“The language is created by the culture,” concluded linguist Daniel Everette in his observations of the Pirahã people, native to the Amazon. Mystifying linguists worldwide, the Pirahã have no descriptive words, stories or subordinate clauses. If the Pirahã’s culture is the physical manifestation of their language, what can the use of language in contemporary discourse teach us about cultures around the world? This edition’s writers touch on this question through various lenses.
Some are praising the decision as an attempt to preserve Urdu, and by extension, the Pakistani culture. But, an increasing number of Pakistanis are choosing to neglect Urdu and Pakistan’s regional languages in favor of English, due to English’s status as the global common language and as a signifier of socioeconomic prestige.
When we consider the notions of competence and understanding, we see an intuitive relationship between them. Being competent in a subject entails being knowledgeable enough to accomplish a particular goal, perhaps established by context. Understanding something, on the other hand, implies a sort of complete knowledge about a subject.
The Gettysburg Address is not laced with expletives. When Abraham Lincoln delivered the speech on the eve of the namesake battle over one hundred years ago, he didn’t sprinkle in a few forbidden words for added emphasis. Instead, the lasting power of the speech lies in its precision, powerful brevity, and seamless eloquence.