An interview with the English linguist Guy Deutscher

décembre 20th, 2012



By Rachid Filali/Algeria

Mr. Guy Deutscher

Your latest book “Through the Language Glass : How Words Colour Your World”  caused a big storm of debate in the field of linguistics, where you tried to examine the old theory, concerning the question of influence between language and culture, first what is the motive drove you to discuss this theory again?


I thought the power and importance of culture (as opposed to genes and DNA) over language and over our thoughts has been underestimated in recent decades, and wanted to put it back in its rightful place.

-Mr. Deutscher
Greeks not only those suffering from disease Daltoniseme, where there is a dialect in the east of Algeria (Jijel) does not differentiate the speakers, between blue and green, and also do not differentiate between hearing and smell .. Of course there is no relationship between these Greeks and Arabs - Berbers, what do you think?

I tried to show in the book that the lack of vocabulary for colour differences has nothing to do with Daltonism, that is colour blindness. It is a cultural difference, in language, not in eyesight. And there are similarities not just between ancient Greeks and Berbers, but with cultures all over the world in the way that colour vocabulary develops. This is one of the main themes of the book.

-Do not you think - sir - that your book, encourages some racist tendencies, which defends the superior race, who speaks the language of advanced,
And criticizes the backward race which speaks the language of poor and powerless?

Of course not. What could possibly have given you this idea? There is nothing in my book about ’superior race’. My book in fact tries to say that any differences between us are due to the cultural environment and have nothing to do with race.

-There are a number of linguists describe the Arabic language as backward and the language of nomadism, and therefore is not a language of civilization, because they used a large number of terms are too old and these terms are generated in an environment Sahroah, but Arabic is the same that gave many of the terms urban Modern Languages ​​(English, French, German, Russian ..) What do you think, sir?

I think there is no such thing as a ‘backward language’. If a language doesn’t have words for scientific or abstract terms, it can just borrow these, just like all European languages borrowed their words for scientific and abstract terms from Latin and Greek, and… yes - Arabic.

-Some languages ​​are very complex and does not have an alphabet such as Chinese and Japanese, but the speakers of these languages ​​are not less intelligent than others, on the

contrary, they are very smart, and their ideas about life including “great philosophy” .. The Sioux Indians - for example - in the United States speak a language seem poor but rich in myths reflect the view of the world, is not it?

You have to separate between writing system and spoken language. Chinese writing system is indeed complex, but the language itself is not more complex than English or French or Arabic.

-Mr. Deutscher

You know that there are scientific theories with preconceived ideas and deviant, Linguistics and full of such quasi-scientific theories, what is the way of research in this important area of human culture without falling into extremism and falsehood?

As in all things to do with science - the best way is to try to stick to facts, and facts that can be proved.

Regards, Guy Deutscher



décembre 2nd, 2012

by Rachid Filali

Filali : Your husband is an intellectual celebrity. What beautiful memories
do you keep of this great man?

Tassi : Ivano Bambini is an example for the future generations. “His generation” is not born yet. Perhaps it was born in the countries of the Arab Spring? One of the politicians that he called, smiling, “VIP”, or “Philosopher” (in Bambini’s language ,one that talks and nothing else) once told me that he had never met such a methodical, systematic mind, as that the “Poet of the Software”; another definition of Ivano, by some Italian computer programmer who saw him in action. Yes, he was a new intellectual of Foucault, the engineer of the mind.

He had something both of Gates and Jobs, but he was Bambini, one who wanted to give the huge power of the software to everyone, not to the politicians “as foundation creme”. This is how he joked!

About me, that I met him when I was almost a child, and followed him forever: “You’re a great artist, that doesn’t want to do anything else, but at least do something about this! Otherwise what kind of artist are you?”
This was Ivano. This poor Italy really needs him!

Speaking for myself, I will remember every single moment of the enormous time frame I spent with him. And while I’m writing this, I realize that a part of me IS HIM. His left hand, because I write with the right one. I will always remember his unexpected phone call in the middle of the night. He was in Perugia, I was in Rome.
I was working on “MANDALA”. I wanted to work, but I nodded off, while I was trying to finish a famous chapter on the Net! There was bad connection, because all hot his infinitesimal calculations, he always forgot to charge his mobile phone. He used to hate mobiles,he only loved computers, possibly desktop computers, and websites,not blogs or social-networks. He said that “websites are a different matter.” He always wished me to have more and more websites!

It seems that after many “Fuck you!” someone reads you”, he told me, laughing at my anxiety as he often did.
And the thing he said later, made me go mad, because I thought he was making fun of me!
“Listen! Do you want the address, so you talk to each other, or do u believe it?” Yes, because if you still want to be a good artist as you are,you really should forget what I told you, because unluckily it’s all truth;bye,Empress!”
Yes, he called me like that. Obviously I did, and I’m still doing, what he told me. But that night I didn’t sleep anymore. I went to buy pastries next to my house , at dawn. I celebrate alone the end of “MANDALA”. As I now celebrate alone the 400 million views, remembering the end of “MANDALA”.

Filali : These days, your own site records 400 million visitors. What do you think about this huge number, and that you are an internationally known poet?

Tassi : I am not a soccer player or a member of the Mafia, but yes, in some fields that I appreciate, I’m known and loved. Sometimes I am touched by a very young boy that knows by heart some of my verses that even I forgot…perhaps in some African country, or India, or an island that I have to visit sooner or later, or the dear Arab countries.

As a strong reflection of the massive presence of the American students, obviously.
When the counter of my website started to rocket, I thought I was in a dream, and that I was going to wake up soon. And I’m still asleep in my open-eyed dream. I like people’s love. Everywhere I love people, not Power, of which
I ignore the heavy presence. This makes me a popular artist, and I’m proud of it.
Whoever comes across me, knows that I am one of them.

Ivano Bambini used tell me: “Hope you’ll have a kind of fame that doesn’t allow anyone to make you a caricature.
It’s better to have envious censors!”But I would be hypocrite if I said that my popularity doesn’t come from striking numbers: 400 million. Yes, sometimes I think that only love creates eternal things. Our “collaboration” was a love game that became a sensational, unexpected, incredible world success. I have never seen such different personalities working together! I don’t know how he managed to stand my romantic lamentation. And how I managed to survive his sarcastic irony. But it worked! I like to write this on his computer that everyone want me to change, because too complicated and professional for me, but without any result. I know that I will change it, sooner or later, but I will save everything, even his last Mozartian classification. When my website will reach HALF A BILLION.

Filali : Who is the new poet Edda Tassi ? Is there a new book awaiting publication?

Tassi : If it’s true that nothing that happens has an importance,I entered a cheerful, silent galaxy, where I’ll be the Italian minstrel that make you laugh or cry, depending on the changing weather.
The world on which we all live is now apparently crowded in geniuses in every sector of the human knowledge, and poets, and artists that associate among them in huge congregations blocking every continent. Actually, this poor planet is unnatural, miserable, evil, without any aesthetic decency.
The Net is removing entire hierarchies of privileges, but can’t delete the human evil,that reproduces as the most virulent virus.

So Edda thinks and writes. She has become a special little robot, to whom life triggered of high-irony electric wires. But the little robot is very similar to the porcelain doll Gardenia, or the rag clown Lutin.Maybe it’s always her and him…Edda keeps aside big surprises, wonderful things to everyone…!I hope to see some of them myself (I mean alive!).

Ivano , the austral Australian, programmed his “Hereafter”…
And Lutin, sorry, Edda, continues playing with words in the perfect Latin-Greek OTIUM (also a little bit Etruscan, of course).

Filali : What do you think of contemporary Arabic literature? Do you read Algerian literature?

I know (and not so well) just some authors from the history of Algeria, those you find in the French anthologies, or translated in Italian. The thing that attracts me is, above all, the tormented lives, the mysteries around this people. Jean Amrouche is one of them. If some Algerian intellectual finds his diary (for the radio), that would be incredible. I read something of Gafaiti Hafid. I like what Rachid Boudjedra wrote about terrorism: that writers of that period cannot be defined as “emergency writers”, because one always writes in an emergency! It is true.
I know something by Kateb Yacine. Algeria is a fertile territory as regards writing. It feeds on afflictions, contrasts and extreme lives. Thanks to anthologies, I know who Abd Chani, Abd el Kadir, Si Mohand, Oumhaned, Ben Sheneb, Abd al Hamid Ben Badis are. I know something by artists as Muhamed al-Aida, M al Lakkani, and Ahmed Katib. I like the figure of Lounès Matoub. And obviously great women as Tahar Djaout and Assia Djebar. I really like this feminine figure and the way she expresses herself! Here I stop, because I would lie. I invite Algerian artists to give me free lessons, and to invite me there.
I would be really happy.

Filali : Who is your favorite Middle Eastern author ?

I read many books, but still today I believe that the most important period is that before 10 years old.
What we read during our childhood. The magic of writing penetrates so much that, if we are lucky as I am, it doesn’t leave us. I kept the majority of the first books I read, Dickens, Twain, Lorenzini, Sand, Carroll, and many others, even less know, that I adored. Among these, there was a book that I considerate magic: “One Thousand and One Nights”. I have many editions of it, bought again as for other books, because they were too worn out by re-reading!

In high school some authors were important for me, as Avicenna and Averroè, great figures, what connected different worlds, contaminating them in a beneficial way,and saving them from decay and oblivion; the culture triumphing over wars and devil. This “ancient” vision of Grecian and new worlds, always stayed inside me, as in my beloved Foucault. He appreciates Arab countries and lived there.This “Arab fascination” can be found in my works, both prose and poetry.
Above all, in “SEVEN SAGES”, where you can find the myth of Averroè, but also in “CATHERINE WHEEL”.
The collection of poems “BEYOND CURTAIN” is dominated by the mysterious figure of the princess Asmahan. Obviously I read Adunis and Salman Rushdie… but as for Algerian authors, I still have a lot to study. And I always hope for free lessons and invites to my dear Arab people, to whom I feel even more close now.

Edda Tassi is the only daughter of a famous farming family spread into many European cities such as France, Switzerland, and Belgium and of course Italy. She was able to draw the attention of many since an early age as she wrote texts that show an awareness, smoothness and intelligence that were beyond her natural age.
The poetess received her primary education in the Italian Salesianes Nuns School till she graduated. She did her university studies at the University of Roma where she studied clinical psychology, history of art, literature and philosophy as well as her existential avocation which was writing especially poetry which enabled her to ably enter the principality of Italian poetry.

So far, she has issued eleven poetry collections and two novels. Now her fine and humanely rich poetry is the subject matter of critiques in the most accredited American universities.

An interview with the American sociologist Ann Morning

décembre 1st, 2012

By: Rachid Filali

-Professor Ann Morning:

   Your book “The Nature of Race” reveal a startling fact, the scientists involved, intentionally or unintentionally, in support of extremist political trends, is not it?

What is perceived as « extremist » depends entirely on the social and political context.  In the United States today, it is hardly considered an extreme position to argue that the human species is divided into a small number of biologically-distinct races.  Even the belief that such races can be arrayed along a hierarchy of inferior and superior races is probably not an « extreme » position in the United States, given our long history of precisely such beliefs (and political institutions based on them), and the extent to which racial prejudices are still alive today.

-Did you know you before that the concept of “race” a cultural invention, not a biological fact?

The idea that race was a social invention or “construct” rather than a biological phenomenon was one that I was probably first exposed to as a doctoral student.  My exposure to this argument was what motivated me to write my book.

-The field of anthropology and ethnology, history, and even linguistics “poisoned” by the use of concepts that include the intentions of the suspect, such as the concept of “race” and “primitive” and other concepts, is it reasonable to wait for decades and possibly centuries to discover such facts distorted?

I don’t think we will have to wait for decades; scholars are already pointing out the myriad ways in which these academic disciplines and others—like biology and psychology—have been shaped by particular ideas of race and culture.  But it’s not surprising that it’s taken so long for scholars to recognize this about their fields; it took major political and social events like World War II and the Holocaust, as well as the U.S. civil rights movement, to shake academics up and push them to reconsider their assumptions about human differences.
-The book “The Nature of Race” has not been translated yet - according to my knowledge - to the Arabic language and many other languages​​, it means that the use of the concept of “race” is still circulating in the scientific literature and as well as pedagogical, and it is supposed to organize scientific meetings to present this issue .

I would love for my book to be translated into Arabic, and to spark a cross-national conversation about the ways that ideas of “racial” difference appear in different social contexts.  Currently, I’m conducting research in Italy because I’d like to understand how western Europeans in a nation with a great deal of immigrants think about the differences between themselves and the newcomers.

- There are a lot of scientific myths that should be seriously reviewed, especially those that are relevant to humans, are there other attempts is currently Professor Anne studied in this regard?

I know many scholars who are interested in the beliefs about race, or gender, or sexuality that circulate and that are influenced by scientific discourse.

- The genetic study recently published in the “American Journal of Human Genetics” revealed that the origin of humans from the Arabian Peninsula, is this a new myth or scientific fact confirmed?

This is a fascinating study.  To be clear, though, it doesn’t claim that all human beings originated in the Arabian Peninsula, but rather, that the first group of Africans to leave Africa went in a northeastern direction, from the Horn of Africa to Yemen and elsewhere on the Arabian Peninsula, rather than in a northwestern direction to Egypt and the Levant.  As a scholar who is now based in the United Arab Emirates, I find this a pretty exciting theory!  But I understand it is a new argument that is in the process of being debated, and has not yet been widely confirmed and embraced.

- What are the most important social studies, which “revealed” recently, too - according to your opinion - more pseudo-concepts, like your book “The Nature of Race” wonderful and very successful?

There are many, but I will mention just a few:

Hannaford, Ivan. 1996. Race: The History of an Idea in the West. Washington, DC: The Woodrow Wilson Center Press.  A wonderful history of the evolution of racial thinking in the west.

Fredrickson, George M. 2002. Racism: A Short History. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.  A very readable book by an eminent historian, it traces the history of the western “race” concept to medieval Spain’s treatment of its Muslim- and Jewish-descent populations.

Hall, Bruce S. 2011. A History of Race in Muslim West Africa, 1600-1960. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.  This thought-provoking book focuses on North and West Africa to argue that the concept of race has been invented in other times and places beyond Western Europe.

Schiebinger, Londa. 1993. Nature’s Body: Gender in the Making of Modern Science. Boston MA: Beacon Press.  This fascinating book explores how the social and political prejudices of European scientists in the age of the Enlightenment had a deep impact on the field of human biology.


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