Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Language is obviously a vital tool. Not only is it a means of communicating thoughts and ideas, but it forges friendships, cultural ties, and economic relationships.

Throughout history, many have reflected on the importance of language. For instance, the scholar Benjamin Whorf has noted that language shapes thoughts and emotions, determining one’s perception of reality. John Stuart Mill said that "Language is the light of the mind." Lionel Groulx, a Quebec historian, put it this way: "Chacun retient toutefois que la suprême révélation du génie national, la clef magique qui donne accès aux plus hautes richesses de la culture, c’est la langue."

For the linguist Edward Sapir, language is not only a vehicle for the expression of thoughts, perceptions, sentiments, and values characteristic of a community; it also represents a fundamental expression of social identity. Sapir said: "the mere fact of a common speech serves as a peculiar potent symbol of the social solidarity of those who speak the language." In short, language retention helps maintain feelings of cultural kinship.