As discussed by Tocqueville in an entire chapter of his major work, “Democracy in America,” whose title speaks for itself —“How American Democracy has Modified the English Language”—there is not a single English language, but several. Or, to quote George Bernard Shaw’s well-known aphorism, “England and America are two countries divided by a common language.” In other words, in language, the untranslatable is central. In Tocqueville’s view, the British and the Americans do not speak the same language because they live in different societies. The question of language, especially in our globalized world, goes far beyond the purely linguistic or purely abstract dimension. Languages have to be considered also from their societal and political angles, with cultural recontextualization at every step: failing this, communication can irremediably break down. Translation also has to take this divide within each language on board, in English first of all.
- “Democracy in America”
- cultural recontextualisation