Message on the Macedonian Language,
on the occasion of proclaiming 2008 the Year of the Macedonian Language
Dear writers from Macedonia and the world,
Dear colleagues – members of PEN International - London,
The United Nations have proclaimed 2008 the International Year of Languages together with the paradoxical realization that, although language is the mirror of the spirit of a nation, of the spirit of time and of human civilization itself, yet “more than half of the 7,000 living and spoken languages in the world are in danger of dying out…”. This international year was officially proclaimed on 21 February, 2008, the International Mother Language Day of UNESCO. The Year will be largely marked through the programme of UNESCO and those of UNESCO partner organizations, amongst which PEN International occupies a notable position. This decision is a projection of a universal awareness that everything essential in human civilization takes the form of language or aspires to become a linguistic symbol, linguistic information and communication. Thus are the semiotic systems of information and communication, the printed media, electronic media, digital and hyper-textual media, communication between people and states, constitutional and legal projects, political, judicial and eulogistic rhetoric, education, science, ideology, religion, historiography, discourses of power and of globalization; and, last but not least, language is a constitutive factor in most arts, primarily in literature defined as an art of language or language in its aesthetic usage, also of film, theatre, comics and other arts. It is a striking and enigmatic fact that, although language incarnates the ethnic, national, cultural, traditional, and often the religious identity of individuals and of collectives, still it is under the threat of oblivion in the modern world precisely in the epoch of the global democratization of human society.
At the same time as the UN proclaimed 2008 the International Year of Languages, the Government of the Republic of Macedonia proclaimed 2008 the Year of the Macedonian Language. With this decision the Government of the Republic of Macedonia indicated that it is aware of the importance of the Macedonian language as an integral part of the language mosaic of the world, as an indicative point on the European language map and as one of the Slavic and Balkan languages with a rich oral, written and literary tradition.
The decision of the United Nation and the decision of the Macedonian Government are complementary, given both the alarming predicament of minor languages and in the appeal they make to undertake all necessary institutional and constitutional measures for the protection of languages as humanity’s immaterial spiritual heritage of special interest.
In this context, the Macedonian language is the inviolable spiritual cultural heritage of the Macedonian people, which is of scientifically recognized significance in the linguistic heritage of many of the European nations whose languages belong to the impressive corpus of Slavic languages and which, from the 9th century onwards, were codified on the basis of dialects of Macedonians from the Thessaloniki region. From that period onwards, the Church Slavonic language which is indisputably of Macedonian provenance, became—alongside Hebrew, Old Greek, and Latin—one of the four languages in the world in which Christianity officially spread, in which holy books and modern literary works were written.
Language is an indelible part of the cultural memory of a nation, regardless of whether that nation is small or large. There are no greater or lesser languages, lesser or greater literatures, lesser or greater cultural memories in terms of linguistic and aesthetic values! Such polarization is projected only from the point of view of the globalizing and imperialistic interests of powerful states. Therefore, every linguistic and literary practice should be cherished as a privilege of human civilization and as the inviolable right of all the world’s nations. As small as the Macedonian language may appear to be, its role in the development of European civilization is great. The Macedonian language is as great as the civilizational achievements arising from it.
Language is a cultural heritage uniting the spiritual and material culture of humanity. The Macedonian language is the most referential characteristic of the Macedonian people. Neglecting the Macedonian language means neglecting the aesthetics of Macedonian history, memory and contemporaneity. Therefore, saluting the initiative for proclaiming 2008 as the Year of the Macedonian Language, I would like to appeal to all PEN Centres and to all writers, translators and intellectuals of the world, on behalf of the Translation & Linguistic Rights Committee of PEN International, to offer their own, albeit symbolical, contribution to the affirmation of Macedonian language, literature and culture – through information for the public media, relevant celebrations, translation activities, debates, literary evenings, festivals, internet information and other promotional activities.
Katica Kulavkova, Chairperson of the Translation & Linguistic Rights Committee of PEN International