Sunday, February 27, 2011

"There is nothing wrong in redefining words, since language evolves naturally"

Redefining value words is cheating.
Language evolvement is not natural, only connatural - as are both cheating and honesty.

The simplest example of how it is cheating to redefine words is money. If one € is no longer what buys you this much bread - say 400 g./1 pound - but only half as much, you have been cheated of the value of 50 c. from back when you saved the €.

So, does language evolve naturally? Not if you trust socio-linguistics. Even Jung-Grammarians, who tried to make language change a "natural science" admitted that sound laws apply to one language or dialect or collection of such and not another, during one limited period of time, not another. That f, th, s, kh, khw become v, dh, z, gh, (gh)w is not an universal law for all language, it is true for position not after Indo-European stressed syllable, non-geminated, not in contact with other voiceless consonant, but above all, it is only true for one pre-historic period of Germanic languages.

And such "evolution" was - if socio-linguistics is true - only due to double standards for quite a while, like the ple-NT-y vs. ple-NN-y standards in English of US today. There are lots of places where one sound or another as spelled in grammar comes in double standards for pronunciation. Like the sound which some recent codifiers of Romani have written rr - in most dialects it is pronounced like any other r. In such a double standard situation, either the old standard can outlast the more recent and prevail or the newer standard of the two can outlast the older one and oust it. Individuals in such times (there are such times anywhere but not right about the great issues of past language change or language preservation) do know and sometimes even use both standards, either changing between them as they grow or as they talk to different persons.

What applies to phonetics - f th s kh vs. v dh z gh, rr vs. r, plenty pritty vs. plenny purdy - equally applies to grammar and lexicon. The change of standards is no natural fatality, it is human choice. Only when one choice has been made throughout the whole language very systematically does it look in hindsight by an illusion of optics as something very mechanic and law-bound.

Now, a change in words is not systematic. It is very much closer to choice and thought than to mechanical system issues in a language. So, it is not natural but willed by man. It can be willed thoughtfully or thoughtlessly. It may be good or it may be bad. And it may concern a concept changing words or a word changing meaning.

Now, when a concept changes words, it may involve a new word in the language coming from another language where it is older. Or it may involve coining a new word or changing meanings of an old word.

Citizenship in ancient citystates was in Latin referred to as Civitas, also meaning the Citystate itself. But the root word was Cives, Citizen. A Quires or Romanus was Civis Romanae Rei Publicae. A Pompeianus was Civis Rei Publicae Pompeiae. And so on. But when phonetic change made Civitas, or its accusative Civitatem so much shorter as Città, Cité or City (no longer meaning citizenship, only meaning citystate), the word Civis was replaced by Cittadino, Citadin/Citoyen, Citizen. This is no real issue, since it is of same root.

A lot more interesting is that sælig has become silly. The word sælig like German seelig means blessed, blissful, and in Christian theology, having made it to heaven, enjoying eternal bliss. Once upon a time, when England was still Catholic, people who had conditions like Downs' syndrom - that and others maiming normal adult intelligence referred to as idiocy - they were considered guaranteed heaven once they were baptised, since unable to sin mortally. I mean to be really culpable for something you need to understand what evil you are doing, and that is what they cannot. So they were called sælig or seely because between baptism and death, unlike us others, they cannot loose heaven. Much later this word was so much softer than that, something to say about a stupid but innocuous mistake, and that is where the word is now. All three meanings are available by different words in Latin. Sælig is beatus. Seely is idiota. Silly, modern sense ... well, it is more gentle than stultus. Actually idiot is closer to stultus, now that idiota is neither called seely nor idiot but Mongoloid or Downer. Stultulus - "somewhat stupid, a little stupid" might be a good rendering of silly. But still, stultulus is a sadder and silly a happier word. Stultillus might do, but is as much a new word as silly. Christianity has changed the attitude to people who look for their goggles while having them raised on the forehead - not to mention goggles are themselves a Christian invention.

Here we have a word which gives a new concept birth by slight changes of nuance.

Now, what the person quoted in the title is suggesting is that a word like marriage could acquire a new nuance, allowing homosexuals also to enjoy it. What would then the Latin for this be? Well, marriage is matrimonium. I will not go into what the new concept would be translated as into Latin, since I think Latin should not be dishonest. A Latin writer nowadays, say a Pope condemning the new concept, might do well to insert "quod dicitur" - "as they say" - into whatever phrase will be Latin for "Homosexual Marriage".

Now, Latin is a funny thing too. It is a legal language. It encodes law codes such as Sinai and Ten Commandments and Mount of Beatitudes, both in St Jerome's Translation, as intricate as Emperor Justinian and Pope Gelasius. Now, as obviously as no harm is done now by people calling each other "silly" for the flowers they chose on St Valentine's day although the word sælig meant "in Heaven", as obviously quite a lot of damage is done by tampering with legal terms. Coins and currency values being one big obvious example. Let us take another example: numbers ... it means one thing to Eratosthenes, and another thing to Gauss. Now, some of the things Gauss was talking about Eratosthenes also talked about and called numbers. Others, when he talked about them, he called relations. Numeric relations to be sure, but relations, not strictly numbers. Other things ... are they things at all? Eratosthenes did not talk about:

3i * 3i = -9

Are we even dealing with reality, when we let Gauss say or rather write such a thing?

Now, that is why it is important not to meddle with concepts. Redefining is depriving them of such meaning as they need to exclude in order not to make reality unreal. Or proposals, basically about reality, unreal.

"The spirit of the law" has been evoked against letting marriage remain marriage. On this video: "the spirit of the law is to allow a couple to love each other to marry and therefore gain certain legal rights" ... @ c.0:24 of the youtube. The reason why gays want marriage for non-heterosexual couples - as pointed out by the girl before that answer, the right to marriage in the usual sense already is there for people with homosexual feelings - is to gain those legal rights. Now, that is a bit like Gauss' "we need to make -9 a number so we can note it with numeral digits, and so we also need to make 3i a number, since all numbers, even negative ones, have a root". But if "-9" is not "minus-nine" as a concept but rather "minus" (meaning less, and how many less?) "nine", there is no need at all for any "minus-nine" to have a root, and so there is no need for any "3i" either.

Marriage is:
  • not for all couples who love each other:
    • not for close relatives who love each other for being that
    • not for Lancelot and Guinevere since she is already married to Arthur
    • AND not for underage
    • AND not for people and dogs
    • AND not for two men or two women
  • and also it is not only so they can enjoy their legal rights, but also so they can fulfill all marital functions:
    • one of which is fidelity - which is why societies without divorce can never let Guinevere marry Lancelot, and societies that have divorce at least make that a long process delaying the new marriage,
    • another one is procreating - though a legal authorisation to do so will not restore fertility to an old couple without children - and raising their children together
    • and this involves having sex more often than you actually manage to procreate. Sex, not sodomy. When Bill Clinton swore an oath he had had no sex with Monica Lewinsky he committed no perjury. Why? What he got from her "that is not sex". The marital act involves a vagina and a penis without contraceptives.

What about listening to Mr Clinton when for once he says something sensible? Hey!

But the function of fidelity is one reason why two gay men should not marry each other. US legislation allows divorce, but if two gay men need to get a divorce before either of them can go and do the right thing, like marry the woman he made pregnant (yes, gay men sometimes do that), such a "marriage" would be an obstacle to the marriage that would be a real duty and a real virtue. Even more so if divorce and remarriage was out of the question. For a lesbian made pregnant, keeping her child, and marrying the father the step to a normal marriage may be even easier, and should be left legally open. That is why - or one major reason why, not excluding other ones - a relation between two men or between two women cannot become the moral and should not become the legal equivalent of a marriage between a man and a woman.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
BpI Georges Pompidou
Paris, Dimanche le

1 comment:

Hans-Georg Lundahl said... -

They cannot even argue that the banner God's marriage = 1 man + 1 woman discriminates against them as persons. It does not specify that the man and the woman need to have spontaneously heterosexual preferences in order to marry, though that is of course better.