Saturday, 13 July 2013

Other sources of words and phrases

This current entry is in keeping with the last one. I started thinking about this while I was writing up the "word of the day" entry but I didn't quite know how to broach it given that what I want to talk about has very little examples in Inuktitut itself.

There are many words and phrases found in the English language (and I suspect in all European languages) that can be traced back to another language especially the Greco-Latin cultures (the "classical" cultures of ancient Greece and the younger Latin language). And no wonder; the cultural and linguistic achievements of these two great world cultures pervade almost everything that is the so-called Western civilization pre- and post- "dark ages".

Though—as I said—I couldn't quite think of similar examples in the Inuit language I happen to suspect this is merely a historical accident that, though it makes all the difference to people who are concerned about stuff like this, have no real semiological/psychological reasons for being the way it is.

I say "semiological/psychological" in a sense that though the etymological sources of (English) words may not exist in many human languages the very concepts/notions themselves are very familiar to any and all human cultures—as familiar as the whole gamut of human emotions that have been found and documented by anthropologists as commonalities to all human beings.

There are words and phrases in "English" (I put English in quotation marks because some of these terms are extant in other European languages) that may be traced back to, especially, ancient Greek: "cynic", "stoic", "platonic", "a Herculean task", "a Sisyphean effort", etc. that stem from the mythological and intellectual traditions of ancient Greece whose meanings have mutated and changed in hue and/or form and function such that ancient Greeks themselves may not even have had any clue were a modern English speaker able to say them to someone of those ages. No doubt these terms would have sounded strangely familiar but undecipherable as creole and pidginized languages are to standard English speakers.

Despite the many wondrous and complex social and scientific implications of such a scenario, suffice it to say that without these similarities linguistics as we know it today would never have taken hold. It was these very similarities that originally struck the old philologists and grammarians (primitive linguists) to sniff out and examine the width and extent of what was eventually found to be the huge Indo-European language family whose cradle comes from the Indus Valley civilization.

The Eskimo-Aleut language family is a little brother of the Indo-European language family because it covers the same type of spatial-temporal extent—proving definitively that all of humanity, not matter how seemingly disparate and apparently complex, differs only by degree and not in kind.

All of true scientific exploration adumbrates both divine and humbling aspects, spurning any semblance of pettiness that defines the very essence of ignorance and ego-centrism. It harkens back to the truism of Terence (Publius Terentius Afer):

"Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto", or "I am a human being, I consider nothing that is human alien to me." (quoted from his play, Heauton Timorumenos).

Jay

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