Monday, September 26, 2005

In the midst of Portuguese Irregular Verbs, McCall Smith's love for the Irish countryside and thoughts on the passing away of languages -

"Von Igelfeld looked out of the window. Little droplets of water coursed across the glass and made the countryside quiver. He had been thinking of how landscape moulds a language. It was impossible to imagine these hills giving forth anything but the soft syllables of Irish, just as only certain forms of German could be spoken on the high crags of Europe; or Dutch in the muddy, guttural, phlegmish lowlands. How sad it was that the language had been so largely lost; that it should survive only in these small pockets of countryside. This was happening everywhere. The crudities of the modern world were simplifying or even destroying linguistic subtleties. Irregular verbs were becoming regular, the imperfective subjunctive was becoming the present subjunctive or, more frequently, dissapearing altogether. Where previously there had been four adjectives to describe a favoured hill, or the scent of new-mown hay, or the action of threading the warp of a loom, now there would only be one, or none. And as we lost the words, von Igelfeld thought, we lost the texture of the world that went with them."


ps. Though its also true that with a new world comes new words to understand and define that world. But since the world is changing so much and so fast, somehow the beauty of language does not seem to be able to keep up with the change. Or maybe because this world seems to be hurtling in one direction where it does not pause and examine beauty in small things in quite the same way, the words don't reflect that "old world" sentiment, anymore. But it still is delightful when you can find those words and, understand the deepness of them, still.


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