[Fwd: Indigenous]

Donald M. Lance LanceDM at MISSOURI.EDU
Fri Dec 15 02:03:43 UTC 2000

Sali, by the time I wrote that last comment, I had forgotten what your key example was,
but I had detected a kind of insensitivity in it.  Does this use of the word
imply that once the language is gone these indigenous people are also dead or no longer
exist as a group?  What about all those Indians who no longer speak
their forebears' language?  Are they no longer indigenous people even if they have not
left their forebears' homeland?

At 02:10 PM 12/14/2000 -0600, Donald Lance wrote:

> I think Sali's initial question was asking about recent connotations that
>reflect a new brand of insensitivity.
    It was not as much a question of sensitivity as a question of deviation from
traditional usage. In almost all the responses I have read, "indigenous" (interpreted as
"native," with a small "n") has been used in contexts that lead the reader to say "X is
indigenous/ native to Y" (where X is an individual and Y a part of the world). That is
what I meant by relative use. In some cases, this is made more obvious, as in the above
example, by combining "indigenous" with a preposition phrase headed by "to." In some other
cases, the part of the world has already been identified. Then a speaker/writer can speak
of indigenous people, plants, languages, etc. without the preposition phrase, while
reference to it is understood from the context. This not the usage in most of the examples
I have posted since yesterday. Take for instance one of those I posted this morning: "The
world's indigenous people and their languages are dying out." I have to be extremely
cooperative in interpreting "indigenous people and languages" here as intended (if my
guess is right), i.e., 'people and languages in Third World countries' (based on what I
have read so far in Nettle & Romaine).  Ignoring the rest of the book (which I cannot),
nothing in the wording prevents thinking that if Martians had colonized our planet and we
were shifting from our languages to theirs, one of them could make this statement. I hope
my daughter or grandchildren won't live this form of colonization :)


Salikoko S. Mufwene                       s-mufwene at uchicago.edu
University of Chicago                     773-702-8531; FAX 773-834-0924
Department of Linguistics
1010 East 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637

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