This is mainly just a reminder to myself to one day explore this topic–but if someone else has already seen something, please let me know.
Since this round of comps is over, I decide to do a little light reading, picking up Melvyn Bragg’s The Avdenture of English: The Biography of a Language. Bragg has an interesting way of talking about the language, personifying it as in “it needed” or “it wanted”.
But there was a cool passage that reminded me of how people talk about folklore:
“Chancery standard became the English word standard. And once again we see the continuous democratic element in the growth of the English language. This first great disciplining into standard was achieved by scores of anonymous men attempting to clarify and refine the ways we use the words we spoke when we transferred them to writing.”
That is, one part of how folklore define (at least in terms of tales) is that it’s creation can’t be traced back to an individual. Bragg’s line about “scores of anonymous men” sounds eerily close to this as well as how much tradition gets passed along, yet he’s talking about language. It seems that both disciplines use similar terminology in defining the pieces and parts of their disciplines. It might be that their (recent) (re)origins started with people who were working/creating both fields (i.e. Grimm’s Law and Grimm’s Fairytales) or that there is only one best term for something like “diffusion”–whether it’s describing language or folktales or traditions or liquids withing other liquids.
But what if it were something else, some underlying principle that they share that makes both disciplines rather slippery to define or discuss? My guess for now is that the answer lies in communication theory… of which I know very little of course.