printability and standardization

Stan & Sandy Anonby stan-sandy_anonby at sil.org
Mon Jan 12 20:27:48 UTC 2004


MessageWe're talking about language ecology here.  It's kind of ironic that disenfranchised minorities seek to improve the situation of their group; but in doing so, they change the ecology in which their language flourished.  

Stan 
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Felicia Briscoe 
  To: 'lgpolicy-list at ccat.sas.upenn.edu' 
  Sent: Monday, January 12, 2004 3:58 PM
  Subject: RE: printability and standardization


  Bernard,

  Thanks for letting me know about your very relevant publication.  I do so much agree with you that we need to look at how any language policy fits into the overall economic, political, and social structure and if our "esoteric" linguistic knowledge is to be of benefit to them, then we need to share it as much as possible in a form that doesn't descend into specialized jargon.  The problem is that the mass media does such a poor job of making this information available to the very public who are most directly affected by langauge policies (see Santa Ana's 2002 book,  Brown Tide Rising: Metaphors of Latinos in Contemporary American Public Discourse, for more on how the mass media shapes discourse around particular issues).  And, I think if we would deal directly with the practices that bring about subordination or oppression of certain groups then language policies would become less pressing.  But when language policies act within a political/economic circumstances to further oppress a particular group then they need to be changed.  What I am saying, is that I think its impossible to mandate any particular policy without knowing the particular circumstances of a cultural/economic/social group.  But in general, as much as possible I think people should have easy access to knowledge (including linguistic) and also to languages of power and of their home and communities. And I think that we have drastically underestimated linguistic abilities of most children and in fact their overall ability to learn.

  Felecia
    -----Original Message-----
    From: Bernard Spolsky [mailto:spolsb at mail.biu.ac.il]
    Sent: Monday, January 12, 2004 1:34 PM
    To: lgpolicy-list at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
    Subject: RE: printability and standardization


    Felicia
    At that time, most Navajos lived in traditional homes a good distance from their neighbors, and from water. That was the point she was making - she could choose city life with indoor plumbing etc (but living among non-Navajos where her children would pick up English/  As time went by, demographic conditions changed - roads were build, water and electricity provided in small semi-urban settlements and towns, where children also switched to English.  I describe it in Spolsky, Bernard. (2002). Prospects for the survival of the Navajo language: a reconsideration. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 33(2), 1-24. But I think the central point is that you should not try to separate the language issue from the social, political, demographic, cultural, religions, economic etc context.
    Bernard
    Bernard Spolsky   spolsb at mail.biu.ac.il 

      -----Original Message-----
      From: owner-lgpolicy-list at ccat.sas.upenn.edu [mailto:owner-lgpolicy-list at ccat.sas.upenn.edu] On Behalf Of Felicia Briscoe
      Sent: Monday, January 12, 2004 9:06 PM
      To: 'lgpolicy-list at ccat.sas.upenn.edu'
      Subject: RE: printability and standardization


      Bernard,

      Your statement is interesting on so many levels...like why does one have to make a choice between speaking the major language of one's cultural group or carrying water a mile in a bucket?  Or why those who stay on the Reserveration are speaking Navajo less and less...which of course brings the whole concept of "revervations for some people" into the arena for questioning.

      Felecia
        -----Original Message-----
        From: Bernard Spolsky [mailto:spolsb at mail.biu.ac.il]
        Sent: Sunday, January 11, 2004 9:51 PM
        To: lgpolicy-list at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
        Subject: RE: printability and standardization


        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.
        Bernard
          -----Original Message-----
          From: owner-lgpolicy-list at ccat.sas.upenn.edu [mailto:owner-lgpolicy-list at ccat.sas.upenn.edu] On Behalf Of Christina Paulston
          Sent: Sunday, January 11, 2004 9:54 PM
          To: lgpolicy-list at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
          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 unf.edu>
          To: lgpolicy-list at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
          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
            http://www.unf.edu/~rkephart


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