The bone of contention in this piece is this: the sounds in Ilokano are important and indispensable in the accounting of new experiences, the experiences that are ever-new because of the march of history.
Simply put: there is no place for the purist mind to remain in that illusion of purity of the Ilokano language when that mind cannot even prove that, among others, the reality of "computer" and "text messaging" existed during the time of Pedro Bukaneg.
Purism or its attendant attitude is Nazism without any courage and boldness and daring and systematic way of seeing and doing things. Which is even worse than the
Auschwitz and Dachau of this abominable social movement that murdered men and minds,
civilizations and cities, and truths and story-telling.
Before a language becomes a play of letters, it is first and foremost a play of sounds.
Ceteris paribus, language is sound, the play of sounds coming into a euphony and cacophony, into silence and noise, into fullness of meaning or its lack, into sense and non-sense.
The onomatopeia in language, still quite evident, as in the Ilokano "sarimadek/saradaddeng", for instance, clearly tells you of some beginning or some evolution from an imitatory past. I hear sounds of the foot here, sounds of the ground, of the wooden floor, of the sounds of the mind unable to decide for himself. That is the same way with purists of the Ilokano language in our midst who believe that they got the Ilokano language from an email or fax from God. I think that they should better get that needed "murmuray" if not the "kidag", that friendly jolting of the rib.
Did our early ancestors feel the need to communicate in a manner and mode rooted in the sounds of nature and yet transcending it?
How do we deny an imitatory past when the crowing of the rooster is still "tartaraok" whichever way you look at it?
I am aware of some "cultural" variables here, and the play of cognition is linked with the play of culture--and the play of sounds in a specific culture such that we can render the same "objective phenomenon" of the crowing of roosters in various ways depending on how a certain culture, and thus, language, perceives the "objective phenomenon" (read: the "crowing" example; here, the play of language qua sounds comes really into play: "tiltilaok" for the Tagalog, "crow-crow" for English.)
What gives here? Why the disparity?
Simple: perception is not one and the same--and cognition as well.
You move from one culture to another and you see how cognition, or its bigger philosophical possibilities, i.e., epistemology, gets to read and understand and order the universe within and out--the universe which is material and physical, the overwhelming universe of which we are only a speck, and the universe which is inside us, that world within which forms part of what we are, individually as well as socially and collectively.
What does this mean? What does this say about the "naming" power of/in language?
Simple: language is a convention, and thus always arbitrary.
It is not one kind of a gift from the heavens, some kind of a manna from somewhere, even if we do acknowledge that there could be something sacred and divine in language. But this is another story.
What I am saying is this: that some hypothetical agreement/contract-signing is in operation in the way language gets to grow and develop as is the case with its beginnings.
The key is the term "hypothetical" and is meant to account the fact that when one is born into a language--yes, we are born into a language as we are born into a culture and into a society--we become inheritors of that language and even if we did not sign the social contract, the fact of our birth has poised us to become a signatory of that social contract.
It is one of those accidents of human life--this being born into a language--that we cannot do without, like that of our parents, one we cannot choose precisely because we were never given the chance to choose in the first place.
I understand the fear--well, call it the linguistic paranoia of the many Ilokano writers and observers of Ilokano culture--when they say that, in an exaggerated way, we have to look for an Ilokano word for "computer" because if we do adopt "computer" in the Ilokano language, this language will be polluted, will be rendered impure, will be adulterated.
There is smallness in such a mind, whoever owns it.
And this same mind has no sense of the delightful drumbeats of history and its technologies.
The first question here is: are we to draw up a descriptive word in Ilokano in order to account this objective experience of "computer" in our midst? What descriptive word are we to use?
For the sake of argument, we can try--and I am trying hard now just to go into the small minds of the purists and those who do not know how to think and think clearly: "Ti computer ket maysa a makina a pagan-andaren ti kuriente(mark this "kuriente" word as well) a no agsuratka iti daniw iti Ilokano ket ugedanna amin ta dina met piman mabasa ti Ilokano ket iti panagkunana ket biddut amin nga ispelling (mark this "ispelling" word again)."
What happens here?
This is plain and simple crucifixion. And it is not even a Good Friday yet. Why say in a long, convoluted way that which you can say in one, single, and lone (but not lonely) word, that word we use: computer/kompiuter? Are we to spell it with a "c"?
Ha, that is a non-issue, if you have read my previous pieces.
Here, we are making a mockery of ourselves--and we live in that grand illusion that "computer" in English is one grand "pure" and "pristine" and "primeval" English term.
Here as well, we are as colonial as the person next to us, oblivious to the fact that English and other Romance languages, for that matter, borrowed much from Latin, but Latin, in its poverty of concepts and cultural experiences despite the braggadocio of its conquering emperors, borrowed much fromt the Greeks. But are the Greeks the genesis of everything? No, clearly, because it borrowed also from other sources.
The English word computer, for instance, did not even sound like its etymology: com + putare, although it approximated the sound of "com" depending on whose English your are using. (Yes, there are "Englishes" if you do not know it: the English of the abominable Simon Cowell when he insulted Jasmin Trias in his kind of English one hates, with the cockiness of the accent that made the whole of India a colony and neocolony until now and Hollywood and that sub-culture of pop culture we call "American Idolism" as against the prim and proper English of the prim and proper Hillary Clinton as against the "Philippine English" of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as against the "Ilokano English" of the former president Fidel Ramos).
What was the original meaning of computer? Oh well, it was simply not referring to the machine but to a concept: "to be together in mind" and "to reckon something".
So what to do? What lessons do we get from the "history of words"?
Simple: read history well and put to heart its lessons.
Do we have to maintain the original spelling?
What original spelling do we talk about?
Language is already confusing as it is always a lie, as this lie is based on mis/representation. Why add another confusion? Come on, Ilokano advocates, get real. Forget the company of Nid Anima and his pupils who all argue on the basis of a "glorified and glorious Ilokano language" during the time of the frailes and Isabelo delos Reyes and Leon Pichay and Pascual Agcaoili. They are all confused. Or they are all--all--babbling, as in a Babel.
One, you cannot maintain the original spelling for always. You have a real problem there. If your system of sounds, based initially on the kur-itan/kurditan does not account that or does not reckon it as in the "putare" of the Latin, then you have no business maintaining that spelling as you are, as a matter of fact, allowing confusion to set in. How do you say, in Ilokano, "Computerize the poem of Jim Agpalo"? Simply say: "Ikompiutermo ti daniw ni Jim Agpalo."
What do we have here?
You have borrowed the concept, you formed it into the image of the Ilokano language by making it behave as if it were your own, and you did not return it. This is the real sense of borrowing, the real sense of appropriation.
I guess that if it were true that the revered Juan SP Hidalgo, as claimed by other commentators, has pushed for the retention of the English/foreign spelling in accounting these new experiences in Ilokano culture and from our language, then the revered Juan SP Hidalgo is veritably mistaken.
There is no reason why we should be afraid to appropriate words that we do not have. The English language is an example of the best bastard and rich language we ever have.
What about "text messaging." Oh, come on, say: "text mesedying." Do I have to explain?
A Solver Agcaoili
Dept of Ilokano and Philippne Drama and Film Program
U of Hawaii at Manoa
Sept 8/9, 2006