Language and history

A Reading Note

The loss of the effectiveness of language…is a symptom of a disrupted historical period. When you explore the rise and fall of historical eras, you will note how the language is powerful and compelling at certain times, like the Greek language of the fifth century B.C. in which Aeschylus and Sophocles wrote their classics, or like the Elizabethan English of Shakespeare and the King James translation of the Bible. At other periods the language is weak, vague and uncompelling, such as when Greek culture was being disrupted and dispersed in the Hellenistic period. I believe it could be shown in researches…that when a culture is in its historical phase of growing toward unity, its language reflects the unity and power; whereas when a culture is in the process of change, dispersal, and disintegration, the language likewise loses its power.

May, Man’s Search for Himself, page 43

See also: language during Bush’s administration versus that of Obama.

Related books

A work of existential psychology, May’s text is intelligent and engaging, with prose as lovely as the insights are profound.