Jun. 27th, 2006

rfmcdonald: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] czalex's recent post on how Russophones in Russia continue to define the norms of the Russian language, going so far as to deny regional variants of Russian spoken outside of Russia's boundaries--in Belarus, for instance--recognition as legitimate to the point of regulating the names of the speakers' countries. This reminded of many of the issues that I noted in my March post on la francophonie, particularly on the divide between speakers of French in France and speakers of French outside of France. People don't like it when they're told that the language that they speak is an unacceptable deviation from the standard language that must be corrected, especially when the language difference relates directly to emotionally-charged political relationships.

The French language, at least, is an emergent pluricentric language, one with multiple standards (major standards, as Wikipedia indicates, with Canadian and French variants, minor variants in Belgium and Switzerland and Acadia, emergent variants in the Caribbean, Africa, and the Pacific). The fact that these standards exist has at least as much to do with the political fragmentation of the Francophone world as it does with the fact that that a slim but growing majority of speakers of French live outside of metropolitan France. (Some of) the French might still resist the influence of other Francophone cultures, but theirs is a losing battle.

Insofar as it's possible to make comparisons, the Russian language now is where the French language was in the 1960s. Despite the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian language's speakers are still widely distributed across Eurasia; more, unlike French in 1962, Russia in 1992 started out with tens of millions of people living outside the frontiers of the Federation who spoke Russian as a first language. Unlike French in 1962, though, the Russian language was placed in direct competition with other languages already well-established as standards and was indeed often unpopular because of its prior associations, while many of the Russian first-language speakers who found themselves outside of Russia's frontiers have emigrated to Russia. As Russophone populations contract through natural decrease, as Central Asia and the Caucasus become more nationally homogeneous, as the Baltic States continue their effective monolingualism, and--most critically--as Russia's western neighbours promote their languages (Ukrainian, Moldovan/Romanian, perhaps soon Belarusian) ahead of Russian, the influence of the Russian language will inevitably decrease.

The Russian language is now facing a critical period. Russian may well manage to hold its own, experiencing only limited decline, if Russian economic growth continues and the Federation's cultural and political weight grows. Even now, measured on a variety of metrics (population, GDP, land area) Russian is as important a Western language as French or Portuguese. Allowing the growth of regional variants of the Russian language--in the Baltic States, in Ukraine, in Central Asia--will, if anything, make the Russian language more attractive. Harassing non-Russian speakers of Russian to the point of denying them the right to name their own countries is exactly the sort of hegemonic behaviour that will make other languages seem more attractive, relatively easily as second languages and perhaps even as first languages. People don't like to be told what to say.

UPDATE (8:24 AM, 27 June) : HTML corrected.
rfmcdonald: (Default)

  • David Boaz's blog post "Stumbling in Sweden" has created a significant debate around Johan Norberg's article in the summer 2006 issue of The National Interest, "Swedish Models". Norberg's contention that Sweden has been experiencing slow decline owing to the post-1970 expansion of the welfare state is controversial. Certainly the debate below Boaz's post is fierce.

  • Karl D. John's Asia Times article "Vietnam's south takes leadership wheel" examines the growing influence of south Vietnamese in Vietnam's political and economic hierarchies.

  • Henry Farrell at Crooked Timber takes a look at The New Republic's hostility to bloggers. He, and commenters, are unimpressed.

  • [livejournal.com profile] angel80 dissects the claims and failings of the Japanese whaling industry. It turns out that the Japanese aren't that fond of whale meat, after all. Why, then, a pro-whaling position? Vested interests.

rfmcdonald: (Default)
Following links throughout the blogosphere last night, I came upon Joe My God's reposted essay "Watching The Defectives". A spirited defense of Pride Parades in their full outrageousness, the author makes the point that, in their uncensored forms, they're a necessary rite for a traumatized community still in the process of recovery.

Joe makes some good points--I agree with him, honestly, that homophobes can easily be more terrified of seemingly conventional non-straights ("They're everywhere!") than of people they can pick out on sight. That said, there may well be a generation gap or a lack of shared experience between him and me; I still feel, as I wrote last year, that the main function of Pride is to function as a carnival. There were a lot of straight couples this year.
rfmcdonald: (Default)
Travelling north from the Bloor TTC station, I caught a glimpse of an untitled poem by Franco-Ontarian writer Stefan Psenak subscribed to the TTC's "Poetry on the Way" program.

She sips the bitter coffee, her eyes at once an
affront and protection. She lowers her head, find-
ing him neither handsome nor fascinating. She
doesn't even like him, but enjoys certain aspects of
him, such as the comforting way he says, "Wait,
let me make you a cup of good coffee."
rfmcdonald: (Default)
I caught The Da Vinci Code tonight with an old friend from Queen's, and was surprised at how much I enjoyed the film. Tom Hanks was merely adequate, Audrey Tautou was good, Ian McKellan chewed up his scenes gloriously, and Ron Howard's filming was surprisingly pedestrian, but then, I went in expecting little enough as was. Possibly I should have spent my $11.95 more wisely, but the film was about as good as it could have been given the source material.

I still have to agree with the opinion expressed in The Rough Guide to Cult Fiction that The Da Vinci Code reads not as a novel but rather as a schematic for a computer game: The player identifies with the protagonist of Langdon, is plunged unexpectedly into a complex adventure, is sent to complete with his sidekick multiple levels (several in Paris, one in the French countryside, one on the plane, several in London, a final in Scotland), and ends up seeing, as reward for completing the game, the final secrets via a bonus computer animation. Though I'd not read the novel completely, mainly because I'd already read Holy Blood, Holy Grail and didn't see any reason to inflict Brown's prose upon myself, I was told by my companion that the film followed the novel fairly faithfully. I wonder, now, how closely the actual game follows Brown's schematic.
Page generated Sep. 25th, 2017 12:45 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios