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Can forcing language upon nations actually kill the nation?

Although a very long talk and not everybody agrees with her, I'm curious about her statement "the only way to kill a nation is to kill its language". Although English is spreading into every language, it's not modifying the language largely.

However did historical events kill nations? During colonization, where often another language was forced upon people? I'm sure it's quite powerful, over time culture is modified because of 'lack of expression' maybe. The only thing then left for a nation is its own history (which, due to colonization, gets blended in with the colonizers...). Thoughts?


Closing Statement from Joost Kuckartz

A nation is different than a country: it is defined by a group of people who have common descent, history, culture or language. Completely killing a nation is not possible, however forcing a language does modify the culture. Cultures are however constantly changing, adapting to the challenges at hand.

Colonizers have been trying to force languages upon people, and it did change their culture, but the complete killing of a nation did not happen. The culture of nations is so resilient that, even when the language is lost, they are still considered a nation. Complete assimilation of nations (the blending with colonizers) has not been discussed.

The short answer to the posed question could therefore be "No, forcing a language upon nations does not kill the nation, it modifies it".

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  • Jan 14 2014: Language is the framework upon which we base our thinking upon. The eskimos have m, many words to describe snow/ice. Similarly, most polynesian language have many words to describe the state of the sea and sky.

    Both the US and Australia tried to destroy the languages of the American Indians and the Aborigines by force moving children into schools where only English was taught and spoken. Check out the "Rabbit Proof Fence" if you are interested in this effort. It continued into the 20th century in both countries.
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      Jan 15 2014: I hope all languages are abandoned with the exception of one universal language.

      I do not particularly care which language becomes the universal one, however I hope it is the most efficient and effective one.

      Communication is fundamental if "we" are to exist.
      • Jan 15 2014: My concern would be the loss of human cultures with the disappearance of the languages.
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          Jan 15 2014: From a luxury point of view I can definitely appreciate that concern. Culture is very much an art form with nuances that make each beautiful and valuable for its own sake.

          That said, is it to be admired more for its form, or its function, and why?
      • Jan 15 2014: By culture, I do not just mean art, I mean their history, the very being of a people - eventually they may not even appear in the history books - maybe it is right, I think it is wrong to forget where you have come from.
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          Jan 16 2014: I believe it is far more important to keep your eyes on the road you are on, and the road ahead, than in the rear view mirror, when it comes to "function."

          This world we are in is all about function. No longer is survival about growing food or hunting game. Instead, we need to be sharp versatile multipurpose tools in a corporate toolbox. Our usefulness = our job security. Our job security = our ability to feed and look after ourselves and our families.

          Hordes of people live @ or below the poverty line enduring great suffering. Will knowing Aztec (for example) feed them? or empower them? I find this unlikely. Yet .. many people have limited resources. Governments, have limited resources. Most or many countries, are multicultural today.

          Shall we have our governments spend precious resources ensuring that every culture that goes into making up a multicultural society be properly funded, protected and represented especially in language?

          In a multicultural country shall we set one or two cultures above all others as gods, while we tramp the others under foot like so many grapes? Where is that line? Currently the line is the most powerful culture subjugates the rest. I cannot recall having met a person who speaks Aztec, nor imagine how far that would put them ahead of someone who speaks Somali.

          I can imagine how a person speaking say English, a language of business spoken in every country of the world, could be very advantageous.

          We so often here People aching for their desire for equality.

          We will not achieve equality until we give up our differences.

          It is not our differences that makes a people one, it is what we share in common, that starts with the ability to communicate and that is language.

          Forget where you came from, that your people and my people once were enemies because a hungry child stole a goat. Join hands and let us brave the future as brothers and sisters, one people, one language, one future.
      • Jan 17 2014: Martin,

        Lets replace Aztec with German because the German language no longer exists in the future. Are you ok with the statements with this substitution?
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          Jan 17 2014: Yes.

          A language to communicate with each other is a necessity.
          Anything beyond that point is a luxury.

          At what point would we deem it wise to put a luxury ahead of a necessity?

          Would you rather speak 5 languages on an empty belly or would you rather speak one language and have a full belly?

          With a world filled with starving people and drowning in poverty where should we put our priorities?
      • Jan 18 2014: Martin,

        Thanks - think I understand your point of view.

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