[lg policy] Can Language Save Communities Under Threat From A Globalised World?

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Wed Apr 11 15:08:14 EDT 2018

 Can Language Save Communities Under Threat From A Globalised World? There
are 2,460 languages currently spoken around the world — but only 118 of
them are considered “safe.”

   - <?subject=Can%20Language%20Save%20Communities%20Under%20Threat%20From%20A%20Globalised%20World%3F&body=Article:

   Padmaparna Ghosh
<https://www.huffingtonpost.in/author/padmaparna-ghosh> Journalist.


*As a child, Kanako Uzawa treasured her school vacations, when she traveled
from Tokyo to her family farm in Nibutani, a remote village in northern
Japan.* "There were rice fields extending into the distance," she says. "It
was all very green with fresh air... It was paradise for kids."

Uzawa, who was born in Tomakomai, Hokkaido, is a member of the Ainu, an
indigenous group from northern Japan. The story of this small community is
one of erasure instigated by the state. In the late nineteenth century, the
Meiji government sought a unified, cohesive vision of Japan; the very
existence of the Ainu and other indigenous groups threatened Japan's
national myth of homogeneity. In 1899, the government passed the Hokkaido
Former Aborigines Protection Act, which stripped the Ainu of their
identity: names were changed, language was curbed, and they were forced to
give up hunting and gathering and begin farming on poor land.

The Casas-Rodríguez Postcard Collection // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

As long as humans have formed shared identities around ethnicity, religion,
race, language, and culture, those identities have been subject to erasure,
from colonialism to war to economic globalisation to linguistic
homogenisation to environmental change. Just look to the island nations of
Tuvalu and Kiribati, preparing to sink beneath the sea
<http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/20112/>, or to Greenland, preparing for its
ice to melt away

In the previous episode
we explored how asylum seekers struggle to define their identities, caught
in limbo between their home countries and their adopted ones. Governments
define official, legitimised forms of national identities : the structures
into which new arrivals should be integrated. But these same structures are
applied to groups who have long resided within countries' borders—or, in
the case of many colonized nations, predated the groups that currently hold
power. How can a given group retain a sovereign identity within those
national constructs?


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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