Language and the Ruins it Brings

In Professor Lewis’s lecture, she expresses how language, both written and spoken, is a partner of empire. How it supports its goals and how no empire fails to leave its own language behind. But that same language can be used against the empire, as a tool to critique, dislodge and appropriate power. Language is what binds but, at the same time, dismantles every empire. “Sans Lingua Franca, the world will be torn asunder. And then, it shall be free.” This quote is from the popular Metal Gear Solid game franchise. Specifically from Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain‘s main antagonist Skull Face. Skull Face expresses his hatred towards language and the ruins it brings. In the trailer, it is hinted that he plans to destroy the major languages to free the world from the shackles that language places on humanity.

“It is no nation that we inhabit, but a language. Make no mistake; our native tongue is our true fatherland.” –Emil Cicoran


The quote mentioned earlier with the words Sans Lingua Franca can be translated as without a bridge language. This is in reference to the English language as it is a bridge language for many other countries that allow people to converse despite the difference in nationalities. As mentioned in the trailer, Skull Face talks about how America is a country of immigrants that do not assimilate but rather live side by side. The bridge language that allows all immigrants to converse in a common tongue is English. It is the ultimate tool that binds all people together but at the same time, separate them. Almost every person that was born in America of a nationality that was other than Caucasian most likely started with the language of their parents. After learning the language of your parents, you would have to forget it, or shelf it in order to learn how to read, write, and speak English as it is the common form of communication for all people in America.

Skull Face critiques the idea of imperialism through the usage of the English language. He expresses later in the game that he lost his mother tongue at a very early age and the language he used constantly changed as those in charge changed as well.  Every change causes part of him to become ruined which he expresses by saying, With each new post, my masters changed, along with the words they made me speak. With each change, I changed too. My thoughts, personality, how I saw right and wrong… words… can kill.” This situation does not only apply to Skull Face as this problem is visible in the world as well. Many of the imperialized countries still feature some problem and influence that originated from the imperialist country.

To Skull Face language is, “…the greatest symbiotic parasite the world’s ever known…” Language has a way of surviving and integrating into other languages. Even the English language uses many other aspects of other languages. Languages that stopped being used for thousands of years still exists in a modern bridge language. As Professor Lewis said, no empire fails to leave behind its language.


Percentage of the English Language derived from Other Languages

Though it does not only refer to just language integrating with other languages. It also refers to the integration of language into communities. Language, both written and spoken, can be easily be taught to someone who has no prior knowledge about it. After teaching, the language seamlessly integrates itself into society and leaves its mark for generations to come. Language that is forced upon the indigenous people ends up become mixed after many years. The English spoken in Britain is a far cry from what it is in America, just like how the French spoken in Canada and France are not entirely similar.


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