Sunday, May 27, 2012

'Colonial history survives well in the mouth; it's warm there'

It's common in India for English speakers - we could even say native English speakers - to claim that they're past all this unease with the legacy of language, and all that post-colonial hand-wringing, and that sort of thing.

It's somewhat true, also, that much of what is written about matters of language tend to follow a well-worn path; I'm tired before I even begin. But every once in a while, someone writes something that renews old, stale insights. It's odd that so often this happens through personal histories and even odder that this is not a route taken more often (or maybe I just don't read enough).

Anyway. Found this essay by Eliane Castillo via Aisha and thought I'd link to and store this here:

But for my father, Ilokano wasn’t just a language he wanted to speak—but an entire space, a time. More specifically: an estranged space, an estranged time. And because none of the people who had lived in that space and time were with him, he refused to speak it, to produce it, either to my mother, or to me. The only time I heard him speak Ilokano was with one co-worker, a fellow security guard (and then, only reluctantly and sparingly); or on the phone with his siblings; or the one time when the two of us were in the Philippines together, during the second kidnapping of my life. (He was the one who kidnapped me. Not in an evil way. Well, not evil to me.)

But more than that, he refused, almost categorically, to speak Tagalog with my younger brother and me. He would not enter into the space of Tagalog with us. “It’s not my language,” he said firmly. Naturally, he thought of English as his own; it’s the second national language of the Philippines, after all. Colonial history survives well in the mouth; it’s warm there. Tropical.

See what I mean? Bang in the middle of a familiar narrative of estrangement in language and the claiming of spaces and times etc etc, there's 'the second kidnapping'.

(Plus, anyone who namechecks Tony Neung automatically has my full and passionate attention.)

Facetiousness aside, there's a lot there that makes me want to hug that post: I do the whole shifting accents thing too, depending on whom I am talking to and have often wished someone would theorise or at least explicate that; I like the idea of 'the cat in the throat'; language as prosthesis.

Just read, no?

No comments: