The last of the flower of Lazio

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By WALNICE NOGUEIRA GALVÃO

The paths of language evolution are much more diversified and full of meanders than you might think.

“Last flower of Latium, uncultivated and beautiful, \ You are, at the same time, splendor and grave: \ Native gold, which in the impure denim \ The rough mine among the gravels watches…” (From the sonnet Portuguese language, by Olavo Bilac).

Attempts to prohibit the use of foreign words in public events, media, establishments and products rekindle an old controversy, which remains undecidable to this day.

Few could be in favor of a law of such totalitarian scope, echoing Nazism and its purge of “non-Aryan” words from the German language. A not always visible foundation of personal and ethnic identity, the mother tongue awakens the darkest emotions.

And nobody remembers that, as Sérgio Buarque de Holanda shows, Tupi was spoken in São Paulo until the middle of the XNUMXth century. The Paulistas, without access to the coast and without products that Europe coveted, they loved each other completely, taking about two hundred years to speak Portuguese again, which contributed both to the extinction of the Gentiles and the arrival of fresh waves from Reinóis. Left to himself, nothing guarantees that the speaker maintains chasticism; and it may well, as was the case in São Paulo, be the opposite.

In principle, we are all against banning. But maybe things are not as simple as they seem at first glance, if we think of the universal linguistic vandalism that is the work of “computer” English. Our alphabet, the Latin, has only 26 letters, and it already faces the problem. The Chinese, who have still not been able to feed their 2 simplified Mandarin ideograms into the computer, adapted an English jargon to be able to manipulate the machine and its accessories.

The French, with firm democratic convictions rooted in history, and for centuries dedicated to “defense et illustration de la langue française“, maintain, incredible as it may seem, a special commission of the French Academy of Letters for the naturalization of the foreign lexicon, which examines and decides case by case. Couldn't stop it car park e weekend were grafted, without adaptation and without similar. But they managed, with rare originality, to impose the name "computer” into the computer, making its language one of the few that has a term of its own not derived from it. do not use but yes "software” and decided that e-mail will honey.

In Brazil, the turn of the century, which saw a rise of frivolity, also saw belletrists propose substitute forms for the most common Gallicisms, breaking them down and replacing them through a return to Greco-Latin roots. Honorable task, and doomed to failure. Ludopédio (game+foot) or soccer? Lucivelo (light+velar) or lampshade (break+light)? Tetéia or knickknack? Between us, kinesiphorus (movement+carrier), instead of chauffeur, was unpalatable – and today everyone has dropped the chauffeur in favor of the chauffeur. But the menu caught on, replacing the French menu, although in Portugal it is usual menu. In this vogue, even Picnic Anglicism faltered before Convescote.

Another creator of neologisms is Emília, by Monteiro Lobato. Emília practices, and theorizes about, the neologism – therefore she provides arguments against this law. She has never been afraid of foreignness, which she takes on without ceremony, with remarkable grace. Thus, for example, it appropriated a legitimate English word, making it available at all times: the bilingual, to designate your belongings. in the pages of Emília in the country of grammar, which transforms the language into an imaginary city, we will find the routine lexicon based in the urban center, while neologisms and archaisms are located in the periphery: metaphorically, they still do not have or have already lost the right to be in the city. The archaisms live in Bairro do Refugo, where words like Bofé and Ogano are personified.

In a mistreated suburb, ragged kids play, which constitute the Slang. Among them Otário, currently alive, and Cuera or bully, who Mário de Andrade employed so much and who disappeared. Not far from Slang live immigrants, known as Barbarismos or Estrangeirismos. Emília, who is sometimes a bit pedestrian (she immediately asked if Dona Benta and Tia Nastácia were archaisms), pondered that those words were called that because they said barbarities. But the Viscount clarifies that they are not, and, defending them, he attacks the grammarians, whom he calls “language policemen”, who consider foreignisms criminal and “treat poor people as if they were lepers”. More or less what the new bill proposes as a program.

Narizinho agrees, because if this country receives people from all regions, it should coherently accept any words, without stigmatizing them with italics or quotation marks. And Emília, in favor of spelling simplification, attacks ph and th, double consonants, etc., stating that the use eliminates the complication, as a rule in any language – which is not exact. If this is true for many of the Latin languages, including ours, German and English resist, continuing to respect mute and useless graphemes. It is due to this factor that the attention given in North American schools to the “spelling“, in which students usually sink.

Guimarães Rosa recovered archaisms and coined neologisms. Like Emilia, he not only practiced but indoctrinated about it, which he did especially in the four prefaces of Tutaméia – Third stories. There, in particular in the preface for which he forged the title “Hypotrelicus”, the writer examines, mocking both, the two axes that summarize the hypotheses of autonomous renewal of languages: anonymous authorship or individual authorship submitted to collective scrutiny.

Admirer, as he is, of linguistic verve and slang (in the same preface, he praises “gamado” and “aloprado”), he shows how naive, if not ignorant, it would be to believe that the people are the source of all creation. He insists on pointing out that many of the most indispensable and familiar words were inventions with author and date: “in the way that Cicero made quality (qualities), Comte “altruism”, Stendhal “egotism”, Guyau “amoral”, Bentham “international”, Turgenev “nihilist”, Fracastor “syphilis”, Paracelsus “gnome”, Voltaire “ambassador (ambassador), Van Helmont “gas”, Coelho Neto “paredro”, Rui Barbosa “egolatry”, Alfredo Taunay morgue”.

The writer would certainly appreciate the taste of certain happy acclimatizations, such as the splendid “Xburger” – because the name of the letter xis is not homophone of the word cheese? —, as well as the demotic diffusion of the English genitive, stamped throughout the national territory, in the innumerable establishments called Chico's, Dito's, Mucama's, Iracema's etc.

Completing Guimarães Rosa's arguments, it is good to remember that with each expansion of the field of knowledge or technological advance, it is necessary to manufacture, on purpose and as artificially as possible, that is, without any popular spontaneity, a new specific lexicon, in looking for etyms and affixes in the Greco-Latin sources themselves. Medicine, botany, zoology, physics, chemistry, usually proceed in this way.

Astronomers have been industrious in this for centuries, and we are grateful to them for invading our imagination with the galas of Greek mythology. Who doesn't feel a fantasy run wild when they see that the moons of Mars are called Deimos and Phobos, or Horror and Fear, after the name of the two horses that pulled the chariot of the God? Or that, apart from the rings, Saturn has twenty satellites, of which the largest is a Titan?

Although it is the same artificial procedure of resorting to chaste roots, and has nothing to do with unconscious estrus, we are no longer even startled when we talk about electricity, cars, telegrams, buses, refrigerators, radios, faxes (from facsimile), taxi, airplane, airplane, airport, parachute, missile, submarine, atom, bicycle and motorcycle, astronaut etc. Nobody wonders or protests. Among European languages, German deviates from the norm, translating Greco-Latin into Germanic roots and adapting component by component, with results such as TV (far+see), for television.

In any case, computer language has already sent some synonyms to Bairro do Refugo, even when unnecessary. This is what happened with the verb delete, which supplanted erase, delirium, obliterate. Barbarism is unjustified; but it has already become vernacular, it is in dictionaries and in every mouth. Perhaps it is strange because it is recent, as no one remembers that the noble Breton sport was an infectious focus of Anglicisms, from its very name football to sport, goal, goalkeeper, ball, kick, boot, team, team, dribbling, feint, penalty etc.

Among us, there is a precedent in the eagerness for lexical elaboration in the brilliant XNUMXth century translations by Odorico Mendes, from Maranhão, who transferred to our language nothing less than the Iliad, Odyssey and Aenida. Accepting the challenge of verse, when so many prefer the easier solution of prose, he was determined to account for the synthesizing power of declinable languages ​​such as Greek and Latin, striving to make them fit in Portuguese in the original measure. He found himself grappling with Homeric epithets – formulaic, therefore conventional and repeated a thousand times throughout the text – which, due to the analytical nature of vernacular languages, weakened the attribution of attributes, becoming extensive, while in the original they did not go beyond the limits of a single word. In the case of Homer, he tried to exchange the Greek etymons for the Latin ones, which were less offensive to the Portuguese-speaking world.

When facing Eos rhododactylos he had no doubt or, if he had, he overcame it: instead of noting “Aurora, the one with the fingers of a rose”, he ventured Dedirrósea Aurora. Isn't it a beauty? The wife of Zeus, Hera or Juno, “the one who sits on a golden throne” and “the one with the eyes of a cow” in so many literal versions, became Auritronia and Olhitaurea. In this carnation, Minerva or Palas Atena is Olhicerúlea, the same one who, in other pages, has glaucous or blue eyes. A five-pointed pike is “five-toothed”; Ulysses' home island, Ithaca, is “circumfluous,” or surrounded by waves; and so on, always for the sake of a shrinkage that matches the original conciseness and fits on the back.

What is lost in clarity is gained in opulence of signifiers. In expressing his appreciation for Hölderlin's translations of Pindar, Walter Benjamin would observe that, instead of Germanizing the Greek, they Hellenize the German. And we could add that, if a children's tricycle was manufactured that usurped a Homeric epithet, made substantive, it was unfortunate, and Odorico Mendes cannot be held responsible for the degradation of the Achilles Velocipede, a way he found of synthesizing the attribute “The one with the feet”. swift” that qualifies the greatest of Greek heroes.

Another man from Maranhão, Sousândrade, practiced polyglossy very comfortably in his voluminous poem in 13 cantos, the Guesa. There, the poet uses several languages, which eventually even rhymes. In certain cases, as in Canto 10o, which contains the episode of Hell on Wall Street, the diction is full of English terms: “”– Why, Grant, to the penitentiary/ Friends go one by one?/ Forgeries, rings, wrongs;/ Iraa's songs/ Cantar vim at the Barnum circus!”, says D. Pedro II to President Grant. Canto 2, in the episode of Tatuturema, appeals to Tupi: “”– Dreams, flowers and fruits, / Flames of the urucari!/ It has already been done here-á-ré,/ Alligator!/ Long live Jurupari!” And he did not fail to honor Odorico Mendes, to whom he sends a splinter in Canto 12, when he versifies: “Odorico, é pai rococo”.

One of the most fertile periods for the renewal of the literary language in Brazil was modernism, when the incorporation of the colloquial and the regional rose to the artistic mission, erecting itself as a virtue of the anti-academicism of the discourse. This is one of the themes that runs through the monumental correspondence between Mário de Andrade and Manuel Bandeira from beginning to end, a perpetual reason for passionate discussion between two of the leading figures of the movement. It was then that Mário de Andrade devised a Brazilian speech grammar, to brandish against opponents.

Little comes to people's memory – contrary to the reliance on random commoners to create the language – that the writers are notable neologists, and the role that Camões and Shakespeare played in enriching both vocabulary and syntactics of their languages ​​should be more emphasized. And the real homage is the one that James Joyce received posthumously, when educated scientists transformed the beautiful name of quark, coined by him in a phrase from the finnegans wake"Three quarks for Muster Mark“. As the quarks of the quanta theory are always presented in triads, the pertinence of the baptism is not discussed.

In short: everything indicates that we are moving towards a new Koine. The Hellenistic period knew the Koine properly speaking, a pass Greek with minimal vocabulary and rough syntax serving as an international language, or second language for speakers, who did not abdicate their own. Later, Latin would reign in its place for centuries. In our country, in colonial times, the so-called general language derived from Tupi played this role.

Against our will, perhaps we are forced to admit that the turn of English has arrived, a kind of basic and primary English, globalized and recognized in all other languages, resulting from computer codes. And it would not be a disastrous law that could stop the process. Even more so when we realize that the paths of language evolution are much more diversified and full of meanders than one might think, with the balance leaning now towards the spontaneous and now towards the manufactured.

*Walnice Nogueira Galvão Professor Emeritus at FFLCH at USP. She is the author, among other books, of Reading and rereading (Sesc\Ouro over Blue).


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