Saturday, February 23, 2013

Eso's Chronicles resumes

Eso’s Chronicles 141
Latvian as ‘rough speak’ and ‘tough love’
The natural environment of Democracy is the wood,
all other democracies are mke-believe
One of the most pleasant word in Latvian today is “čaviņa” (chavinya), an endearment derived from the Italian word “ciao”. Many of young Latvians use the word when chatting on the internet or mobile telephone.

The attached link, in which economics Professor Keith Chen from Yale University points out the subtle differences between the English language that has no future tense and languages that do have it, and which differences may or may not make you wealthier than your neighbor, is well worth for a Latvian to read and reflect on.

Here is why. Prof Chen divides the world's languages into two groups, depending on how they treat the concept of time. Chen argues that if one’s language separates the future and the present in its grammar and leads the user to slightly disassociate the future from the present, the “…speakers of languages which only use the present tense when dealing with the future are likely to save more money than those who speak languages which require the use a future tense, he argues….”

Of course, the Professor has many critics, and some of this is reflected in the BBC article. I will leave it to some Latvian grammarian to explain the nuances of the Latvian language with regard to future and present tenses. What concerns me, is a theme that I have often referred to: the NEAR TOTAL LOSS of the endearing word in Latvian, and the ‘stiffening’, nay even tendency to brutalize the Latvian psyche as a consequence.

I am referring to the facility of the Latvian language of another day to ubiquitously use terms of endearment for even the most roughest and sometimes most unpleasant of words, such as ‘akmentinjsh’ (akmentiņš--stone), ‘suhdinjsh’ (sūdiņš—excrement), etc. Indeed, the Latvian language can endear every word. The use of the endearment in places that culturally may be deemed inappropriate places is therefore interpreted as potentially of a sarcastic or ironic inflection.

The endearing word was a feature of Latvian as an oral language, and went pretty much out of use with the arrival of the written word, especially with news reporting, where ‘realism’ is deemed paramount and subjective thought almost indecent.

One may further argue, that, well, that is ‘too bad’, but that is how things are and one must accept this. Maybe so. Nevertheless, it may also be argued that ‘realism’ that excludes endearing sentiments is a cancerous growth. We can observe this ‘cancer’ in the politician activated disputes over the use of Latvian at the exclusion of other languages as somehow a matter of a ‘superior patriotism’, when in fact it exhibits woeful knowledge about the nature of the culture among the forebears of the Latvian people as recently as a hundred years and less ago. In other words, culturally speaking, the Latvian politicians betray their culture and forebears.

At the very least, the same politicians could allocate greater funds to the study of the Latvian language at the appropriate institutions. Else, as we see, a Professor of Chinese descent at Yale University in America indirectly knows more about the Latvian language than a self-enclosed group of Latvian ‘realists’, known as the ‘Saeima’, arguably a fascist collective of politicians, do. Do these politicians really believe that their ‘realism’ will really make Latvians materially better off and more survival prone?

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