Maon Kiinan kieli- ja ajatteluteoria – ja -politiikka…

” When Mao and the Chinese Communist Party won power in 1949, they were deter-mined to create new, revolutionary human beings. Their most precise instrument of ideological transformation was a massive program of linguistic engineering. They taught everyone a new political vocabulary,gave old words new meanings, converted traditional terms to revolutionary purposes, suppressed words that expressed ”incor-rect” thought,and required the whole population to recite slogans, stock phrases, and scripts that gave ”correct” linguistic form to ”correct” thought.They assumed that con- stant repetition would cause the revolutionary formulae to penetrate people’s minds, engendering revolutionary beliefs and values.

In an introductory chapter, Dr Ji assesses the potential of linguistic engineering by examining research on the relationship between language and thought. In subse-quent chapters, she traces the origins of linguistic engineering in China, describes its development during the early years of communist rule, then explores in detail the un-precedented manipulation of language during the Cultural Revolution of 1966 - 1976. Along the way, she analyzes the forms of linguistic engineering associated with land reform, class struggle, personal relationships,the Great Leap Forward, Mao-worship, Red Guard activism, revolutionary violence, Public Criticism Meetings, the model re-volutionary operas, and foreign language teaching. She also reinterprets Mao’s stra-tegy during the early stages of the Cultural Revolution, showing how he manipulated exegetical principles and contexts of judgment to ”frame” his alleged opponents. The work concludes with an assessment of the successes and failures of linguistic engi-neering and an account of how the Chinese Communist Party relaxed its control of language after Mao’s death.

Linguistic Engineering is a powerfully argued and innovative work that has much to offer all those with an interests in language, political communication, Chinese communism, the literature of revolutions, and the psychology of persuasion. ”



Marxism and Problems of Linguistics

Concerning Marxism in Linguistics

A group of younger comrades have asked me to give my opinion in the press on problems relating to linguistics,particularly in reference to Marxism in linguistics. I am not a linguistic expert and,of course, cannot fully satisfy the request of the comrades. As to Marxism in linguistics, as in other social sciences, this is something directly in my field. I have therefore consented to answer a number of questions put by the comrades.

QUESTION: Is it true that language is a superstructure on the base?

ANSWER: No, it is not true.

The base is the economic structure of society at the given stage of its development. The superstructure is the political, legal, religious, artistic, philosophical views of society and the political, legal and other institutions corresponding to them.

… Hence:

a) A Marxist cannot regard language as a superstructure on the base; b) To confuse language and superstructure is to commit a serious error.

QUESTION: Is it true that language always was and is class language, that there is no such thing as language which is the single and common language of a society, a non-class language common to the whole people.

ANSWER: No, it is not true.

It is not difficult to understand that in a society which has no classes there can be no such thing as a class language.


a) Language, as a means of intercourse, always was and remains the single language of a society, common to all its members; b) The existence of dialects and jargons does not negate but confirms the existence of a language common to the whole of the given people, of which they are offshoots and to which they are subordi-nate; c) The ”class character” of language formula is erroneous and non-Marxist.

QUESTION: What are the characteristic features of language?

ANSWER: Language is one of those social phenomena which operate throughout the existence of a society. It arises and develops with the rise and development of a society. It dies when the society dies. Apart from society there is no language.

Accordingly, language and its laws of development can be understood only if studied in inseparable connection with the history of society, with the history of the people to whom the language under study belongs, and who are its creators and repositories.

Language is a medium, an instrument with the help of which people communicate with one another, exchange thoughts and understand each other. Being directly connected with thinking, language registers and fixes in words, and in words combined into sentences, the results of the process of thinking and achievements of man’s cognitive activity, and thus makes possible the exchange of thoughts in human society.

QUESTION: Did Pravda act rightly in starting an open discussion on problems of linguistics?

ANSWER: Yes, it did.

Along what lines the problems of linguistics will be settled, will become clear at the conclusion of the discussion. But it may be said already that the discussion has been very useful.

It has brought out, in the first place, that in linguistic bodies both in the center and in the republics a regime has prevailed which is alien to science and men of science. The slightest criticism of the state of affairs in Soviet linguistics, even the most timid attempt to criticize the so-called ”new doctrine” in linguistics, was persecuted and suppressed by the leading linguistic circles. Valuable workers and researchers in lin-guistics were dismissed from their posts or demoted for being critical of N. Y. Marr’s heritage or expressing the slightest disapproval of his teachings. Linguistic scholars were appointed to leading posts not on their merits, but because of their unqualified acceptance of N. Y. Marr’s theories.

It is generally recognized that no science can develop and flourish without a battle of opinions, without freedom of criticism. But this generally recognized rule was ignored and flouted in the most unceremonious fashion. There arose a close group of infallible leaders, who, having secured themselves against any possible criticism, became a law unto themselves and did whatever they pleased.

To give one example: the so-called ”Baku Course” (lectures delivered by N. Y. Marr in Baku), which the author himself had rejected and forbidden to be republished, was republished nevertheless by order of this leading caste (Comrade Meshchaninov calls them ”disciples” of N.Y.Marr) and included without any reservations in the list of text-books recommended to students. This means that the students were deceived a rejected ”Course” being suggested to them as a sound textbook. If I were not con-vinced of the integrity of Comrade Meshchaninov and the other linguistic leaders, I would say that such conduct is tantamount to sabotage.

How could this have happened? It happened because the Arakcheyev regime [9] established in linguistics cultivates irresponsibility and encourages such arbitrary actions.

The discussion has proved to be very useful first of all because it brought this Arakcheyev regime into the light of day and smashed it to smithereens.

But the usefulness of the discussion does not end there. It not only smashed the old regime in linguistics but also brought out the incredible confusion of ideas on cardinal questions of linguistics which prevails among the leading circles in this branch of science. Until the discussion began the ”disciples” of N. Y. Marr kept silence and glossed over the unsatisfactory state of affairs in linguistics. But when the discussion started silence became impossible, and they were compelled to express their opinion in the press. And what did we find? It turned out that in N. Y. Marr’s teachings there are a whole number of defects, errors, ill-defined problems and sketchy propositions. Why, one asks, have N. Y. Marr’s ”disciples” begun to talk about this only now, after the discussion opened? Why did they not see to it before? Why did they not speak about it in due time openly and honestly, as befits scientists?

Having admitted ”some” errors of N. Y. Marr, his ”disciples,” it appears, think that Soviet linguistics can only be advanced on the basis of a ”rectified” version of N. Y. Marr’s theory, which they consider a Marxist one. No, save us from N. Y. Marr’s ”Marxism”! N. Y. Marr did indeed want to be, and endeavored to be, a Marxist, but he failed to become one. He was nothing but a simplifier and vulgarizer of Marxism, similar to the ”proletcultists” or the ”Rappists.”

N.Y. Marr introduced into linguistics the incorrect, non-Marxist formula that language is a superstructure, and got himself into a muddle and put linguistics into a muddle. Soviet linguistics cannot be advanced on the basis of an incorrect formula.

N. Y. Marr introduced into linguistics another and also incorrect and non-Marxist for-mula, regarding the ”class character” of language, and got himself into a muddle and put linguistics into a muddle. Soviet linguistics cannot be advanced on the basis of an incorrect formula which is contrary to the whole course of the history of peoples and languages.

N. Y. Marr introduced into linguistics an immodest, boastful, arrogant tone alien to Marxism and tending towards a bald and off-hand negation of everything done in linguistics prior to N. Y. Marr.

N.Y. Marr shrilly abused the comparative-historical method as ”idealistic.” Yet it must be said that, despite its serious shortcomings, the comparative-historical method is nevertheless better than N. Y. Marr’s really idealistic four-element analysis, [10] because the former gives a stimulus to work, to a study of languages, while the latter only gives a stimulus to loll in one’s arm-chair and tell fortunes in the tea-cup of the celebrated four elements.

N.Y. Marr haughtily discountenanced every attempt to study groups (families) of lan- guages on the grounds that it was a manifestation of the ”proto-language” theory. [11] Yet it cannot be denied that the linguistic affinity of nations like the Slav nations, say, is beyond question, and that a study of the linguistic affinity of these nations might be of great value to linguistics in the study of the laws of language develop-ment. The ”proto-language” theory, I need hardly say, has nothing to do with it.

To listen to N. Y. Marr, and especially to his ”disciples,” one might think that prior to N. Y. Marr there was no such thing as the science of language, that the science of language appeared with the ”new doctrine” of N. Y. Marr. Marx and Engels were much more modest: they held that their dialectical materialism was a product of the development of the sciences, including philosophy, in earlier periods.

Thus, the discussion was useful also because it brought to light ideological shortcomings in Soviet linguistics.

I think that the sooner our linguistics rids itself of N. Y. Marr’s errors, the sooner will it be possible to extricate it from its present crisis.

Elimination of the Arakcheyev regime in linguistics, rejection of N. Y. Marr’s errors, and the introduction of Marxism into linguistics — that, in my opinion, is the way in which Soviet linguistics could be put on a sound basis.

Pravda, June 20, 1950

QUESTION: Marx and Engels define language as ”the immediate reality of thought,” as ”practical,… actual consciousness.” [12] ”Ideas,” Marx says, ”do not exist divorced from language.” In what measure,in your opinion, should linguistics occupy itself with the semantic aspect of language, semantics, historical semasiology, and stylistics, or should form alone be the subject of linguistics?

ANSWER: Semantics (semasiology) is one of the important branches of linguistics. The semantic aspect of words and expressions is of serious importance in the study of language. Hence, semantics (semasiology) must be assured its due place in linguistics.

However,in working on problems of semantics and in utilizing its data, its significance must in no way be overestimated, and still less must it be abused. I have in mind cer-tain philologists who, having an excessive passion for semantics, disregard language as ”the immediate reality of thought” inseparably connected with thinking, divorce thinking from language and maintain that language is outliving its age and that it is possible to do without language.

Listen to what N. Y. Marr says:

”Language exists only inasmuch as it is expressed in sounds; the action of thinking occurs also without being expressed…Language (spoken) has already begun to sur- render its functions to the latest inventions which are unreservedly conquering space while thinking is on the up-grade, departing from its unutilized accumulations in the past and its new acquisitions,and is to oust and fully replace language. The language of the future is thinking which will be developing in technique free of natural matter. No language, even the spoken language, which is all the same connected with the standards of nature, will be able to withstand it” (see Selected Works by N. Y. Marr).

If we interpret this ”labor-magic” gibberish into simple human language, the conclusion may be drawn that:

a) N. Y. Marr divorces thinking from language;

b) N. Y. Marr considers that communication between people can be realized without language, with the help of thinking itself, which is free of the ”natural matter” of language, free of the ”standards of nature”;

c) divorcing thinking from language and ”having freed” it from the ”natural matter,’ of language, N. Y. Marr lands into the swamp of idealism.

It is said that thoughts arise in the mind of man prior to their being ex- pressed in speech, that they arise without linguistic material, without linguistic integument, in, so to say, a naked form. But that is absolutely wrong. Whatever thoughts arise in the human mind and at whatever moment, they can arise and exist only on the basis of the linguistic material, on the basis of language terms and phrases.

Bare thoughts, free of the linguistic material, free of the ”natural matter” of language, do not exist.

”Language is the immediate reality of thought” (Marx). The reality of thought is mani-fested in language. Only idealists can speak of thinking not being connected with ”the natural matter” of language, of thinking without language.

In brief: over-estimation of semantics and abuse of it led N. Y. Marr to idealism.

Consequently, if semantics (semasiology) is safeguarded against exaggerations and abuses of the kind committed by N. Y. Marr and some of his ”disciples,” semantics can be of great benefit to linguistics.