George Walford: The Democracy of Language

Language is one of the marks of humanity. There is no known human society without it, and although languages are constantly changing linguistic studies do not show them to have evolved in the same sense as societies may be said to have done. Societies of simple economic or political structure do not have correspondingly simple languages. This is significant for systematic ideology; it means that human speech, in all its subtlety and complexity, has to be accepted as a product of the protostatic ideology, for it is found in societies innocent of any more sophisticated ways of thinking.

That is sufficient in itself to correct any illusion that this primal ideology is to be despised, and the point is driven home when we recognise that protostatic control of language is no once-for-all effect of the dim past, that it continues today. New words and new constructions are constantly being introduced, language is constantly being created, and this is not carried out in accordance with any set of rules. Attempts are made to establish rules; the grammarians tell us what is and what is not correct speech, but language happily disregards all constriction, it sweeps ahead with the grammarians and the linguists following; the most they can do is to tidy up after the event. Language is constantly changing, and it does so in accordance with one rigid rule and principle, the rule and principle that there shall be no unbreakable rules or principles. Language changes as may be convenient for the group that speaks it. It is governed by expediency, and expediency is characteristic of protostatic behaviour.

This primal ideology survives, disregarded and often despised, in the ideological structure of every society and every individual, no matter how far development may have been carried. Underlying all science and all philosophy and all morals and all reasoning is the broad area of behaviour in which we are governed by no principle but expediency, in which we do what we want to do in the most convenient way. When acting in this area we are acting by the protostatic ideology, and it is to this type of activity that language belongs.

Authorities in specialised fields may propose new terms, but they are powerless to ensure their adoption; they are adopted, or not, as their users find them convenient. Authorities commonly condemn the new coinages of popular speech, but they are powerless to prevent their adoption; they are adopted, or not, as their users find them convenient. Where speech is in question it is no mere aspiration but present fact that power belongs to the people.

from Ideological Commentary 18, June 1985.