biologically deficient, since multilingualism is normal in most of the world. Note the frequent opinion that difference of language is divisive. Difference of language is not itself divisive; it can become a symbol of conflict in certain economic and political circumstances.”

Uit: Ethnography, Linguistics, Narrative Inequality. Toward an Understanding of Voice, Taylor & Francis, Londen, 1996: 208 ff.

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