An Examination of the Transfer of Cultural Identity
In “The Politics of Language”, Ngugi wa Thiong’o offers the theory that, “communication between human beings is… the basis and process of evolving culture” (162). Without completely disregarding Thiong’o’s suggestion, I would offer the perspective that language itself is not the sole contributor to culture, but rather the primary source for cultural transmission. I question: Is not an English speaking family of Mexican descent still culturally affiliated if they preserve their country’s rituals, food, and dress?
Thiong’o’s primary error in this text is that he equates the full evolution and maintenance of culture to the establishment of language.
This is demonstrated in this very essay in which he declares, “Values are the basis of a people’s identity, their sense of particularity as members of
the human race. All this is carried by language” (162). While I dare not attack the scholarly merits of this argument, I maintain that Thiong’o overlooks other crucial components of human culture; a word which directly pertains to human nature, tendency, and preference.
While it is perfectly acceptable to concede that tradition is transferred through use of language, it is unfair to presume that the tradition being transferred is based off of nothing more than the language in which it is being spoken. Again I offer an example: Is not a Mexican tradition still valid in it’s origin, if the tradition is passed down using the English language? I would argue that the answer is yes.
Such being the case I contest Ngugi’s overarching suppositions in regards to the politics of language.