Novaj Koroj, Novaj Lingvoj

There is something particularly amusing about inventing one’s own language.  Being a particular type of nerd as a child, when creating role playing games and participating in those created by others, the creation of languages was a common element of play.  This ought not to come as too great of a surprise if one stops to think about it.  Those who enjoy imagining different worlds, or see themselves in a variety of different possible roles are also likely to view communication from the outside and see how it could be done differently.  Not a few people find great fault in the vagueness and ambiguity of our own communications and wonder how it could be done better.  If such was the case for a fairly eccentric but not terribly unusual child, it has been the case many times in history, and that is what we find out when we look at the history of invented languages [1], where there are hundreds of documented invented languages with dictionaries and grammaries and thesauruses and even, at times, a culture and original literature springing from the linguistic creations of eccentric idealists or opportunistic charlatans or even, in at least one case, a Hollywood writer for the Star Trek series.

In many ways, our languages get a bad rap and a great deal of blame that they do not deserve.  Most people are not rational and systematic in their approach, but rather ad hoc, and so it is little surprise that the accumulation of opportunistic decisions and the slow drift of time should make a mess out of so many of our languages.  The change of social structure can change the grammar of a language.  Witness, for example, the way that the polite second person plural, those notorious “thees” and “thous” of King James’ English, have entirely disappeared from the language of our more egalitarian age, or the way that the “y’all” or the “y’uns” of various regional dialects of the United States where I grew up and was born, respectively, have been the object of widespread derision rather than an appreciation of the linguistic conservatism that such dialects represent.  Rather than appreciating the history of our language, too many people are quick to make fun of those whose habits of language stick us as a bit archaic.  We are too busy seeking to forget the past and leave it behind.  If people are irrational and ambiguous and unclear of what they want and who they are and what they mean, how can our languages be any more exact and precise than the hearts and minds of the people using them?

As someone who studied far more than my fair share of foreign languages [2], I have known first hand the joys of discovery that come about when one turns that study to one’s own language.  When we learn a foreign language or when we come to understand someone else’s characteristic way of understanding and expressing themselves and their world, there is simultaneous growth in two disparate directions.  To understand a foreign language is to begin to see those who were once strangers from the point of view of fellow insiders.  We see the possessiveness of a culture that refers to God as “Mi Dios” as well as the desire of responsibility to be avoided when one says that something “falls” rather than “I dropped it.”  A person’s conceptual framework is shaped by their language and its assumptions, and when people use deliberately unusual language or language in deliberately unusual ways, we can guess even when we cannot know for sure that someone is using words differently to express a different way of thinking.  Simultaneously, the understanding of foreign languages and perspectives gives us the space to see our own native language and native perspective as an option and not as a destiny.  By seeing ourselves and our ways from the outside, we reflect consciously on them and on the legacy we have received from our own background.  This can be a deeply sobering and unpleasant experience for some of us.

Believers look forward to new tongues whether they are consciously aware of it or not.  After all, Mark 16:16-18 tells us:  “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.  And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues;  they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”  We would expect those who are renewed by the indwelling presence of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit to speak with new tongues.  We should expect people to sound different than before because they think differently and have a different motivation in life and a different direction than before.  To be sure, our languages are ambiguous and often unclear, and some people are deliberately difficult to understand, but our words should reflect our hearts.  If we have new hearts, we should have new tongues.  This may happen without our being aware of it, simply by virtue of the way that we all struggle to express ourselves and deal with the changes of our complicated lives.  We are fortunate if that is the case, and if we can make what is inside of us something beautiful and uplifting to share with the world around us.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christianity, History, Musings. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Novaj Koroj, Novaj Lingvoj

  1. Pingback: I’m Not Alone Because I Brought The Wind | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Why Aren’t They In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: Weezer | Edge Induced Cohesion

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