The declassifying of some Ministry of Magic files in recent weeks has led to astonishing news: in 1980, the magical community was on the verge of being exposed to the Muggle world at large after the theft of a document in possession of the French thinker Roland Barthes, revealing the existence of the “seventh function of language”, i.e. incantation. It is not clear whether he had received it, as his friends and colleagues claimed, or stolen it from the author, the Russian scholar Roman Jakobson. If the names don’t ring any bells with readers of The Daily Prophet, it is because Roland Barthes was a Muggle, and Professor Jakobson a Squib whose entire scholarly career took place in Muggle Universities.
Professor Roman Jakobson
The document appears to have been part of an essay in Linguistics (the Muggle science studying the nature of verbal communication) containing an extensive analysis of the functions of language. Professor Jakobson, who was among the greatest linguists of the 20th Century, had never published the part of his work relating to the way language brings about magic, but had – maybe uncautiously, written it down and kept it with him. Had the Professor remained close to his magical relatives in Russia, that may not have been hazardous, but when he moved to Western Europe and later to America Jakobson, took the manuscript with him. The document disappeared during a seminar in Cambridge, Massachussets, where the scholar used to teach. He had realized the danger the situation posed to the magical people of the entire Western world but had decided against reporting the theft to the American Magical Authority. Instead, he got in touch with a family friend, a Muggle-born Russian wizard who had moved to Britain in 1945’s and who had ties with the Ministry of Magic. The name of the friend has not been made public.
There is much which remains unclear. The seventh function of language resurfaced in Paris and was probably the reason why Roland Barthes was murdered. The French Police (the equivalent of Magical law enforcement corps) and secret agents from several European countries investigated the death, which was followed by a chain of other murders and mysterious disappearances. The Muggles only knew that a a paper had been stolen, and that it was important enough to kill or be killed for. The Ministry of Magic relied on a brilliant Anglo-Russian auror, who was finally able to recover the dangerous manuscript. Crucially, the paper was not handed back to Professor Jakobson, who agreed to leave it in the Ministry’s custody after he was assured that it wouldn’t be destroyed. At the time, he stated that no other copies existed, and that he knew better than to commit his knowledge of the magical function of language to writing again.
Readers of The Daily Prophet may be amused to know that at least one fake mauscript , containing a certain amount of gibberish and balderdash, was also found, and others may still be circulating among Muggles who like to dabble with the exoteric.
Auror Regina Burne-Jones, née Bugaeva, received the Order of Merlin, First Class, for “Outstanding services to the international magical community”. At 23, she was the youngest recipient of the honour in the 20th century.
/ps: I am aware that the intellectual ownership of such ideas as Muggles and Squibs is J.K. Rowling’s, and Monsieur Binet owns the right to The seventh function of Language. Regina’s portrait is actually a painting by George Owen Wynne Apperle; I consider these loans a homage to the original works. I hope it is alright, and that Roman Jakobson, wherever he may be, is amused./