March of the Evil Empires!
English versus the feudal languages!!
VED from VICTORIA INSTITUTIONS
First drafted in 1989. First online edition around 2000
It is foretold! The torrential flow of inexorable destiny!
Part 1 - An Introduction to a perspective
2. English in comparison with other languages
To begin on what I am harping on, I need to discuss on the comparison of English with other languages. (I must put it on record that I do not know many other languages including European languages). Here, I am forced to warn the reader that for at least a few pages, he may seem to be in a sea of unfamiliar terms and usages.
NOTE dated 21st May 2016: Please read one of my latest books: What is different about pristine-ENGLISH?
English is a non-hierarchical language when compared to many other languages. For our immediate purpose, I may compare it with some Indian languages. One may discern certain striking factors in Indian languages*, when one look from the pedestal of English. The main thing would be that communication is highly graded with different words used in connection with different level of persons.
For example, take the case of the word You. In most Indian languages, this word splits into three different words: In Hindi, it metamorphosis into Aap*, Thum and Thu. These words stand in three different social standing. Yet, if we say that they completely stand in three different social levels, then it would not give the complete picture. For, all these words do have a very complicated effect, all depending on who is addressing whom, the relationship between them, the level of intimacy between them, the context of the communication etc. all tending to have a very complicated effect not only on them, but also on the persons around them.
In the South Indian languages*, these words start with such words as Nee (Tamil, Malayalam), Neenu (Kannada) etc. Then comes the next level of words, such as Ningal, Neenga, Nimbdhu etc. The third level is that of Thangal, Ungal etc. However it is not correct to say that all the three levels in the different languages do have corresponding and equivalent social implication. For, the effects of each are different in the different languages, and differing societies. For, the Hindi Aap does not fully correspond with Thangal of Malayalam. It is more equivalent to Ningal of Malabari (erstwhile language of Malabar). Yet, in certain contexts, Aap cannot be said to be equal to Ningal, especially when used to the officialdom.
In Malayalam, another word has come into usage in very recent times. That is Saar. This is more equal to Aap (You) and a little beyond and does not just mean You, but also means He, She etc. and also has become a word to signify a social title. It also has a cumulative meaning of Sir.
Then, we can take the case of the word He. This also splits into a lot of equivalent words, each with different social significances. In Hindi, the words can be USS and UNN. In the Malayalam, they are, more or less, converted into the words Avan, Ayal, Avar, Adheham, Saar etc.
For the word She, the words may be Aval, Avaru etc.
And for animals, generally the term used is equal to the word It or the lower term for the word He, or She is used.
The same effect comes for the term used in the sense For him, For her etc. And also, for the words used for meaning His and Her.
There are many other finer issues that also have a cumulative negative effect on the communication between the different persons in the vernacular society. One is the use of the name of a person. In English, it may be used for referring or for addressing, with or without a Mr., Mrs., or Miss. prefixed to it, depending on whether there is a formal or informal relation between the person who uses it and the person referred to. In a minor way, it might indicate a seniority or otherwise by the usage of the prefixes. However, in vernacular languages, names cannot be used without a proper fixing of a factor of respect to it. And, its absence could very well indicate a lot more about a person’s social inferiority; and this usage (i.e. the absence of respect) would come with a package of all other words, such as the words for He, You, For him, His all in the lower indicant level etc.
In English, name can be used for addressing, referring to, calling etc. in the first name form in casual cases, and in the surname form in formal cases. However in Indian languages, its use in the above situations is heavily restricted. Names can be used at random by the senior with regard to a junior or lesser person; but the reverse is not possible. Even when used in the latter case, it must be suffixed with a term of respect. This term must be understood to be different in sense from such prefixes as Mr. or Mrs., for these are, more or less, neutral in terms of respect. The indicant terms of unavoidable respect in feudal languages do impress upon the person, who concedes it, of his own inferiority.
Moreover, expressions of formal respect cannot ordinarily be reciprocated, or given back, without the situation seeming funny. Even though in the English context, addressing a person, say an executive in a company by a salesman by his surname with a Mr. prefixed would go unnoticed, in the Indian context only really self-confident persons with real background would dare to do so. And that too, when speaking in English. And, this is true in the case of communication between other elements of society. When a person is calling his elder brother, a younger person is addressing a person whose age is a more, even a bit more, in all these situations the elder is addressed with a term of respect suffixed.
I have not yet been able to understand why almost all Indian terms of respect are in the form of a suffix and not in the form of a prefix. The prefixing words like Mr., Mrs. etc. do not somehow suit the Indian understanding of respect. There might be a real logical reason for it; but at present, it is not known.
NOTE added on the 21st of May 2016: Please read my book: Codes of reality! What is language?
So, the terms Mr., Mrs. etc., which are used as prefixes, are themselves understood as terms of impertinence in the Indian languages. And so, when one tries to bring in a sort of informality in acutely obsequious relationship with subordinates and tell them to address by just a Mr. prefixed, the affect is a complete disaster. For, the subordinates understand it is as a sort of breakdown of formal relationships, and go in for complete non-usage of Mr. and enter into the first name relationships. Actually, what was intended was only an attempt to establish a formal relationship, by avoiding of a feudal relationship.
It is possible that wherever Indians, who have not been tutored in the correct conventions of English usage, go, they would bring in a breakdown of beautiful English conventions. And naturally, the long-term effect on serene English social settings can be imagined.
When discussing all these aspects from a distance and with the insulation given by distance, one may not understand the power these words have, when one is living in a society that function in these languages. In other words, when the software, on which societies function is having these peculiarities, then whenever one wants to interact in a free manner, unhindered by restraints, then these languages would start functioning as if they are infected with a software virus. That is, at each vital point a program would get activated that would hinder communication.
It is not correct to say that there is always a hindering of passage of ideas. The opposite is also true. For, if the various persons in the varying social positions use the correct words, proper for each social position, then acceleration in velocity of not only communication, but also of actions is also discernible.
When discussing this aspect of language, one of the main limitations is the fact that I have to do it in English, for the understanding of the English speaker. Many of whom do not know and have not experienced the crippling effect this has on human psyche. It may be understood that what I aim to relate to you is the greatest factor that effect human societies, and clearly defines why English societies have a natural tendency to develop into beautiful nations, while many others exist in varying levels ranging from pure barbarism through the semi-civilised societies in Africa and Asia; the bewildered societies of East Europe and to the reasonably developed nations of Asia, Africa and West Europe. Understanding the inner social program of each individual language can explain why different linguistic groups show large, well-defined social behaviour pattern and can very well account for the repetition of, more or less, same historical follies, and incidences in the different nations.
The native English speaker has no idea how good a communication software, he is in possession of. He has no inkling that when he is using the words You, He, She, His, Her, Him, and Mr., Mrs., Miss. etc. his communication program is running fast, and without any hindrance, when compared to another person whose communication program is in another language. The English speaker is not aware that the other man who is using a software other than English, has to monitor other persons’ actions, levels of social functioning and many other factors and make a value evaluation and start using the appropriate package of words, at each and every commencement of, and also during the duration of communication with another person or about another person. He also has no idea that for every package of words that he uses, he is putting himself for the evaluation of others, who also strive to measure him and place him on either a pedestal or a lower platform.
When any non-English speaking person starts speaking English, he can immediately feel the mental freedom this language is giving him. Hence, for this person, life in an English environment would be more liberated, at whatever level he is functioning. Yet, the same cannot be said if an English man were to function in a non-English environment. If he were on the top, everybody below him would praise his equanimity, sense of poise, and his gentleness. But if he has to function at any level below, with non-English speaking persons above him, and in an environment of no English, then it would be an environment of mental darkness. He would have to bear a new sort of mental and physical suppressing, which he may not be able to explain, and he himself would doubt his mental sanity. And others would find that he is snobbish, unwieldy, unmanageable and a general nuisance to the feudal set-up.