Sunday, December 6, 2009

Reaction Paper on Ostler’s “Empires of the Word”

In Ostler’s book, I noticed that he tries to uncover the different constructions or formations of different languages. He also focuses on the histories of these languages by considering the histories of the people or places themselves who or which use these languages. In studying the histories of these languages, we can see which language has been the most effective one as reflected by its security and spread or survival and growth in numbers of people who speak the language.
If people naturally struggle to claim dominance over one another, cultures also do, and languages themselves, too.
According to Ostler, there are two main causes of the spread of a particular language: sweep-aside or colonization and re-education or recruiting the local elites. The English language, like Latin by the Romans and French in the early modern period, did spread by re-education or recruiting the local elites.
I believe that in our country, the English language will not decline. And as for me, some of the Filipino languages are even much more likely to decline than English is. As Ostler says, it is possible now for large populations, of not necessarily wealthy people, to learn a language orally from an early age, if that language is associated with cultural or economic power. And as we all may perceive, the English language is so powerful when it comes to our own country’s economy. In fact, people in the provinces, like Cebu, practice their own language but are even much more aware with the English language than our own Tagalog language.
Nevertheless, language is a living thing, it matures and evolves. Thus, the endangered languages in the country, or generally the Filipino language, can be preserved through time, or it can even be developed and enhanced. In order to achieve this, we have to be able to maintain and grow the “speaker community”. After all, according to Ostler, the only threat to a language comes from a decline in speaker attitudes toward it; therefore, speakers must associate it with at least some of their daily needs or higher goals.

Relao, Eileen Kae A.

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