use of minority languages

Felicia Briscoe FBriscoe at
Fri Jan 9 20:52:11 UTC 2004

By encouraging bilingualism or multilingualism as official languages and in
those who wield power, it doesn't change power totally, but it eases the
power held by the speakers of Portuquese and doesn't so much privilege
Porteguese as a langauge of power. And allows greater freedom for making
decisions about which langauges one will chose to learn.  What languages are
included in the bilingual or multilingualism of official languages of course
is another political question.

-----Original Message-----
From: Stan & Sandy Anonby [mailto:stan-sandy_anonby at]
Sent: Friday, January 09, 2004 1:42 PM
To: lgpolicy-list at
Subject: Re: use of minority languages


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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