If any of you languagephiles out there are not familiar with the Spair-Whorf hypothesis, it posits that the language a person speaks influences his or her thought patterns perception of the world. I have always found this fascinating for a variety of reasons, but especially when considering something like word order in the construction of a thought and how that affects the relative importance of words within a sentence.
The reason I bring it up today is that I was talking with a friend of mine about the role of language regulation agencies in the world and the fact that English doesn’t have one. (Sidenote: I was not aware of this, but according to this list from Wikipedia, English is the only language in the world that doesn’t have an official agency to dictate correct and incorrect usage, accpeted and unaccepted words, etc.).
Now, my mind drifted to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and how the English language is, due to the lack of a true regulating agency, more fluid and adaptable as a language than, again according to the list above, ANY OTHER LANGUAGE IN THE WORLD. How would that spread to its speakers? Does that somehow make English speakers’ thoughts more malleable? Does it make them more resitant to a central authority figure? I dare not intrude on the work of the eminent linguists and sociologists who have come before me, but the prospects of truly having FREE SPEECH, as opposed to “well, this word is not in the dictionary yet, so I can’t use it” is mind-boggling.
I feel that it results in what I feel language is supposed to be: free-flowing, ever-progressing, and the principal outlet for self-expression. But perhaps that’s because I grew up as an English speaker. Perhaps if I had grown up in Spain, I would say that achieving true self-expression through the limitations imposed by the RAE is a challenge and the reward is enhanced expressive abilities that result only from the existence of those obstacles. I would say that in Spanish though, I guess.
What say you, good readers?