Linguistics in a colonial world : a story of language, meaning, and power /

Main Author: Errington, James Joseph, 1951-
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: Malden, MA ; Oxford : Blackwell Pub., 2008.
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Review by Choice Review

Anthropologist Errington (Yale) presents a compelling account of the power relationships involved in linguistic research and in the construction of written languages among indigenous populations. Although it is not the primary objective of his book, the author also provides a useful overview of analytical and methodological developments and changing applications in the history of linguistics. Errington demonstrates the underlying political and cultural domination associated with writing down, privileging, and homogenizing indigenous languages, and he questions "whether there has ever been a definitive rupture to separate us from the colonial epoch." Whether in the Orientalist study of relations between Sanskrit and other Indo-European languages, colonial standardization and dissemination of languages such as Swahili and Malay, or contemporary programs of the Summer Institute of Linguistics for creating written versions of indigenous languages for purposes of Bible translation and cultural assimilation, language practice and research are neither politically neutral nor purely epiphenomena of material and structural patterns. In addition, the political use of language is not a one-way process, and the ideological significance of language may also lend itself to reclamation, communication, and identification within both nationalistic and localized political movements among indigenous peoples. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All academic levels/libraries. B. Tavakolian emeritus, Denison University

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.