ELL: New SIL Alias

Trond Trosterud Trond.Trosterud at hum.uit.no
Tue Sep 21 13:03:36 UTC 1999

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Date: Tue, 21 Sep 1999 15:03:36 +0200
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From: Trond Trosterud <Trond.Trosterud at hum.uit.no>
Subject: Re: ELL: New SIL Alias
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SIL again.

I am an atheist, and consider all religious belief as varieties of
believing in Winnie-the-Pooh, Alice in Wonderland, and the like.

But I also know that religious people cannot be rescued from their
respective paradises.

What they can be, and should be, as anyone else, is criticized for their
actions. Where and when this should happen is another matter, though.
Critique should be specific, and relevant. Of course we can criticize them
for being culture imperialists, but personally I find this a boring
exercise, since cultural imperialism per definition is the core of their
activity: They want other people to think the same way about unexplained
natural phenomena, ethics and life after death (religion.s main domains) as
they do themselves (and exchanging this for the well-known reward post
mortem). Criticizing missionaries for that is like criticizing a chess
player for moving the pieces around on the table. I expect the discusions
on this list to be on a more advanced level than stating such
self-evidentness. In short: we must write new thougths, not only repeat old
ones. Otherwise this list will stagnate, and a valuable tool for improving
on endangered lg work will be gone.

Criticism of missionaires of a more specific kind (against linguistic
assimilation, etc.) must be done on a case-to-case-basis, and preferably
not to this audience, but to audiences that are more favourable towards
missionaries, and that are more likely to be able to have influence upon
missionary.s work. I thus see the ongoing SIL flames more like letters
arguing against capitalism, sent to the editor of a communist daily (I read
one myself, and know what I am talking about).

As for myself, I would start out by criticising Norwegian (and for the rest
of you: British!!!, US!!!) cultural "aid" to e.g. african countries, that
more often than not have the effect of making linguistic assimilation more
effective than it is today. Politically governed aid will also be easier to
convict by "politically correct" arguments. As for the SIL flames, they
should be directed towards the SIL donors. The Norwegian missionaries live
a lifetime in africa among the population there, and make written lgs, in
sharp contrast to norwegian gov.t aid staff, that have good salaries, live
their arconditioned urban life, and return to Norway after a couple of
years of giving advices to the natives (and again, we have good gov.t aid
programs as well, and criticism must be concrete). A possible critique of
them must first find out what Norwegian missionaries are doing, and then
write cronicles in the daily newspapers where their mass basis is strongest
(In Norway: the south coast, our Bible Belt).

On this list, I would like to see discussion on how to support endangereld
lgs, rather than discussion on how to stop missionaires from being just

Surely, giving a people a bible in their own lg is part of a modernisation
program taking them away from trad society and into global monoculture, but
so is all forms of wr lg programs. Vietnamese wr lg was made by monks in
the 17th c, if I am not wrong, but it was good enough for ho chi minh.

But the 3 questions posed by Diego Quesada were important, if this forum is
able to spot a new trend in missionary work, this trend should be localised
and thereafter debated, and appropriate actions should then be taken
towards "any relevant missionary society near you".

Trond Trosterud                                     t +47 7764 4763
Finsk institutt, Det humanistiske fakultet          h +47 7767 3639
N-9037 Universitetet i Troms., Noreg                f +47 7764 4239
Trond.Trosterud at hum.uit.no  http://www2.isl.uit.no/trond/index.html

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