• Emily Bandeira

linguagem não-antropocêntrica e capim-limão

Tô lendo um livro muito do bacaninha chamado "Braiding Sweetgrass" ("trançando capim-limão") onde a Robin Wall Kimmerer (que é uma mulher indígena norte-americana, mãe, cientista, professora de botânica entre outras coisas) conversa com a gente sobre plantas. Mas não de qualquer jeito.

Ela traz pra gente percepções e histórias sobre plantas misturadas com suas reflexões e com as histórias pelas quais ela passa. Só coisa boa. Pelo menos até agora.

Em um dos capítulos ela escreve sobre seu processo de aprendizado da língua Potawatomi (que é uma busca pessoal, visto que sua língua nativa é mesmo o inglês) e eu achei uma delícia. Porque sinto várias das observações que ela faz sobre a língua inglesa também em outras línguas (como no português) e gostaria de que a gente pudesse pensar melhor sobre as consequências que a linguagem produz em nossas lógicas de pensamento.

A gente sabe bem que a língua e a linguagem que utilizamos molda a maior parte de nossos processos racionais, é bom parar pra pensar um pouco como as estruturas que utilizamos todos os dias organizam também nosso pensamento político. Digo pensamento político mas também social, espiritual, tudo que tem a ver com ser, estar e se perceber no mundo.

Então, ó um tiquin do que a Robin traz pra gente sobre essas reflexões

"(...) This is the grammar of animacy. Imagine seeing your grandmother standing at the stove in her apron and then saying of her "Look, it is making soup. It has gray hair." We might snicker at such mistake, but we also recoil from it. In English, we never refer to a member of our family, or indeed to any person, as it. That would be a profound act of disrespect. It robs a person of selfhood and kinship, reducing a person to a mere thing. So it is that in Potawatomi and most other Indigenous languages, we use the same words to address the living world as we use for our family. Because they are our family.

To whom does our language extend the grammar of animacy? Naturally, plants and animals are animate, but as I learn, I am discovering that the Potawatomi understanding of what it means to be animate diverges from the list of atributes of living beings we all learned in Biology 101. In Potawatomi 101, rocks are animate, as are mountains and water and fire and places. Beings that are imbued with spirit, our sacred medicines, our songs, drums, and even stories, are all animate. The list of the inanimate seems to be smaller, filled with objects that are made by people. Of an inanimate being, like a table, we say, "What is it?" And we answer Dopwen yewe. Table it is. But of apple, we must say, "Who is that being?" And reply Mshimin yawe. Apple that being is.


English doesn't give us many tools for incorporating respect for animacy. In English, you are either a human or a thing. Our grammar boxes us in by the choice of reducing a nonhuman being to an it, or it must be gendered, inappropriately, as a he or a she. Where are our words for the simple existence of another living being? (...) My friend Michael Nelson, an ethicist who thinks a great deal about moral inclusion, told me about a woman he knows, a field biologist whose work is among other-than-humans. Most of her companions are not two-legged, and so her language has shifted to accommodate her relationships. She kneels along the trail to inspect a set of moose tracks, saying "Someone's already been this way this morning" "Someone is in my hat," she says, shaking out a deerfly. Someone not something. (...)

A language teacher I know explained that grammar is just the way we chart relationships in language. Maybe it also reflects our relationships with each other. Maybe a grammar of animacy could lead us to whole new ways of living in the world, other species a sovereign people, a world with a democracy of species, not a tyranny of one –with moral responsibility to water and wolves, and with a legal system that recognizes the standing of other species. It's all in the pronouns."

(Braiding sweetgrass, 'learning the grammar of animacy', Robin Wall Kimmerer)

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