use of minority languages

Stan & Sandy Anonby stan-sandy_anonby at
Fri Jan 9 19:42:03 UTC 2004


Over 1/2 the languages I have in mind here in Brazil have less than 100
speakers.  Portuguese has over 200,000,000.  How can one change the fact
that power is associated with Portuguese?

----- Original Message -----
From: "Felicia Briscoe" <FBriscoe at>
To: <lgpolicy-list at>
Sent: Friday, January 09, 2004 1:51 PM
Subject: RE: use of minority languages

> Stan,
> I think you are so right.  The problem lies when material goods are more
> easily obtained when speaking "mainstream" tongue, thus making the choice
> speak Portequese is not a free choice, but understandable in the case of
> people's whose "mother tongue" is not part of the mianstream and to deny
> them access to mainstream langauge in many cases is to deny them power
> (political, economic, and social).  However, Skutnabb-Kangas provides a
> compelling rationale about why we need a diversity of languages. What
> to be changed is not whether or not any group of people has access to a
> particular langauge, but the fact that power has come to be associated
> only a few (generally European) langauges.  As you say, I am speaking in
> very general terms.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Stan & Sandy Anonby [mailto:stan-sandy_anonby at]
> Sent: Friday, January 09, 2004 9:10 AM
> To: lgpolicy-list at
> Subject: Re: use of minority languages
> The situation you describe is pretty well identical for Brazilian Indians.
> The people promoting mother tongue literacy are mostly foreigners -
> missionaries, folks working for NGO's, and universities.  The Indians
> themselves are eager to become literate in Portuguese.  When classes are
> taught in their Indian language, there are comments like, "Now we're
> our time."  It seems to me their priority is not their language, their
> priorities are to get access to the material goods available in mainstream
> Brazilian society, which is via Portuguese.  There are many tribes in
> Brazil, and of course I am generalizing.
> Stan Anonby
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Harold F. Schiffman" <haroldfs at>
> To: "Language Policy-List" <lgpolicy-list at>
> Sent: Friday, January 09, 2004 10:42 AM
> Subject: use of minority languages
> > It seems to me in the discussion of the use of Ladin and other
> > we need to keep in mind what the attitudes of the speakers are toward
> > literacy in their language, and what it might mean when literacy in
> > another language might give them more 'power'.
> >
> > The Tulu people, speakers of a Dravidian language in S. India, have a
> > population of just under 2 million, and their language is quite distinct
> > from that of their neighbors. It has been researched since the 19th
> > century, when missionaries from the Basel Mission compiled a dictionary,
> > grammar, and other print stuff.  Yet the Tulu choose literacy in Kannada
> > for the most part, probably because in the scheme of things in India, a
> > speakership of 2 million is just a drop in the bucket, so literacy in
> > Kannada (Tulunad is located mostly within Karnataka State) provides more
> > opportunities.  One major writer in the area, U.R. Ananthamurthy, a
> > mother-tongue speaker of Tulu, chose to write in Kannada; his novel
> > Samskara won national prizes in India.  But he told me that in his home,
> > Tulu was a language spoken on 'the back porch' mostly by women, while
> > spoke Kannada on the 'front porch'.  He enjoyed going back and forth,
> > learning Tulu from the women as well as Kannada from the men. But he
> > chooses to write in Kannada, and gets a larger audience thereby.
> >
> > In other parts of the world, e.g. ex-Soviet Georgia, it appears that
> > speakers of Mingrelian, a distinct language from Georgian, though
> > (i.e. not mutually intelligible with it) choose to have literacy in
> > Georgian; it's not an issue with them that their language is not used.
> > Ethnologue gives a figure of 500,000 speakers of Mingrelian
> > (
> >
> > In this country in situations where bilingual education is offered in
> > Spanish, we hear of some Hispanics choosing not to have it, because of
> > fears of 'ghettoization'.  They want the language of empowerment, and
> > that's the majority language.
> >
> > Hal Schiffman
> >

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