Sunday, June 20, 2010

Language is a commons

The other evening, driving home, I heard the first part of an "Ideas" program about plagiarism on the CBC. It referenced a Harper's essay by Jonathan Lethem entitled "The ecstasy of influence: A plagiarism". As I was reading through the essay, which I'm quite enjoying, I came across this passage, which brings together and artistic, linguistic, and economic view of language.
"The world of art and culture is a vast commons, one that is salted through with zones of utter commerce yet remains gloriously immune to any overall commodification. The closest resemblance is to the commons of a language: altered by every contributor, expanded by even the most passive user. That a language is a commons doesn't mean that the community owns it; rather it belongs between people, possessed by no one, not even by society as a whole."

No comments: