Language Communities

I am interested in the way that The Ravickians seems to grapple with language. The narrator seems to be remarking about how our cultural contexts can affect the way that we interpret another person’s words — and even when these words are translated, they can’t contain original meaning and intent, because they have been changed and taken from the place where they originated. At least, this is the sense that I am getting from our narrator as she discusses translations. For example, on page 24, she writes, “I am thinking about this translation you are reading. If you are reading it in English or know English better than I do, I am thinking how simple these words of hers would seem to you. They probably say the most basic thing about life.” The narrator then goes on to convey her experience with Anna Patova’s writing: “But in my defense, no matter how clear these words are to you, they were not written for my comprehension… the closer I get to the end of a sentence, the less certain I am of its beginning ” (24-25). I’m wondering about the narrator’s intention when she takes the time to clarify these differences — between our reading experience and hers. Is she commenting on cultural communities, on language communities, and how meaning cannot truly be maintained across these divergences? It makes me think about texts I’ve read about speech communities — like William Labov’s work; he proposed that speech communities relied on the use of a society’s shared norms surrounding a language. People in a certain community operated almost with a certain linguistic code, based on the practices they all performed surrounding that language. The Ravickians seems to grapple with this idea of gaps between language understanding, and language that becomes coded based on its context. 

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