/Language as Development and Development as Language – Yonela Mlambo

Language as Development and Development as Language – Yonela Mlambo

Yonela Mlambo
University of Cape Town – SOUTH AFRICA

This paper is a commentary paper about the imperativeness of language in development and argues that language is development and development is language. Saussure linguistic structuralists analysis is going to be our locus of enunciation in conceptualizing that language is imperative and inseparable to development.

The Saussure conception of language as a structure Saussure1 argued against the manner in which people regard language when reduced to its elements as a naming process i.e. words are a list and that each word is corresponding to that thing it names. Saussure argued that such conception is open to criticism as it assumes that readymade ideas exist before words and it does not tell us whether a name is vocal or psychological in its nature. Nonetheless, the regard of conceptualizing language when reduced to its basic elements as naming process Saussure posited it and brought us near to the truth through demonstrating the linguistic unit that it is a double entity formed by associating two elements- the signifi -er and the signifi ed. Saussure further argued that both the terms [signifi -er and the signifi ed] involved in the linguistic sign are psychological and are united in the brain by an associative bond. The linguistic sign unites not only a thing and a name but a concept and a sound-image. It is imperative to mention that in Saussure linguistic unit analysis qua that sign is not the material sound, but a purely physical thing and the psychological imprint of the sound, viz. the impression that it makes to our senses. The two elements alluded in the previous sentences where Saussure argued that they are intimately united and each recalls the other. Also, the sign sanctioned associated by that certain language becomes apparent to confi rm reality to its people, and that they disregard whatever others might imagine. Saussure pointed that the bond between the signifi er [the concept] and the signifi ed [sound-image] is arbitrary. The phenomenon of the arbitrary nature of the signifi er and the signifi ed gave in the expression of the structure qua, that there is nothing intrinsic in them rather, they are collectively determined thus, there is no individual that has the power to change the sign.

The above analysis of the sign using Saussure in conceptualizing the signifi er and the signifi ed is relevant to the argument that language is imperative to development. In the following section, we demonstrate language imperativeness in development.

Conceptualizing Development

In the previous section it has been demonstrated that sign is not merely a naming process that corresponds to the thing that it names, however, it has been demonstrated that sign is a psychological phenomenon having a double linguistic unit that is formed by two elements that bond them together. Signifi er and the signifi ed induce to the subject and psychological imprint of the object. This analysis is integral in our argument which says t that language is imperative to development because to develop any object, it begins from imagination, even before it could exist in the material world. Language, therefore became imperative for development in its generic sense as it gives developers an expression and further emboldens and elevates the language of the peoples who have manufactured the product to prominence more especially if their product is consumed by a large population that transcends their race or ethnicity. The people who develop products, name them after their language and those who utilize producer’s products have to learn language to effi ciently use the products. The unfortunate phenomenon about language as development and development as language to African is that African languages were deprived of development through the imposition of the European language. Colonialism through intrusion coerced Africans to learn and use European languages. The enforcement of Africans to learn and use European language was intertwined with Africans using European materials which deprived them (Africans) of their inalienable divine right to develop their language. For instance, during the apartheid era in South Africa, the regime vociferously denied African children access to speak their language and enforced European languages as a medium of instruction. The results of that were adverse because that stiffened the development of African languages, thereof the development itself. The unfortunate part is the apartheid legacy that still persists [post]-apartheid under blackled government. African children in South Africa in [post]-apartheid are forbidden to speak or reprimanded for speaking their African languages. The previous phenomenon is further enforced and made possible by African parents‘ who continued their colonial mentality. Thus, African parents in large numbers bus their children off from townships to [former] white school in white suburbs. Moreover, having African children who studied at [former] white schools in white suburbs pains in competing with their fellows who studied in rural areas to demonstrate to them that they have imbibed whiteness and mastered the art of assimilating to whiteness and forming part of the nose brigade and nasalizing which further alienate themselves from their community.

Conclusion Africa has a big population and for her to develop, it could start by introducing one language that could unite Africans. Then speaking in one voice (through one language) and having a common understanding, Africa can then begin to articulate real development. For that to happen it would need political ambitions to be set aside and to prioritize Africa and her future generation. and simultaneously level the uneven international system.

  1. Saussure Ferdinando.1974 Course in General Linguistics, Fontana.