printability and standardization

Stan & Sandy Anonby stan-sandy_anonby at
Mon Jan 12 12:21:35 UTC 2004

I'd like to read King.  I haven't, so I might be off base, but aren't stratification, sociogeographical isolation, and disparities forces which help maintain languages and cultures?  If these problems didn't exist in Brazil, my feeling is that all the Indian communities would've switched to Portuguese by now.  I don't know the sociolinguistic dynamic in Ecuador and I think it's great that indigenous people there have won a political place in the wording of the constitution.  However, I wonder how much Quechua is really benefiting from this Indian zeitgeist.   If the situation is like Brazil, then I would bet that the Indians who were instrumental in bringing about these political changes do not speak their Indian languages well, if at all.  I don't doubt all this has had a positive social-psychological effect on minority children and within their communities, but does this mean they are speaking more Quechua?

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Rachel Reynolds 
  To: lgpolicy-list at 
  Sent: Monday, January 12, 2004 7:16 AM
  Subject: RE: printability and standardization

  I am wondering why no one has quite mentioned that language is just a single part of the ethnic/racial stratification scene in the United States (and elsewhere).  There is only so much that educating people about language can accomplish when race relations have a lot to do also with clean water supplies, prison, health care disparities (Christina mentioned this!), sociogeographical isolation of the poor, the impetus towards empire, enduring and changing commercialization of black bodies and sounds, etc. etc. etc.   The efficacy of language consciousness education depends of course on historical and cultural contexts of other forms of consciousness raising and the ethnic/class struggle (i.e. timing is everything).  Someone mentioned Kendall King's book earlier on Quechua, standardization and the classroom where, for example, in the introduction King points out that her ethnography takes place in a setting where indigenous people in Ecuador had just won a political place in the wording of the constitution and that the wide ranging effects of this will have mattered at a more pervasive level than the efforts of a single educational consortium.  Nonetheless, this educational consortium arose at the time of political change and was probably more effective because of its correlation with the zeitgeist. (that last part is me talking, not necessarily King whose book I do not presently have by my side).  That's related to why King concludes that language revitalization may not necessarily fully reinstate languages within all domains, but that it has a positive social-psychological effect on minority children and within their communities. (again, I hope I've summarized that accurately).

  Wasn't it Marvin Harris who points out that changing superstructural concerns from the top, like language and its ideologies, have less likelihood of affecting the infrastructure or the structure of a social group?  While changes form the base, in the infrastructure and the structure will have wider-ranging on the superstructure?  When and how are minority language planning efforts likely to change the structure, I guess, is what I'm asking...

  Rachel Reynolds

  At 05:51 AM 1/12/2004 +0200, you wrote:

    Christina's comment reminds me of a remark made by a Navajo graduate student of mine many years ago: by moving to the city, she knew it was unlikely that her son would grow up speaking Navajo, but at least she wouldn't have to carry water a mile or two every day. 
    Of course, those who stayed on the Reservation are speaking Navajo less and less.
      -----Original Message----- 
      From: owner-lgpolicy-list at [mailto:owner-lgpolicy-list at] On Behalf Of Christina Paulston 
      Sent: Sunday, January 11, 2004 9:54 PM 
      To: lgpolicy-list at 
      Subject: Re: printability and standardization

      I must express myself extremely badly to be so misunderstood. Of course a person can be literate in more than one language or dialect - I read some seven languages, eight, myself. We are not, that is,  I am not talking about a linguistic problem but a social. Of course the LSA comment "from this perspective" they noted, was perfectly sound. It was the Black community across the country who rose up in protest at having AAVE imposed on them and you can give them all the linguistic information you want and it is not going to help.  
          What about South Africa, now with 11 official languages? Many Afrikaners for "pedagogically sound" reasons now urge the African population to send their children to mother tongue schools - exactly the same policy enforced under apartheid for reasons of segregation.  Parents prefer education in English for their children - are you going to tell them they suffer from false consciousness ( a singularly brilliant concept, that)? There are as always other circumstances, quality of teachers, texts, etc but parents still want English.  And I think it should be their choice. 
          The problem of course becomes worse when the children and the parents disagree over that choice - which is not uncommon with immigrant groups.  I just object to linguists playing omniscient gods and recommending  options for life decisions on the basis of linguistic criteria.  Most people want a decent life, at least for their children, a good job, good health care (Bush should take note), a secure old age, etc, and if that necessitates another language, they don't care. Of course they can remain bilingual but the children usually don't think it is worth it. 
          Etc.  My very last comment, Christina

      From: Ronald Kephart <rkephart at> 
      To: lgpolicy-list at 
      Subject: RE: printability and standardization 
      Date: Sun, Jan 11, 2004, 11:15 AM

      At 11:02 AM -0600 1/10/04, Felicia Briscoe wrote:

      ...There also seems to be an underlying assumption in much of the recent writing that 
      bilingualism is either very difficult to attain or that it is someway is detrimental to the person who is bilingual.  I find this a very strange assumption. Why can't a person be fully literate in AAVE and fully literate in standard English.  Why is it so often posed as an either/or option?

    I think part of the answer lies in what anthropological linguist MJ Hardman calls our linguistic postulates: specifically, the importance of singularity. This manifests itself in all sorts of ways not only within our language but also how we think about language, as well as more widely: one "right" answer, one god, preference for individual over collective work, "most valuable players," the totalitarian nature of our corporations, even the prescriptive insistence on "he" rather than "they" as a generic pronoun. And of course, "one language."

    See: Hardman, 1978, Linguistic postulates and applied anthropological linguistics, in Papers on linguistics and child language, edited by V. Honsa and M.J. Hardman-de-Bautista, 117-36. The Hague: Mouton.

    Ronald Kephart
    Sociology, Anthropology, & Criminal Justice
    University of North Florida

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