On certain consequences of the objectification of languages: a substantivist approach

Probal Dasgupta
2021 Linguistic Frontiers  
PRELIMINARIES The practitioners of linguistics (in all its forms) hope to converge on tools suitable for describing all human languages within a shared terminological and conceptual framework, demarcating phenomena that lend themselves to meaningful cross-linguistic comparison from those that do not. To this end, linguists are obliged to treat languages, and speech communities, as objects of analysis. In this respect, the characteristic posture of linguistics authors vis-à-vis their readers
more » ... rasts with the non-objectifying attitude associated with Traditional Lexicography and Grammar (here called TLG). Those who write dictionaries and (normative and pedagogical) grammars that count as authoritative for various points on the literacy scale, ranging from schoolchildren to the most proficient users of the written language, address their readers as potential writers (and, crucially, as potential editors) of the language. The practices and attitudes characteristic of TLG reference a single editorial-normative community. As such, they are particularistic, but may occasionally involve more than one nation-state. Country A's TLG workers negotiate with their counterparts in country B, to calibrate orthographic or other norms of a shared language like Dutch or German. Bilingual dictionaries operate with the TLG equipment of both the societies. As an enterprise, TLG crosses national boundaries only on this limited, transactional scale. It does not aspire to a universal scientific standpoint, and thus has no reason to objectify its language or its speech community. TLG represents, and intersubjectively addresses, only a circumscribed editorial-normative collectivity, the "we" to which its authors and readers belong. Linguistic Frontiers • 4(2) • 2021
doi:10.2478/lf-2021-0013 fatcat:kqzpggd7rrhsvp5474irvd2yna