The language creation from the House of World Cultures in Berlin

The language creation from the House of World Cultures in Berlin

Bhen presenting his program, the new director of the House of World Cultures in Berlin, Bonaventure Ndikung, also showed himself to be linguistically creative. To emphasize diversity and design as central motifs of his plans, he asserted that the world was not a noun but a verb. At least in English: “The world is not a noun, but a verb: to unworld, to world, and to reworld.”

In fact, the Oxford English Dictionary has an entry for “to world”. The verb, which has been shown to be rare and obsolete, is used in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to mean “bring into the world”. Occasionally it is revived in poetic language, as in 1973 by WH Auden in his “Address to the Beasts”: “For us who, from the moment / we first are worlded, / lapse into disarray”. From an epic poem about the history of England, printed in 1589, the OED gives two passages for the meaning “to populate”, one of them in a figura etymologica: “that World shall world an Ile”. In the Internet dictionary Wiktionary, the earlier of two documents is from 1996.

A document from the “Tristan”

Jan Jindy Pettman entitled her book laying the foundations for a feminist foreign policy, Worlding Women. The Wiktionary ascribes to the verb “to world” the meaning of looking at something from a global perspective or as a global whole, rather than making national or other distinctions. That’s what Ndikung meant. If you want to translate your sentence into German, you face the problem of having to form a verb from the noun “world”, which is not possible without changing the word form. The German word formation makes it difficult to replicate the word game.

After all, the corresponding verb to “world” exists, it reads “welten”. It is documented in the German dictionary by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. However, its use is “sporadic”; the verb was formed “at different times and in different applications”. A particularly early example can be found in the famous prologue to “Tristan” by Gottfried von Straßburg, a courtly novel written around 1210. The prologue begins with eleven stanzas of four lines each, before turning into paired verses. The last of these stanzas contains Gottfried’s neologism “werlden”: “I’m driving the zît forgiven, / sô zîtic I’m living, / sône var I in the werlt sus / niht sô werldet, alse I am.” Rüdiger Krohn has the Translated as follows: “If I wasted my time / although I am ripe for life / then in this world / I would not be as much a part of society as I actually am.”

He has set himself the task of translating reified objects into verbs: Bonaventure Ndikung, director and chief curator of the House of World Cultures in Berlin.

He has set himself the task of translating reified objects into verbs: Bonaventure Ndikung, director and chief curator of the House of World Cultures in Berlin.

Image: dpa

The Middle High German dictionary by Matthias Lexer describes the meaning of “werlden” as “connected to the world, ranked in the world”. The German verb from the later Middle Ages means roughly the opposite of the English verb from the beginning of modern times. Gottfried’s point, however, is that he does not mean the world per se, but makes it clear in the further course of the prologue that it is a specific world to which he wants to belong: Appropriate to the story of Tristan and Isolde, whose love leads to death ( what should not be exaggerated as “love death” in the sense of Richard Wagner with regard to the Middle High German novel), it is about a world in which not just joy and fulfillment are the applicable ideals, but in which, in the sense of a view of life, the necessary interdependence is affirmed by joy and sorrow.

To describe this special world, Gottfried uses oxymora such as “sweet bitterness”, “happy death” and “sad life” – the latter is already given to Tristan in his name. And it is one of the oxymoronic monstrosities of this novel that Tristan, who stands for courtly perfection and refinement like no other, when he comes to the court of his uncle King Marke, is finally through his illegitimate, love potion-induced relationship with Isolde, Marke’s wife , will ruin this very farm.

The verb “werlden” thus stands for a specifically aesthetic project within the framework of the author’s programmatic statements, which, however, has ethical implications. For Ndikung’s purposes, there shouldn’t be much. Where the contemporary art enabler conjures up the plurality and diversity of worlds, the medieval poet swore his recipients to a specific one. Gottfried von Straßburg did not complete his novel (others continued it in the Middle Ages, who knew no emphatic concept of fragments, which was historically appreciated, but did not find the applause of German studies). There is a debate as to whether for accidental reasons he was unable to complete the work or whether he did not for reasons of content or concept. Ndikung will be wished that he can bring into the world what he has conceived.

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