Mozambique is the theme of the Honors Seminar I’m taking this semester at Wayne State. The country was colonized by the Portuguese in the 1500′s, and in 1975 the country gained independence – headed by the mobilization efforts of FRELIMO (Front for the Liberation of Mozambique). Although the Frelimo bunch was trying to create a paradigm shift away from the oppressiveness of Portuguese colonizers, the official language for the new Republica de Moçambique, as the name suggests, was still Portuguese.
Why identify with the “oppressor” in such an basic and personal way?
Mozambique has a history of indigenous language repression and educational policies that contributed to the loss of prestige of many native Mozambican tongues. The Portuguese colonizers referred to native languages as “Dogs’ Languages” (Kitoko-Nsiku) and propagated language ideologies that demeaned the native languages while valuing Portuguese as linguistically superior.
Question begets question: Just what is the status of indigenous languages in Mozambique? Are there a lot, or do most people speak Portuguese?
To give examples of how prevalent native languages are, in the 1997 census Emakhuwa was the first language of 26% of the population and also the primary language spoken in the home for 26% of the population. In the same census year, 14.4% of the population spoke Xichangana as a first language and 11.3% used it in the home (Lopes, Census). As of 1980, less than 25% of Mozambicans spoke Portuguese fluently and only 1.2% of Mozambicans spoke Portuguese as a first language (Mkuti).
I am interested in studying why native languages in Mozambique appear to still suffer from low social prestige even after national independence from the Portuguese, and considering their overwhelming and undisputed presence in Mozambican society. Throughout the course of this seminar, I hope to understand the language ideologies and policies that keep native languages from achieving official status in Mozambique, and the attitudes of Mozambicans toward the official inclusion/exclusion of their native languages.
Which brings me to…language ideology:
Language ideology has been defined as a set “of beliefs about language articulated by users” of that language (Silverstein). These beliefs may affect language standards for writing and official discourse, usage of other languages and dialects in society and “correctness” in speech, among other things. When language ideologies target certain linguistic groups negatively while simultaneously elevating the status of others, they can cause extreme social tension and frustrate aims at social equality. Because a person’s identity is deeply tied to the language that they express themselves in, an ideology that devalues a given language may be considered a judgment on the social worth of its speakers as well.
Examples of language ideology in the US are views that Spanglish and code-switching between English and another language are inherently inferior communicative vehicles, negative or denigratory ideas about dialects, speechways etc. Think about how some Americans view African-American (Vernacular) English, Southern English or Creole English varieties like Jamaican or Geechee.
There are many written resources that I can draw upon to support this study. However, I’m still not sure what direction I want the final product of my interest in the topic to take.
I could create a multimedia presentation with video and photo montages, put to a background of Mozambican music/indigenous spoken dialogue.
I could write a paper, but that’s a little fome.
Eventually I’ll figure out what I can do. I’ve always loved photography, the written word… I hope that the final product refreshes the dialogue on language ideology and treatment of indigenous languages.
Kitoko-Nsiku, Edouard. “Dog’s Languages or People’s Languages? The Return of Bantu Languages to Primary Schools in Mozambique.” Current Issues in Language Planning. Vol. 8, No. 2, 2007, 258-282.
Lopes, A.J. “The Language Situation in Mozambique.” Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, Vol. 19, Issue 5, September 1998, 440 – 486.
Mkuti, Lukas Dominikus. “Language and Education in Mozambique Since 1940: Policy, Implementation, and Future Perspectives.” Doctoral Dissertation. University of Arizona. 1996.
Mozambican census, 1997. http://www.ine.gov.mz/censos_dir/recenseamento_geral/censo97_resultados.ppt
Silverstein, Michael. “Language Structure and Linguistic Ideology.” The Elements: A Parasession on Linguistic Units and Levels. Eds, Paul R. Clyne, William F. Hanks, and Carol L. Hofbauer. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society, 1979. 193-247.