Monday, 7 October 2013

"The limits of my language"

After some very preliminary research into language and 'sustainability' I found something that I wasn't expecting to discover: a correlation between indigenous language and positive responsibility towards the environment. Wittgenstein once wrote, "the limits of my language mean the limits of my world". To me this suggests that the global spread of English, whilst enabling for communication like never before, is making us as a planet lose some understanding of our world. What does it mean if we see everything through an English lens? Through the lens of a language that developed thousands of miles away? For somebody living in Thailand, does speaking more English change their perception of their environment?

A report in the Australian Geographer in 2012 found a positive relationship between 'the sustainability of indigenous land, language and culture and an indigenous person's subjective emotional well-being'. Likewise, a conference at Bangor University, Wales, discovered that 'forces that work against the environment are very similar to those that lead towards apathy to the Welsh language'.

That is to say, there's something that inherently connects our language with our understanding of the world and consequently our understanding of our relationship with and impact on the environment.

The questions for me are manifold. How in an English speaking context in England can we better use the language we already have to prevent further climate change? What can we learn from non-English languages?

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