Throughout history, languages great and small have diminished, degenerated and died. Each language represents a unique way of communicating one’s experience as a human and therefore a unique way of experiencing the world. Global linguistic diversity today still preserves a great many fascinating perspectives of being. We are divided by different languages but the collective human experience is richer as a result. Global linguistic homogenisation represents the weakening of the human species. Nature breeds diversity in all things and human communication is no exception.
The mass migrations of the past three decades, on a scale unparalleled in history, have also led to mass movement of languages. First generation immigrants may never fully learn the host nation’s language and inevitably pass down a degenerated version to their children. Some second generation immigrants are perfectly capable of speaking the natives’ language properly but choose instead to speak the same simplified dialect spoken by others with whom they share an ethnic identity.
Germany will receive over 1.5 million asylum applications this year alone and already has a substantial immigrant population, much of which is Turkish. Many of the existing immigrant population, including the second generation, speak an imperfect German dialect which changes the very perspective of being….literally.
The correct German for “Tomorrow I’m going to the movies” is Morgen gehe ich ins Kino— literally “tomorrow go I in the movies.” However, the offspring of urban immigrants will use the simplified Morgen ich geh Kino—“tomorrow I go movies” reordering the structure and removing “to the” to just say “movies” instead. This degenerated dialect is sometimes called Kiezdeutsch, and is spoken by Somalians, Turks and Arabs in Germany even though their parents all speak different languages.
The simplified German dialect often removes words for being, which subtly changes the experience of self expression and understanding at a psychological level. Would the German philosopher, Martin Heidegger have formulated his theory of Dasein “being” if he had been raised to speak Kiezdeutsch? Language was one of the most important concepts for Heidegger’s theory; he wrote Die Sprache ist das Haus des Seins -“language is the house of being”. Speakers of proper German and Kiezdeutsch now dwell, it seems, in different houses of being.
This process of the simplification of the German language to suit the needs of non-native speakers has similarly occurred in Britain with a dialect sometimes called MEYD (Multi-ethnic-youth-dialect). The dominant dialect influencing its formation has been Jamaican English, but it is also notably different from Jamaican, lacking some of its more archaic characteristics. AAVE (African American Vernacular English) developed as a result of slaves not being able to speak English properly and their offspring then preserving some of the altered linguistic conventions for reasons concerning identity. This same process resulted in Jamaican English and a similar one for MEYD. Except MEYD is also influenced heavily by those other two degenerated dialects; Jamaican (due to a large Jamaican population in the UK) and AAVE (due to prominence of African American popular culture in the corporate mass media).
In AAVE, one can say “why he say she good?” in place of the standard “Why does he say that she is good”, leaving out the “does”, the “that” and the “is” to simplify the sentence. When adults learn a new language they often leave out irregular verb forms such as these, which is why they are often missing in the degenerated dialects spoken around the world by displaced peoples.
AAVE has no trace of African language in it, nor does Kiezdeutsch have any trace of Turkish or Arabic because neither are hybrid languages. Degenerated dialects like MEYD and Kiezdeutsch may occasionally include dialect words from the native countries of the speakers, but these are not consistently used by all speakers of the dialect. For example a MEYD speaker of Bangladeshi descent may use some Bengali loan words, while a MEYD speaker of Jamaican descent would not. Yet for the most part their dialects resemble each other far more than they resemble the English dialects spoken outside of the cities.
These new immigrant dialects are springing up in Holland, Sweden, Norway and across Europe. They are referred to by some linguists with the clunky portmanteau ““multiethnolects” and are even celebrated as a logical simplification of “unnecessarily complicated” European languages. Those who worry about the impact on the original language are termed “alarmists”, yet some, often politically motivated linguists, downplay the significance of changes like these to the collective being of a people. If one were to translate the works of Shakespeare from EME into MEYD it would be impossible to preserve the original meaning and power of the words. Languages are not equal, and their evolution does not follow some immutable path which everyone must accept. We must be careful of academics who portray linguistic deterioration as inevitable or even desirable.
If language is the house of being, then we must be ready to do a bit of spring cleaning!