The Languages of Pao

I finished reading The Languages of Pao by Jack Vance this week. It is a very interesting story about a planet whose entire culture is changed by a change in the language. This change in language and culture was meant to make the planet more aggressive and able to stand up to its enemies instead of always immediately submitting. This concept interests me because I have thought for some time that their is a stronger relationship between language, culture, and overall attitude of the individual than we normally realize. I don’t know how to prove this but it seems to me that the language of a culture will cause the individuals of a culture to look at the world in a certain way.

I first thought of these ideas because of some ideas of Bible critics when dealing with the history of Israel and also with Bible translation. On the more liberal side of Bible translation there is the difficulty of dealing with how to translate words and concepts in the Bible into a language that does not have equivalent words or concepts. I would immediately say that you need to then add those words or concepts because the target language is defective if it cannot deal with a Bible translation. Others would change the words and concepts in the Bible to fit something in the language. This seems to say the Bible is defective and needs changed which is a problem. My point in this illustration is that those cultures with a “defective” language (assuming there really are any) would not be as easily able to think correctly about the world as we who probably have the full range of needed words and concepts.

We need to understand all of the influences that affect us and the culture around us. Our church, upbringing, location, language, friends, etc. all have an affect on who we are and how we think. This definitely doesn’t excuse anything sinful but can be useful as we strive to think more like Christ.

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