September 30, 2012

Language Notes

Well, I'm back from my weekend trip to the general curia, having visited for a couple days in order to be introduced to some of the little things that will constitute my new job. The friar who has been the secretary for English up to now is moving back to his home province next weekend, so it was important that he show me things.

Having returned for supper at the little friary where I have been staying (because of the easy commute to the language school), of course the friars quizzed me about my weekend. Among other things, I told them of my great embarrassment at having mispronounced a word while reading one of St. Francis's Admonitions in chapel. I just put the 'wrong emPHAsis on the wrong sylLAble' as they say. One of the friars--Italian being his third language at the very least--comforted me with these words: "The accent in Italian is something like their politics; it's hard to know where it's going."

Later on in the meal, partly because the school I go to is called Torre di Babele, The Tower of Babel, and because this is a funny--if not downright inauspicious--name for a language school, the brethren got to talking about the unified human language as it was, perhaps, before the whole Tower incident. I, of course, put forth my tentative belief that this language is now lost, and that this is why we humans have a hard time making ourselves understood by the animals. They expect to hear from us the names that Adam gave them. Of these, unfortunately, we are ignorant. Of course there are a lot of hard theological problems embedded in this question, such as, for example, the divine name as revealed to Moses. One of the friars put forth strongly his suggestion that Adam, Eve, and their pre-Tower of Babel descendents all spoke Ge'ez. I had neither heard nor thought of this before. I'll give it more thought.


Anonymous said...

When I was a child, going to the Italian mass every Sunday was a family affair. My brothers and cousins were altar boys, my uncle an Usher, my aunt leader of song, and I was the dutiful little girl who sat squeezed in between her parents and grandparents. The priest was an American born of Italian heritage who tried his best, but every once in a while he got the accent wrong. To this day I laugh when I think about the time he was reading the gospel which spoke about Jesus performing some miracle in front of the apostles whereby they were left "stunned." The Italian word for stunned is "stupiti." He pronouced "stupidi." Hence Jesus performed some miracle whereby the apostles remained stupid. Gotta love it!

Brother Charles said...

Ha! Indeed. The 'stupidi'/'stupiti' switch is easy to make!

-Lou (Louis) said...

When in doubt, accent is always on the second syllable. Well, almost :D