Language, vocabulary and ideology


National languages seem to have entered a critical situation. First of all the mass migration movements, followed by the recent transformation of the communication technologies and systems, have allowed the proliferation of a number of dialects, jargons, slangs, contaminations between languages—that on their own were not at all pure.

The debate concerning the correctness of national languages oscillates between conservative positions—the tendency to stick rigidly to one’s own tradition, negating any chance of innovation and change—and liberal positions—which find their extreme in the unreal belief that anything which is said is correct. On one side, the first position reveals itself as an authoritarian form unable to mediate between different linguistic realities, and which actually tends to reduce the national language to a sort of prefectural or legal language—a technicalized jargon increasingly separating itself from the community of speakers. The second, instead, completely lacks the will to discriminate between a correct and an erroneous use—not to mention the extreme situation in which everything which is said is legitimately part of the language. The crisis of national languages, raised by the lack of authority, is today radicalized by the absence of awareness and public debate concerning what it means to exercise that authority. It is necessary to realize the implications ensuing from the discrimination of certain linguistic forms instead of others, or from the addition of a new word to the dictionary: as David Foster Wallace reminded us—Authority and American Usage, in Consider the Lobster, Little, Brown and Company, 2005—the public dimension of language makes it a profoundly political and ideological instrument and field of action.