Asserting Ethnic Identity and Power Through Language

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 22 October 2016

Asserting Ethnic Identity and Power Through Language

Week-1 The linguistic ideology at work here is founded both on the concept of the ‘mother tongue’ as well as on the ‘one nation, one language’ principle. Communities on the western side of the border are not interested in learning the language of their eastern neighbors. Eastern communities, on the other hand, are strongly motivated to learn western languages. The importance attributed to English as the ‘language of globalization’ is common to both sides.

We can actually say that ‘language’ is a very hot and recurrent issue for some communities: namely the German-speaking community in Bernstein (D), the Czech-speaking community in Vejprty (CS), the German-speaking and Slovenian-speaking communities in Eisenkappel/Z? elezna Kapla (A),etc. The term ‘mother tongue’ is often used – forms the ‘way of thinking’ of its speakers, and thus the different ‘mentalities’ and ‘national characters’ are connected with the use of different languages. Many informants are convinced that it is the ‘mother tongue’ which determines thought, social behavior, and exhibition or control of affection and emotions.

Thus the confrontation between languages automatically becomes a clash of mentalities. For example, the German-speaking community in Ba? renstein finds there is a relation between the insurmountable difficulty in pronouncing and learning the Czech language and the incomprehensibility of the words Czech-speaking people produce. People in western communities explain this widespread knowledge by saying that ‘the Others’ need to know my language, because my language is the superior One.

We can also find indices of implicit prestige in many interview quotes, like ‘my language is useful to find a job’, ‘my language is more international than theirs’, ‘it represents a symbol of upward social mobility’; ‘the importance of my language forces them to learn it, and in this way they show practical sense, intelligence and cleverness, because they well know that the knowledge of the languages spoken on both sides of the border offers more professional and economic opportunities’.

People are not generally interested in learning the language of the ‘Other’, and the reason is, as we have already seen, its ‘uselessness’, or its low value on the ‘language market’. They only learn what they need in their commercial transactions. Europe is a multilingual continent in which the tension between linguistic pluralism and assimilation is quite evident at present. Week-2 The topic for this week was “Creation of a Sense of Belonging through Language”, which we found very much interesting as we have to present our own explanation, views and thoughts.

The topic is about Finland, Iceland and Latvia. Firstly we discussed about Finland that Swedish-speaking people along the coastlines, spoke a non-Scandinavian language, namely Finnish. The Finnish language was to become the most effective medium in the nation-building process as well as the most important criterion in creating an awareness of a collective identity. Language became a defining characteristic towards the ‘outside’ and a communicative driving force on the ‘inside’ within the great diversity of local and regional cultures.

We could say that for the process of nation-building in Finland during the 19th century two main deficits had to be overcome: sovereign state structures had to be developed and an individual Finnish national consciousness had to be formed. In the process of spreading a Finnish national consciousness – a development often associated with the term ‘awakening’ as in a religious experience – the main focus was directed towards the common people, their language and culture. Finland’s modest cultural life, Finnish had gained the status of a modern cultural and scientific language.

The civil servants, scholars, and many artists, continued to use Swedish as their language of communication and publication. But Finnish steadily gained ground. Many people were already, or became, bilingual. The accusation that Finnish was ‘too primitive’ was defeated by generating new terms, which proved that the language was innovative and possessed the potential for development. In the discussion about Iceland by Halfdanarson. The text tells a story of Icelandic nationalism and the struggle for independence of Iceland under Danish rule.

Halfdanarson points out the rare case of Icelandic nationalism, and it’s non-violent nature. In fact, according to the article, both Iceland’s struggle for independence and the Danish reactions to it were both surprisingly pacific in nature, partly because of the idea of shared past and cultural heritage between the two countries. There are certain elements in common with the case study of Iceland and Herder’s text, such as the idea of mystic, shared past of a nation, the role of the single language of a social group forming the nation and so on.

I think especially in cases like Iceland, language and linguistic identity have essential role in formation of national identity. Iceland is isolated, both in geographical terms as an island in the middle of Atlantic ocean and in terms of language. Although Icelandic is a language related to scandinavian languages, it still differes from them quite a lot. And lastly There was a question that is it possible to have a single language in whole Europe? We think its not possible to have a single langage in the whole Europe as there are many different countries with their own languages from last hundreds of years.

In Europe, People communicate with each other using the shared language of their group. The group might be as small as a couple (married or unmarried partners, twins, mother and daughter etc. who share a ‘private’ language where only they know the meaning of some words) or as large as a nation, where everyone understands the allusions in their shared language (often allusions to shared history, to contemporary events, to media people of fact or fiction etc). The ‘secret’ language of the smallest group and the ‘public’ language of the national group are two ‘varieties’ of the same language.

Every social group, large or small, has its own language variety, (regional groups have varieties of the national language (as opposed to regional or minority languages) which are usually called ‘dialects’) and there is overlap among all the varieties. However there is a possibility to use English as a second language as use of English gives a considerable advantage to the 13 % of EU citizens who are native English speakers, and to speakers of closely related languages (German, Dutch, Danish and Swedish), over all other Europeans. Week-3 In the week 3, we learned about ‘Language and subjective identity’.

The two articles were on Franz Kafka and Simone de Beauvoir. Franz Kafka was German though he never lived among the Germans. He was then living in Prague, Czech. Hence Kafka knew both Czech & German languages. But, he preferred Czech Language as he was of the view that one could express his/her feeling in a better way in a particular language. In this case, he thought that Czech was a better language than German to express his feelings. Franz Kafka was in love with Czech translator Milena Jesenka. He used to demand Milena to write him letters in Czech language than German. He belived in a approach “belongs to a language”.

When Milena replied his letters in Czech, he believed that Czech was much more affectionate, which removes all the uncertainties, he could see his lover more clearly, the movements of her body, her hands quickly which almost resembled as they both are meeting. This shows how Kafka prefered Czech more than German. Kafka encouraged his favourite sister Ottla in her marriage to Josef David, a Czech Catholic, against the opposition of parents and relatives, and wrote affectionately to his new brother-in-law in fluent Czech. For Prague Jews of Kafka’s generation, language and identity could be painfully dissonant.

In Kafka’s case, this dissonance reached deep into his own family, conferring an alien quality on the most intimate of human relationships. Franz Kafka died of tuberculosis in 1924. He is buried beside his parents in the family plot in Prague’s New Jewish Cemetery. Simone de Beauvoir is a French Women. She was French writer, political activist, feminist, and social theorist. She gave her whole life for feminine rights and equality with men in Society. Beauvoir was an outstanding student. She did her postgraduate work at the Ecole Normale Superieure, the top postgraduate program in France, where she met Jean Paul Sartre.

When World War II broke out in September 1939, Sartre was called for military service. He became a prisoner of war when the French army surrendered, but he was released and both Beauvoir and Sartre participated in the resistance, and after the Vichy Regime dismissed Beauvoir from her teaching position, she began a novel about the resistance. When the war ended, Beauvoir and Sartre became part of a group of leading French intellectuals, who concerned themselves with the perceived failures of modern French society. they founded Les Temps modernes as a means to explain their social and cultural views.

At the same time, Sartre suggested to Beauvoir that she undertake a book on the status of women, and she published, La deuxieme sexe (The Second Sex). This was her most famous, and influential book. It became a sourcebook of modern feminism, particularly in the United States for later feminist thinkers such as Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem. De Beauvoir used very specific and effective and powerful words to underline her matter. She is willing to deploy language and words towards others, because she knows about “a manner in which her body and her relation to the world are modified through the action of others than herself”.


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  • University/College: University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 22 October 2016

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