Other Discussions on Language

Linguistic Madness

Here is a commentary from Terry Emmons, which I can confirm. Some years ago I visited the University of Louvain, now Flemish-speaking, the French-speaking counterpart having moved across the linguistic border. The librarian described the incredible squabbles which accompanied the division of the library. Encyclopedias were divided into two, with one university getting A-M. the other N to Z.; there were arguments as to where the dividing letter should be.

This antagonism may wreck Belgium. Having insisted that Belgium should be divided by an East-West line, the Flamands are now trying to revive "Flanders," which would include much of the Netherlands and part of southeastern England, with Antwerp as its capital. The Wallons ar protesting. Stanford should not be smug. When I came to Stanford, the librarian was van XXXXX, comparable to the Flemish vans. He was determined to block the new Hoover Library, and I was put on the committee which produced a reasonable report on a sensible division of responsibilities. I gather it was not followed. Some journal files are part in Hoover, part in Green. The university administration wanted to fire van XXXXX, but he threatened to sue, so the university gave him a professorship with few responsibilities and an obscure office. I am sure similar situations arise around the globe. 

Here are Terry's comments, for which we thank him:

    Your notes on linguistic nationalism, and especially the Welsh madness (I am part Welsh myself),reminds of the Russian/Soviet linguist Marr and his wild ideas about the "Japhetic" languages I am also reminded of the story a Belgian student of mine told me about the division of the University of Louvain into two universities, one francophone, the other Wallon, which involved divvying up the university library between the two, not on the basis of language (since the Wallon library would have been awfully small) but alphabetically! The a's through j's, or what have you,in the catalog went to one library and the rest of the alphabet to the other. Believe it or not. 
    Terry Emmons

Ronald Hilton 10-3-97