While reading through Monday’s selections, I couldn’t help but think about the huge connection between language and identity. Common language makes almost every facet of life so much easier; from letters to speeches to national anthems, language is the simplest yet most crucial way in which we understand one another. What’s a simpler way to connect with someone than with words that both can understand?
In the simplest manner this is such an easy way to create unity; if I was born in Germany and only spoke German, it would be very difficult to call myself an American, and vice versa. It allows me to easily identify with other Germans through something as easy and casual as conversation.
We see a striking instance of how language can unite a nation in our reading for Monday. John Halsall notes in his introduction to von Herder’s Materials for the Philosophy of the History of Mankind that in 1789,
“most inhabitants of France did not speak French, but some other language… unintelligible to the French speakers of the north. French national identity was created by simply incorporating such people into France and making them all speak French.”1
The French Revolution, albeit by force, created a sense of unity through a common language as Louis XVI obviously understood how important successful communication was to controlling France: how could his subjects obey him if they didn’t understand what he was saying?
Language is one of the most important ways to build a sense of unity in something as big as a country and something as small as a basketball team. On a large scale, it connects us to our country and those around us, making an individual feel as if they are a representative of their country no matter where they are. On a smaller scale, it gives these same individuals a sense of importance and pride; each person sees themselves as a vital cog to the organizations or interest groups they may be a part of, because they are the only ones that understand the acronyms and codes and nicknames specific to their groups.
In closing I ask what ways do you identify with others in your individual teams or organizations? I know Dickinson has a fantastic network of programs and clubs that allow us all to find something in common with others of same interests. Where do you find your connections?
- Johann Gottfried von Herder, Materials for the Philosophy of Mankind, 1784 [↩]