Language, lists and learning LO20611

AM de Lange (
Mon, 8 Feb 1999 17:45:07 +0200

Replying to LO20570 --

Dear Organlearners,

Ray Harrell <mcore@IDT.NET> writes:

>I've been a lurker for sometime due to writing, productions and
>grant proposals but I particularly enjoyed At, Steve and Stanton's
>discussion around language.

Greetings Ray,

It is great to have you back. We felt the abscence of your
contributions carrying your world view and your unique cultural

>This is a comment on the responses. It seems that At's response
>to LO as verb noun is a particularly un-English one. With such an
>erudite mind as At has I am tempted to simply enjoy the ride as I
>have on his Entropy posts but I feel that there is an important point
>here. I encounter it daily.

Yes. What about "performing artist" (another "verb-noun"
construction)? I know that in English grammer the gerund "xyx-ing" of
the verb "to xyz" is considered as a noun qualifying as an adjective.
Thus "performing artist" as a whole is consider as a "being" (the noun
artist as the superior word) rather than a "becoming" (the verb
"performing" as the superior word). In my own language Afrikaans, also
from Germanic origin like Old English, the gerund is obtained by the
postfix "ende" rather than "ing". Hence a "learning organisation"
would translate to a "lerende organisasie". However, unlike English,
the gerunds like "lerende" and "uitvoerende" (performing) retain their
meaning of something active.

In Southern Africa (Africa south of the Sahara) there are
approximately 1500 Banthu languages. Most of these langauges, if not
all of them, are very poor in morphologically identifyable adjectives.
None of the eleven major Banthu languages in South Africa has more
than 20 adjectives. Thus they have to make excessively use of nouns
and verbs as syntacticallly identifyable asjectives. Syntactically,
the word (verb or noun) qualifying another noun will come immediately
after that noun. Therfore a construction like "performing artists"
will have to be inverted to "artists performing" to make better sense
for them.

Ray, what I want to know, is the position of the Native American
languages. Do they also make use of the dual consctruct "verb noun"
and then let it act like an performer, classifier or diversifier among
other things? I would also appreciate it very much if someone like
Artur da Silva would give an account of the position in Portiguese,
Spanish and the other Latin based languages.

The "verb noun" construct is part of the "meta grammer" of the
language. It is only when we begin to map thoughts (via sentences with
ordinary grammer) into larger diagrams of higher mental activities
when these "verb noun" constructs begin to show the creative role they

>Yes it is a circle but that first event, the "big bang," if you will
>of language, defines the point of view that will always be "home"
>to the language.
>We could call it "digital" versus "analogue" or "process" versus
>"object" or "content" versus "form" or as in music we call it
>"classical" as opposed to "romantic."

Since the users of any one language tend to favour one side of a
complementary dual while reality consists of both sides, it is good in
learning dialogues to have particpants from many different mother
tongues, although they all have to participate in a lingua franca.
Please note that I do not refer to English speakers by refering to a
lingua franca. I also refer to Spanish, French and even my own
language Afrikaans which a lingua franca in South Africa, Namibia,
Zimbabwe and Malawi.

But it is exactly here where those people for whom the ligua franca is
also their mother tongue, begin to act differently from the rest.
Firstly, the majority feel them superior to the mother tongue speakers
of other languages. This is fatal to the emergence of a LO. For
example, consider the discipline of Team Learning: "That person cannot
be part of our Team because that person does not match our language".
Secondly, most of the ligua franca mother tongue speakers will not
learn even one of the other langauges to experience the difficulties
of learning a second language. This lack of Personal Mastery (another
of the five disciplines) are also fatal to the emergence of a LO.

The result can even be worse than preventing the emergence of LOs. I
can even lead to the immergence into "antilearning organisations". My
mother tongue Afrikaans affords an interesting case study. From its
conception (approximately 1660) to its birth (1740) it was considered
as a pidgen language. Linguists from Europe took no notice of it, not
even in its childhood years (1740 -1840). In adoloscent years
(1840-1900) only some Afrikaans speakers had the guts to recognise it
as a fully fledge language which also acted as a lingua franca among
many South Africans. To overcome their inferiority complex, the
majority of Afrikaans speakers used Dutch as their formal (exhibition)
language. In 1927 Afrikaans was recognised as an official language and
in 1936 the Afrikaans translation of the Bible became available. A
number of universities (including the University of Pretoria) were
already using Afrikaans as medium of education. As Afrikaans speaking
people became prosperous in material things, their spiritual life
began to show the first cracks. In 1948 they came into power by the
policy of apartheid. The next 16 years they rode the crest of the wave
of material richdom. Meanwhile some of their organisations began to
immerge into antilearning organisations. The assasination of the Prime
Minister Dr Verwoerd became the turning point in their material
richdom. Inflation, increased taxation, international boycotts and
negative percpetions began to take its toll. The immerged materially
and spiritually on an increasing rate.

In 1990 president FW de Klerk realised that the minority
(demographical) Afrikaners became also a minority in political,
economical and social matters. They had to give up their ruling power
to the ANC of Nelson Mandela. Their language lost its status as lingua
franca and it became a minority language again like in the years
before 1926. They themselves also have become the hunted. Thus it is
not a surprise that more than a million Afrikaans speaking people have
immigrated since 1994 to countries like Australia, Canada and the USA.

They have paid a high prise for their feeling of superiority, a
feeling which they tried to protect with the ideology of apartheid.
The period in language superiority (1948 - 1990) aggravated their
feeling in superiority. But language superiority also brought a false
sense of security. They could not perceive their disabilities. They
made gross errors and thought that they have done best. Worst of all,
they have limited their ability to express themselves -- to talk about
their experiences and to articulate their tacit knowledge. Hence they
have crippled their learning.

As Ray has written:
>The problem is that language not only tells how you react
>to the world around you but also limits your perceptions of
>it by being the only description you possess of what you
>are experiencing.

If I can beg one thing on this list (and I do it not for myself), it
is to be kind to people who have mother tongues other than English.
Walk the extra mile with them rather than commanding them to walk a
yard with you and "perfect English". If you do not understand what
they mean, ask them to explain it again. If it seems that they say
something unusual, try to undertsand it without taking recourse to
English grammer. If you still do not understand it, ask them to
explain it again. You will benefit much because it is reminiscent of
speaking in another langauge which allow for different perceptions. Is
that true? Yes, I can formulate a page of sentences in Afrikaans which
are very difficult or even impossible to translate into "correct

Best wishes


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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