Thursday, September 01, 2011

The people who started the invention of English didn't speak English when they were growing up.

I like to take my ears for a walk here where I can hear many people speaking English who grew up speaking English and many people speaking English who didn't grow up speaking English.

Even a slightly different word order, that's clear, unusual and something I'd never think of can sound like a door opening to many small freedoms from routine. Tomorrow doesn't have to be like yesterday. Invention is present.

There is to hear also on the ear walk the music of humility and possibility--people obviously making all kinds of sense to each other in languages I don't understand. There are many ways to live. There is much that I don't know.

In medieval times, the two main languages of the area now France were called the language of yes and the language of yes. They were named after their different ways of saying yes, langue d'oc (southern) and langue d'oil (northern and the eventual overall winner, as "oil" changed to the standard French "oui."

Kids of a certain age are made of saying yes to the language they are immersed in.

I was on a Muni bus once when eight French people came on the bus and were a huge hit with a kid sitting on his mother's lap who was just at that age of absorbing the language and culture around him so he could be the language and culture around him.

French is heard less in San Francisco than English and Spanish and Chinese languages, less than Tagalog/Philipino and Russian. This kid might not have heard French before.

He was riveted by the French people speaking and being French. He stared at their mouth talking, their hands gesturing, everything about them. Can I be this one, too? I've never seen this one, and I love it.

In 1066 and 1067 and so on, many people in England who hadn't heard French before heard lots of French.

Some of the kids might have been able to hear it as an amazing trick or a new song, but the adults in England, speaking the form of German they grew up speaking, would be incline against delight. The French speakers were there because the German speakers had lost an invasion.

They lost the Battle of Hastings right on the coast facing France. They lost a few uprising later, and the French speakers were in England to stay.

The people who had lived in England their whole lives could feel however they felt about the new guys and the French speakers could feel however they felt about dealing with many people who spoke no French.

Regardless of feelings, the time would arrive when Norman French speakers (speaking a form of langue d'oc) and Anglo-Saxon German speakers would need to do something specific together--build a barn, fill a barn, make love.

Telepathy and gestures and getting to know an individual's person style can go a long way, but eventually, the ruler and the ruled learned a few words of each other's language.

When they had known a few words for a while and put words from each language, words maybe played with and simplified, right next to each other and the word combinations worked and made sense to other people from both languages, they had started the invention of English.