Language in a “Post”-colonial Context

Writers often struggle, debate, toil within, and explore the links between language and the ways in which it determines our perceptions and establishes a structure for seeing, hearing, and living. In a Postcolonial context in which one or more languages have been imposed, others oppressed or systematically destroyed, others so effectively stamped out via policy and force that the “native” speakers no longer use it, writers often face a common situation: “to give names to one’s experience… to describe a nature you have no words for, a reality outside of the logical encoded in your language” (139 “The Empire Writes Back”)   

In that situation, the writer develops a new strategy of naming experience and of describing that bends the structure and quality of the imposed language. Nature must somehow twist the imposed language, break it apart, and force it into the processes of the land and sea. To describe a reality not encoded in the imposed language, one must refashion that language, subvert the code, posit a new one that carries the reality that the writer knows or intuits.     

That ability to re-shape language, to force it into the process of a new nature, a new relationship to land and sea gets deep into an intrinsic property of language: that it can always generate new meanings, that it can always transmit new ideas and concepts, that it is in constant flux.  

Jacob Dyer-Spiegel @  (2008)

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