Mother / father tongues

Mon Oct 10 23:50:33 UTC 1994

Lars Martin Fosse suggested that
>In order to be considered a living language, I think the rule is that a
>certain amount of people learn the language as their *first* language (on
>their mother's lap, so to speak) and constitute a speech community.

        The distinction that I learned (how I cannot recall) is that
between the sets:
living / dead &  mother tongue / learned language.  However, another
distinction to be kept in mind might be that introduced (to me, at
least...?) by A. K. Ramanujan (of blessed memory), namely, that between
different "levels" of "mother tongue," -- except what he distinguished is
the mother tongue, father tongue, and nurse tongue.  He explained that
different languages were spoken on different floors of his childhood home
(I think that this was not wholly metaphorical).  There was a downstairs
language and an upstairs, and yet another with the servants.  This is quite
different of course from the English gentry's Upstairs / Downstairs:  we
have to do in the former case not with dialects but totally distinct
languages.  All of these languages were Raman's "native tongues" (Sanskrit
not among them!).

Jonathan Silk


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