Saturday, June 7, 2014

Quotations on language as a city

Ralph Waldo Emerson:
Language is a city to the building of which every human being brought a stone. ('Quotation & Originality' in Letters and Social Aims [Cambridge, MA: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1884], pp. 189-90; essay was composed c. 1840)
Fritz Mauthner:
Language came about like a big city. Room upon room, window upon window, flat upon flat, house upon house, street upon street, quarter upon quarter, and all that packaged into one another, tied together (Gershon Weiler, Mauthner's Critique of Language [London: Cambridge University Press, 1970], p. 109; Weiler is translating a passage from Mauthner's Beiträge zu einer Kritik der Sprache v. 1 [1901], p. 25)
Hugo von Hofmannsthal:
Below, the sleeping city. Places with endless significance, quite unlike reality; districts I've never seen, but which I know are thus and such. ("Dream Death" in The Lord Chandos Letter and Other Writings, tr. Joel Rotenberg [New York: New York Review Books, 2005], p. 13; the fragment was composed in 1892)
Julio Cortázar:
“Oh, the edge of the city,” Juan said. “Nobody knows where it is, you know.” “In any case [said Tell], the street turned out to be familiar to me because other people had already walked along it." (62: A Model Kit, tr. Gregory Rabassa [New York: Pantheon, 1972], pp. 65-6; appeared in Spanish in 1968)
Ludwig Wittgenstein:
Our language can be seen as an ancient city: a maze of little streets and squares, of old and new houses, and of houses with additions from various periods; and this surrounded by a multitude of new boroughs with straight regular streets and uniform houses. (Philosophical Investigations, tr. G. E. M. Anscombe [Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1958], s. 18)
W. G. Sebald:
If language may be regarded as an old city, full of streets and squares, nooks and crannies, with some quarters dating from far back in time while others have been torn down, cleaned up, and rebuilt, and with suburbs reaching further and further in to the surrounding country, then I was like a man who had been abroad a long time and cannot find his way through this urban sprawl anymore, no longer knows what a bus stop is for, or what a back yard is, or an street junction, an avenue or a bridge. (Austerlitz, tr. Anthea Bell [Vintage Canada, 2002; first published 2001], pp. 123-4)

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