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By Sinfree Makoni, Alastair Pennycook

This publication questions assumptions concerning the nature of language. diversified contexts from signal languages in Indonesia to literacy practices in Brazil, the authors argue that except we alter and reconstitute the ways that languages are taught and conceptualized, language experiences won't be able to enhance the social welfare of language clients.

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Extra info for Disinventing and Reconstituting Languages

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Since we are skeptical of the notion of language itself, the solution is not to normalize creole languages by seeing them as similar to other languages, but to destabilize languages by seeing them as similar to creoles. Similarly, the critique of the myth of sign language exceptionalism should not then render sign languages just like any other language, but should start to undermine the ways in which languages are understood. If anything we would like to argue that all languages are creoles, and that the slave and colonial history of creoles should serve as a model on which other languages are assessed.

Drawing attention to new and alternative metaphors is an important strategy aimed at finding a way in which linguists and applied linguists can avoid being imprisoned by their own semiotic categories. In order to understand the development of these regimes, we need to return (as with the invention of languages reviewed above) to the historical origins of particular modes of thought, and the history of linguistic ideologies. In their discussion of the work of Latour (1993) and Michel Foucault (1970), both of whom, in their different ways, sought to understand how it is that we came to be modern, Bauman & Briggs (2003: 8) suggest that Latour ‘misses language, that is, the role of its construction as autonomous and the work of purification and hybridization this entails in making modernity’.

The ‘writability’ (Errington, 2001: 19) or conversion of speech forms into writing and representations of languages such as Tagalog or Yoruba in metalinguistic terms more familiar to Europeans was conducted by Europeans as part of their diverse, and at times conflicting, colonial and Christian interests. By reformulating indigenous languages in terms consistent with their own beliefs and underwritten by comparative philology, the colonial regimes were able to interact through indigenous languages with the colonized in terms not of the choosing of the colonized, but that of the colonizers (Comaroff & Comaroff, 1991).

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