The Globe&Mail recently held a public forum with Canadian author, visual artist and modern art installer Douglas Coupland.Here are my submitted questions, which have Doug’s comments on efforts to preserve Inuvialuktun.The whole thing is online at www.globeandmail.ca.
Philippe Morin from Inuvik, NWT writes: Here’s a question for Doug: I live in Inuvik, Northwest Territories where traditional dialects are fast fading. Despite teachers’ and families’ best efforts, it’s estimated that fewer than 500 people still fluently speak Inuvialuktun and most are over 50. (And even then, that language has sub-dialects.)Coupland: One quick question comes to mind, Philippe … is Inuvialuktun difficult to learn? I mean this on a practical level. For example, Japanese and Italian are very easy (in spite of the fact the Japanese try to psych out the world and tell everybody it’s hard) whereas Scandinavian languages are like Martian. And what sort of language does Inuvialuktun structurally resemble?Philippe Morin: Embarrassingly, more people speak Klingon than Inuvialuktun today worldwide.Coupland: Klingon is a language? Seriously? WHTMFTOOHAAS (We Have Too Much Free Time On Our Hands As A Society.)Morin: How do you feel about this idea of languages disappearing? Is it better if all humans switch to a ‘compatible operating system’ or are we losing some priceless diversity? Thanks, (or Quanna, or Masi Cho, or Merci, etc..)Coupland: When I think about languages disappearing I think of Passenger Pigeons or Labrador Ducks and species going extinct. It’s profoundly sad and is bigger than death. It’s as if a whole universe is destroyed.Morin: Doug, what’s your take on the font ‘Helvetica?’ Do you share the many designers’ infatuation with it, or has it been overused? What is the message of Helvetica? If Helvetica were a person, who would it be?Coupland: Hello again, Philippe. I love Helvetica and always have, right back to art school days in 1980-84 (pre-Mac.) When I think of words in my head, they’re in Helvetica. I wrote extensively about this in the NYT blog that’s on coupland.com. Not trying to slough off the question, but it’s a good read for anyone who wants to pursue Helvetica further.Morin: Doug, you’re an author and a visual artist – Do you read comic books or ‘graphic novels’?Coupland: Yes.Morin: What’s your thought on that medium anyhow? Some of your books (like Generation X, and jPod) have visual elements outside of straight text such as sequences of numbers and different font sizes. What do you feel about comics? Now that you’ve written a screenplay would you ever try a comic book?Coupland: I’m for anything that tries to experiment with words and text and letters and numbers. I don’t have the huge specific kind of patience required to be a cartoonist …it takes a very specific kind of brain to do that. Have you ever met cartoonists? Of all the creative forms, they’re archetype is the most universal. They’re good talkers, but to a one they seem embroiled in a constant battle between themselves and the way reality impacts on their consciousness. Not crabby or fussy … prickly, maybe. In a good way.