The linguistic mark of cultural failure

Monday, 02 September, Year 5 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu

Wouldn't it be pretty neat if every loser was readily identifiable by some sort of mark, a convenient stigma of some kind ? Maybe they could all have a great bling L tattooed on their forehead, or maybe they could all be carrying smartphones, go about on bikes and rant about the environment. Maybe their skin could be a different color or lips a different shape or teeth pointed backwards or who knows what else. Maybe their earlobes could be attached to their jaw instead of free hanging like in normal people. Or maybe they could just all be gingers.

None of this works, on people, obviously. There's plenty of really cool guys an' gals of any skin shade you arbitrarily pick, and I know great lays of either earlobe variety, not to mention that all dudes and dudettes with tattoos on their forehead are pretty chill and fun survivors of the Russian Penal System.

Nevertheless, it does work on cultures!

Specifically : language has this device called a verb, which describes some sort of action or activity. Alongside verbs all languages have trims, much in the way fastfood joints have side dishes to go with any hamburger they serve. Verbs can universally be one of two kinds : either the kind which strictly requires one trim, called intransitive verbs, or the kind which strictly requires two trims, called transitive verbs. Simple or double cheeseburgers, if you will.

With examples :

    The man arrived. Arrived is an intransitive verb, it strictly requires a subject of the action described (the man).

    The man saw the child. Saw is a transitive verb, requiring two trims : an agent (or subject), which does the deed, and an object (or child), which suffers the doing of the deed. Either or both may be elided (which is to say cut off), but that doesn't change very much : saw still has two sockets, whether a man or a child or both or neither plug them in speech or writing.

And now we're ready to gaze upon to the linguistic mark of cultural failure. The correct way for languages to treat these three items, the subject, the agent and the object is to have the subject and the agent in the same boat, and the object apart. Again, with examples :

    Barbatul a ajuns. The man (nominative) has arrived.

    Barbatul l-a vazut pe copil. The man (nominative) has seen the child (accusative).

Both subject (first man) and agent (2nd man) are of the same kind, and in the same grammatical case. The child is apart, of a different kind, and in a different grammatical case.

The wrong way for a language to treat these three items is to treat the subject and the object as alike, and to put the agent to one side. Doesn't this immediately strike you as wrong, heretical, condemnable, reprobate and insufferable ? It does, doesn't it. It's almost as if it were some language spoken by women, where the caring of objects was somehow regarded and the activity of agents disregarded, in a most perverse, unnatural, ungodly and unwelcome manner.

What's more, experientia docent! Here is the list of peoples and languages that used this most offensive, injurious and deleterious device of doom : Hurrian (extinct) ; Urartian (extinct) ; Sumerian (extinct) ; Georgian (bumfuck), Laz (extinct); Chechen (bumfuck, unless the Russian already extinctified it and told nobody), Lezgic (extinct) ; Circassian (extinct) ; Kurdish (fifty varieties, gassed) ; Tibetan (heh) ; various dead Iranian languages (exactly) ; Chibchan (lol) ; Chinook (no, seriously...) ; Eskimo–Aleut family (bumfucki) ; Mayan (dead) ; Panoan languages (bumfuck and also dead, which is quite the accomplishment) ; Australian aboriginal languages (even more bumfuck than Brazil, and even more dead, if that were possible).

Do you see any Latin, any English, and French, any Spanish, Portuguese etcetera in there ? Any Chinese, Japanese, etcetera ? You do not, do you. Guess why ?

Because ergativeii languages suck, that's why. So there you have it, the truth of the matter : you can distinguish fucked up cultures that are not going to make it from healthy cultures that will thrive, much like you can distinguish a kid with mongoloism from a kid without. It's a genetic defect, it causes failure.

I leave the debating of the implications as an exercise to the reader. The part about how being led by female inclinations and interests leads to utter and complete craptastic failure especially.

PS. English, a whore of a language as it is, has a sort of "morphological fake ergativity", through the workings of the -ee device. Thus the intransitive verb retire constructs the label for its subject through that means whereas the transitive verb employ constructs the label for its object rather than agent through that means. While employee would correctly denote he who employs, in this slut of a language it is instead used to denote he who is employed, because it just can't make its mind already to take part of civilisation.iii

———
  1. Here's a hint : they don't live in the least hospitable part of the planet because they like it there. They live in the most hospitable part of the planet for the same reason poor people live in the worst part of town : because they suck, and better people pushed them away from better places. []
  2. Technically they're called ergative-absolutive, which should be clear indication that it is wrong to absolve, and even worse to forgive. []
  3. It should be noted in the language's defense that the Americans broke it, as the original limited itself to using the rudiment of French past participle for transitive verbs only, but the yanks had to mess everything up by being brash and clueless in characteristic fashion. []
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11 Responses

  1. Why the Egyptians are still here? You mentioned them as a matriarchy in an earlier article(horse riding).

  2. Interesting. Ever read some General Semantics?

  3. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    3
    Mircea Popescu 
    Tuesday, 3 September 2013

    I've never looked too deeply into it, but it's always struck me as some sort of pedestrian selfhelp crud, as is and always was fashionable with our uncultivated friends in the colonies. Starting with the very poorly chosen name.

  4. Related reading, for me very interesting: http://boingboing.net/2012/03/26/the-grammar-of-happiness-an-i.html

    Maybe we should prefer more Piraha-like language for our internal monologue and to talk about social relationships, to avoid unhappy ruminations about past/future and spreading rumors. Currently such experiences in western society are extremely limited (for me it's occassional celebrations or festivals) and completely unknown by many or replaced by drugs.
    English or our classical native lang should be kept to arguing about all other phenomena that we need to eventually reliably plan or replicate.

  5. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    5
    Mircea Popescu 
    Saturday, 7 September 2013

    On one hand, one paragraph into that guy's monologue I can't shake the impression that he's a retard (which the rest merely confirms). On the other hand, his countrymen switched from malecentric to femalecentric and imploded within a generation. I tell you, feminine is culturally the gender of oblivion.

  6. translate the bible and we were asked to work with the Pirahã

    The Pirahã use various ways to express themselves, especially whistling and humming.

    I'm not sure if Catholics are retarded or they just wanted to make fun of him.

  7. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/20/young-people-japan-stopped-having-sex

  8. Another one bites the dust: Sgüüx̣s.

    Muskwatch:
    Sguuxs is a Tsimshian language. It has roughly three related languages, one of which is mutually intelligible, and all three of which are in the same region - the north coast of British Columbia just south of Alaska, and one village in Alaska. It is an ergative absolutive language, with a wide range of ways to form plurals, both of nouns and of verbs. A noun's position in the sentence is shown in part by its position (VSO or VS, or perhaps I should say VEA, or VA), but also based on what are called connectives. For example a word preceeding a proper noun will have a t or an s attached to it based on its position.

    Last speaker of the language just died. Here's a recording of her speaking. And some more.

  9. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    9
    Mircea Popescu 
    Wednesday, 18 December 2013

    Requiescat.

  1. [...] outside of cultural gender. Is your response active or passive ? Outwardly or inwardly directed ? Transitive or reflexive [...]

  2. [...] is fragmented and consequently poorly expressed. Perhaps the eventual failure of the angloempire was foretold in their poverty of expression ? Could anyone have guessed that a people who so poorly understands [...]

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