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Additional info for Before the Empire of English: Literature, Provinciality, and Nationalism in Eighteenth-Century Britain

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He envisions a situation in which English, far from being in need of cultural transactions with the ancient and modern languages of culture, becomes itself the metropolitan source and fount of such cultural richness for various “provincial” cultures. As these various remarks illustrate, the hegemony of English implies not simply a “quantitative” domination of English over other languages in terms of language-use around the world; it also, and more importantly, implies a “qualitative” domination of English resulting in or reinforcing the impoverishment of other languages, their provincialization, their reduction to the functional status of “kitchen languages” or “patois,” unusable for the great majority of the public-sphere activities of the modern world.

Waller came last, but was the first whose art Just weight and measure did to verse impart, That of a well-placed word could teach the force, And showed for poetry a nobler course. His happy genius did our tongue refine, And easy words with pleasing numbers join; His verses to good method did apply, And changed harsh discord to soft harmony. All owned his laws, which, long approved and tried, To present authors now may be a guide. Where the Soame–Dryden version speaks of Edward Fairfax (ca. –1544), Pierre de Ronsard (1524–85), Philippe Desportes (1546–1606), Jean Bertaut (1552–1611), and François de Malherbe (1555–1628).

This transformation and elevation was one of the central cultural facts of their age, but one that has been so taken for granted in the imperial aftermath of the English language that we have frequently failed even to notice it, let alone take full measure of its significance. Imperial English and Provincial Tongues The Third World was not the only place where English tried to grow on the graveyard of other people’s languages. Even in Britain I have heard similar complaints from regions whose original languages had been swallowed up by English or in regions where they are putting up a last ditch struggle to prevent their languages from being killed and buried forever.

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