Language Evolution: The Windows Approach addresses the question: "How can we unravel the evolution of language, given that there is no direct evidence about it?"
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Date: Tue, 17 Aug 2004 12:49:14 +0200 From: Luna Beard Subject: Globalisation and African Languages
EDITORS: Bromber, Katrin; Smieja, Birgit TITLE: Globalisation and African Languages SUBTITLE: Risks and Benefits SERIES: Trends in Linguistics, Studies and Monographs 156 PUBLISHER: Mouton de Gruyter YEAR: 2004
Luna Beard, Department of Afroasiatic Studies, Sign Language and Language Practice, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa.
This collection of papers is dedicated to Karsten Legère on the occasion of his 60th birthday. Legère's contribution to African language studies, and specifically to Swahili, is conveyed in the short biography at the beginning. This is followed by a bibliography of Legère's work.
In their introduction to the volume, Bromber and Smieja (1) point out that as the notion of globalisation increasingly undergoes critical review, it is their aim to explore the contributions of a variety of African linguists to this debate.
This volume of articles that relate to Legère's work, is divided into three sections, namely: I Language use and attitudes II Language policy and education III Language description and classification
The articles in section I address issues in sociolinguistic research. While language conflict as a result of attitudes and use is often associated with a negative connotation, the contributions by Rene Dirven and Martin Pütz, as well as that by Peter Nelde point to its positive aspects, also with regard to minority or endangered languages. Their articles contribute to a more general debate as they refer to European and North American as well as African linguistic environments. The issue of language imperialism in relation to language conflict is also discussed, specifically the dominant position of English and its function in creating a language-based elite as opposed to countermeasures that can raise the awareness and status of African languages.
In the other contributions in this section, Herman M. Batibo considers Setswana as a possible under-exploited national resource, Christopher Stroud looks at reversing language shift in postmodern language contact scenarios, and the article of the late Rajmund Ohly deals with triglossia in the African context.
Batibo (59) refers to Pres, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt who said in 2000 that international economic integration had greatly affected not merely investment and trade in developing countries, but also all levels of human activity. Linguistic diversity is one important level that is being affected adversely by the process of globalisation. Batibo (59) points out that as the Batswana people become active members of the global village in which the super-global languages suffocate minority languages, they will fall prey to the dictates of the key players and progressively lose their linguistic and cultural identity. Batibo (61) concludes that the future of Setswana in Botswana, as well as the major languages in Africa, will greatly depend on whether the decision-makers want the country to be identified with the people and the nation's culture and traditions or with Western modernity and the globalisation process. He (61) does point out, though, that it is possible to preserve one's cultural identity thorough genuine commitment and systematic planning while subscribing to the global environment.
Stroud (94) points out that to the extent that language is primarily a capital resource for communities, it must be conceded that local values in local languages are glocal values in today's world; that one cannot talk of the local apart from the global. Within Stroud's rethinking of Fishman's theoretical approach to language reversal, this implies that even local languages gain vitality through an association of the intimate with power functions.
Section II comprises three articles. In the first one Vic Webb, Biki Lepota and Refilwe Ramagoshi examine the implications of using Northern Sotho as medium of instruction in vocational training in South Africa. The following article by Al Mtenje takes the case of Malawi as an example of developing a language policy in an African country. With regard to elitist attitudes in Africa, Mtenje (156, 157) claims that African elites are enemies of their own policies for cultural development in that they, for instance, pay lip service to the use of African languages, but do not speak them in public. Local languages are looked down upon as inferior, underdeveloped and incapable of conveying technological and scientific concepts, while English is often quoted as extremely important for international communication. The third article, by Mechthild Reh, is entitled Writing and reading in English and L1: Attitudes among pupils in Lira an Mpigi, Uganda. Reh (175) observes that pupils derive their notion of what is relevant and should be liked to a considerable degree from what is included or excluded from the school curriculum and school leaving certificates. Lack of printed material, in particular text books, may, however, be an obstacle in such cases.
Section III deals with the collection of linguistic data, description and classification of African languages and consists of nine articles. Daniel J. Mkude examines the impact of Kiswahili on Kiluguru, while Arvi Hurskainen discusses loan words in Swahili. These are followed by four articles that deal with core syntactic and phonological aspects: Christina Thornell examines the noun phrase in the Kerebe language, Nelli V. Gromova the infinitive in Swahili and Rudolf Leger the vowel systems in the southern Bole-Tangale languages. Bernd Heine and Christa König discuss word order in !Xun, one of the Khoisan languages of Namibia. After that Jouni Filip Maho asks: How many languages are there in Africa, really? In the next article Tore Janson presents a diachronic overview of languages and language names in Mozambique. The section is concluded by observations on Swahili and Midzinchenda plant names by Franz Rottland and Ralf Grosserhode. Section III very much reflects Legère's passion and focus in language studies.
Mkude (193) points out that at many universities in Africa it is difficult to generate and sustain an interest in research on local languages, even those that enjoy national or international status. He then (pp. 193-194) explains the value of indigenous languages and motivates research on minority languages.
Mkude (183,184) makes two remarkable statements that relate to the work of Botibo and Dimmendaal. Firstly, that the minority languages in Africa are not so much threatened by the ex-colonial languages that have become the official languages in most states, but rather by the dominant indigenous languages, especially the ones that have assumed lingua franca status or national importance. Secondly, the paradox that African countries that have strongly embraced ex-colonial languages as their official as well as national languages appear to have provided (unintentionally) a better environment for the survival of the multiplicity of their local languages. As a result of this last point, language shift and the associated process of language death is less dramatic on the African continent than in most other parts of the world.
While questions relating to globalisation is most explicitly addressed in Section I, the themes in Section III also relate to globalisation in that it emphasises the advantages it offers in terms of research connections and technical facilities that can potentially accelerate the collection of data on endangered languages and vanishing cultural knowledge. In this way a balanced perspective on globalisation is ensured.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER Luna Beard is a researcher in the Department of Afroasiatic Studies, Sign language and Language Practice at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa. She works mostly in Cognitive Linguistics. As far as microlinguistics is concerned, she enjoys syntax and phonology, but her real linguistic passions are stylistics and textual studies. She is in favour of interdisciplinary studies, especially those that combine linguistics and communication studies, as well as those that focus on the interface between linguistics and Bible studies. She taught linguistics for 11 years at the University of the Free State and the University of South Africa. After that she lived in Tucson, Arizona for five years where she joined in with linguistic discussions. She dreams of continuing her research at the university of the Free state, or elsewhere.