Londoner wrote:I do not think the problem will go away however, since all the other ways you want to divide up people into 'clusters' (supposedly representing 'cultures' and 'values') seems similarly arbitrary, being more likely to reflect the preoccupations of whoever is doing the dividing than identifying anything objective.
In gender studies it might be recognized that there are males and females, and also intersex. Further there will be the identity that others tend to take one as, the identity one views oneself as having, and official legal gender, as well those who deny gender all together, or admit a large number of genders, even shifting non-fixed genders, and then there will be medical and scientific approaches to sex and so on. There is here considerable analogy with other forms of identity, including language identity. Language can be considered as a dialect continuum, (the only true dialect continuums true are in Africa and Asia, perhaps North America because all the major languages have some element of standardization as a part of their history, Arabic developed against Qur'anic Arabic, the Romance languages developed against the Latin of the late Republic period as codified by Charlemagne's court scholars, an so on). English is also standardized by dictionaries, language tests for students and immigrants, and a large corpus of Received Pronunciation (standard British) and Broadcast (standard American). Meanwhile there are those who advocate for other versions of English, Jennifer Jenkins is known for her efforts to standardize an International English as a lingua franca, B.B. Kachru's work inspired a concept of Global Englishes in which Malaysian English, Jamaican English and so on would be considered as distinct languages. Ranges between standard English and pidgin can be described, English must also be undefinable and fluid in the way sexual essentialism can be critiqued. Meanwhile, ordinary people and also linguists are other language experts use the word English. The same can be said for culture groups like Black or Islam or English, these words are used in normal communication and also by experts, it would be threatening to a possibility of communication generally where this undermined.
How this might relate to language policies?
State structures and languages go hand-in-hand, as the expression goes, "a language is a dialect with an army and a navy. This is a significant difference between Danish, Swedish and Norwegian, or between Dutch, English, Flemish, and German which might otherwise be viewed as dialect continuums. (Notice that there is no dialect continuum between Spain and Morocco.) Hence, the state of Indonesia seeks to establish a national language, Indonesian, which to a large degree was never historically spoken by Indonesians. Identity groups are related to power politics.
Ibn Khaldun, sometimes called the father of sociology believed that the Arabic of Mecca and Medina was the true pure Arabic, at the time that wasn't true due to dialect continuum running through the Semetic languages, but today it is more true since Arabic has standardized based on Qur'anic language. Khaldun, wrote that people who do not have Arabic, or have only a distant dialect of Mecca and Medina Arabic could not learn science, or Islam. (Recall that Arab supremacism was a major political force in ancient North Africa and the Middle-East, and was part of an important debate about whether converts were true Muslims or not, in fact still is). It seems Khaldun hit on what today is part of the Whorfian debate: what is the relation of language, additional languages and culture. Khaldun seems to agree that learning a language doesn't, and even can't alter the underlying "rooted habit". Following Khaldun, this might imply that in cultures where democracy doesn't exist, it might be very difficult to transplant, and language policy couldn't have much of an affect.
This brings to mind the line from Joseph de Maistre, "in the course of my life, I have seen Frenchmen, Italians, Russians, etc.; I am even aware, thanks to Montesquieu, that one can be a Persian. But, as for Man, I declare that I have never met him in my life. If he exists, I certainly have no knowledge of him". There seems to be multiple layers however, one that puts language on the surface, and culture at a deeper level, then there will be another position that sees the both of them as something superficial against the deeper level of "bare life" as Giorgio Agamben calls it. This issue needs to be further investigated, the dissolution of identity, a common interest for both nation building and Neo-Advaita...