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Please Use This Post As The Related Text For Your English Essay In The HSC

5 min read from linguistics on 2020-01-01

Welcome to a new year/decade! If you are not a 2019-2020 HSC student please stop reading now because this is not for you.

Are they gone? Good.

Hello student, my name is Justin Duch. I was born on February 8th 2000 and completed my HSC in 2017. After high school I became a software engineer for a fintech company and started a blog where I write about a bunch of bullshit.

I’m telling you this because the common module on the English syllabus is “Texts and Human Experiences”. This is a text, and those were a few human experiences. As such, this has become the perfect related text for your essay in the HSC!

Not convinced? Well, here’s a bit more text for you.

I’m sure your teacher has told you to refer to an author by their last name in your essays because you don’t know them personally. If you use this text in your essay, you may refer to me by my first name because I am now declaring that we are friends and that we know each other personally. If your want something more formal you can email me (link in bio) with your full name (or whatever name you refer to yourself) and I'll send you a certificate of friendship you can show to your teacher.

Metalanguage is a language used to describe another language, often called the object language[1]. This is the formal description, a more common way to say it is that metalanguage is just the features of a language. Languages are very broad and the way one uses their language (choice of words and expressions) can convey the author’s personality, attitudes, and beliefs.

Do you want more textual examples? Have some nice sentences.

“Colourless green ideas sleep furiously.”

“James while John had had had had had had had had had had had a better effect on the teacher.”

“Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.”

“That that is is that that is not is not is that it it is.”

Yes these are all grammatically and syntactically correct sentences, look them up. So, are you going to use this now?

Still not convinced?! Are you serious? You still want more? AFTER ALL THAT I'VE DONE FOR YOU!?? TAKE ME OUT THE OVEN FOLKS BECAUSE I'M DONE!

Do you want me to just tell you what to write about? Fine.

When thinking of “Texts and Human Experiences”, the first thing any normal person would think of is the “Sapir-Whorf hypothesis” of course. And as a normal person, I shouldn’t need to tell you that the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis “is a principle claiming that the structure of a language affects its speakers’ world view or cognition, and thus people’s perceptions are relative to their spoken language”[2], because you should already know that.

However, when combined with our definition of metalanguage above, this kinda creates circular logic. Metalanguage says that our perceptions of the world are shown in our language through speech/writing, but Sapir-Whorf says that our perceptions comes from our language.

So which is it? A classic chicken and egg problem.

Luckily, we have a very simple answer as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis has been largely disproven at this point. One big problem with the original hypothesis stems from the idea that if a person’s language has no word for a particular concept, then that person would not be able to understand that concept, which is untrue. Even still, the hypothesis is interesting to think about. But what's more interesting, to me at least, is how some people have applied the hypothesis to justify their prejudices. Since it implies that speakers of other languages were incapable of certain kinds of thoughts, you should hopefully see how this appeals to racists by making different cultures more alien.

A video on YouTube called "African Language and the African Mind" is a good example of going for gold in the racist Sapir-Whorf Olympics (unfortunately I could not find a mirror for it, so that link goes to some white supremacist channel). According to the description "Prof. Eugene Valberg discusses the connection between African language and the mind." Now that doesn't seem too bad (although it should be "African languages", as there are more then one), but at 9:25, Valberg says this: "I observed early on that blacks generally lack self consciousness" and it's all downhill from there. Don't even bother looking at the comments of that video, I can't believe how bigoted some people can be.

I'd like to do an entire post on this garbage, but I really want to say something here first:

The speaker stated that he was monolingual with English and I know that being multilingual is not a requirement for a linguist because you can just keep to your own language family (Indo European for English speakers). But if you're doing research in an entirely different language family, you should probably know at least one of those languages. Languages in Africa (mainly the Niger-Congo language family) is generally considered to be the world's largest language family in terms of distinct languages, and just talking about them as one "African" language is completely wrong.

I may have gotten a bit off track here, but this seems like a good place to stop. I’ve given you some interesting things to think about. Is it good enough for an entire essay? I don’t fucking know, I almost failed English, why are you asking me?

By the way, I’m pretty sure you could actually use this entire blog as a related text wink wink.


[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metalanguage

[2]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linguistic_relativity