Monolingualism of the Other: or, The Prosthesis of Origin: Jacques Derrida, Patrick Mensah: Books – Monolingualism- ‘Monolingualism’ or ‘Unilingualism’, is the condition of being able to speak only a single language. Bilingualism-the ability to. Monolingualism of the Other, Or, The Prosthesis of Origin Jacques Derrida was Director of Studies at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris.

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Monolingualism of the Other: or, The Prosthesis of Origin

Monolingualism of the Other; or, the Prosthesis of Origin. Stanford University Press, On closing Jacques Derrida’s Monolingualism of the Otherthe reader may feel satisfied that the renegade branch of philosophy is alive and well—the tradition which, since Diogenes’ monolkngualism, has gone cheerfully around taking cracks at the plaster idols lining the halls of academia. Derrida’s role in the intellectual life tge the last three decades has been that of the inspired spoilsport who, when the sailing is good, politely points to the ominous flaws in the hull.

This time around, the philosopher sets his sights on monoingualism and exploding the concept of cultural identity—the latest product of our era’s passion for sorting people into as many robustly meaningful categories as possible. This pollster mentality is what, in literature studies, has led to the sort of analysis that imagines the value of a literary artifact is evident once its author and characters are kindly shown the way to their respective cultural, social, colonial, sexual and derroda “subjectivities.


Part philosophical essay and part memoir, Derrida’s book questions identity: How, in other words, does it make sense to say that I have or own a native language?

That I belong to a linguistic group or that such a group grants me an identity?

Can one’s identity be so simple that it amounts to slotting this individual piece into that collective? And if so, then just how identical will I be to my tribe and to myself? Will I have found myself then, having cleared the philosophical hurdles to selfhood, and placing my self securely before me? Doesn’t anything the self may say about its circumstances first have to monolingaulism with the fact that self-identity is necessarily split, hence is yet to be achieved, if it is able to talk about itself at all?

These are the well-worn questions to which Derrida asks us to return. Like Wittgenstein, Heidegger or Austin, Derrida sees in language the lens where these questions best come into focus.

Jacques Derrida, Monolingualism of the Other: Or, the Prosthesis of Origin – PhilPapers

And, to start with, the cultural mantra of mother tongue. Though one’s native language undeniably shapes one’s world, down to the minutest detail, Derrida is interested in bringing to light the network of faults whereby, in fact, acquiring and speaking a language is possible. Derrida is inclined to take seriously the observation that a person does not kther her original language but learns or obtains it from others; that language therefore emerges under the sign of what does not belong to me, nor to other people, who also merely share in it by using it.


Expropriation and expatriation are the experiences of the linguistic agent who graduates into language by speaking the other’s tongue—leaving out what he wanted to say, might have wanted to say, or could have said, had there been a speaking consciousness there before he even learned language. Indeed, the fact that I do not own the language I speak does not mean anyone else does. So any language is a “language of the other,” a transaction that cannot logically be mine unless I inhabit a solipsistic bubble or yours either: Any speaker speaks in a language monolinguapism bursts open the confines of the Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide.

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