Een vreemdeling altijd midden ouden / Жат кишинин түбөлүккө байыркы элдердин арасында

Салмоор ДЫЙКАНОВ, коомдук ишмер

I’m someone who always seems to half-learn a language. I can master the basics for negotiating costs and traveling, as well as the best snippets for intellectual conversation, but there’s a wide gulf of, let’s say “actual” or “useful” language in between. And although I typically turn out as a partial mute, paradoxically, I also typically end up with a pretty advanced reading comprehension (I’m most guilty about this with French: I can’t order a pizza but I can read Merleau-Ponty — not that I’d really want to, though).

I imagine that for all half-mutes like me, it’s a common experience every time we try our hand at another language, we inevitably have weird reactions inside our skulls. Sometimes my brain wants to reply in Dutch or Hebrew, even Spanish; other times, it can’t escape the grip of English, and the words of my conversation partner just seem to slam headlong against a blank concrete wall between my ears. Studying Kyrgyz has provoked yet another kind of reaction: fond recollections for Flemish, but also some regret about the language.

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The Eurabian intellectual tradition?

Here’s a radical hypothesis: if we apply core-periphery theory to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, could Scholasticism be reconstrued not, as its generally held to be today, as a distinctly European or Latin Western phenomenon, but as nothing more than Europeans practicing Arabic/Islamic philosophy and science in their own distinctive way?

In other words, is it more historically accurate to characterize the High Middle Ages in Europe as an era defined by the very same process happening now to the non-Western world, namely, the absorption, assimilation, and adaptation by a marginal culture of the intellectual tradition  of a dominant one?

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