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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Language, power and transformation in South Africa: a critique of language rights discourse
Author:Parmegiani, Andrea
Periodical:Transformation: Critical Perspectives on Southern Africa (ISSN 0258-7696)
Geographic term:South Africa
language policy
English language
indigenous languages
Abstract:This paper offers a critique of language rights discourse in the context of South Africa's process of democratic transformation. Drawing on P. Bourdieu (1991, 1997), the author argues that language is not politically neutral, but a sociopolitical mechanism that shapes power relations. Using this framework, she discusses the postapartheid gap between language policy and practice. She acknowledges the role that language rights activism has played in raising awareness of how this gap creates impediments for democratic transformation, but argues that a tendency to rely too heavily on negative constructions of English limits the effectiveness of language rights discourse. She identifies three metaphoric images that have a lot of currency for constructing the power of English negatively: English is a 'linguistic poacher', English is a 'gatekeeper', English is a 'colonizer of the mind'. She discusses the epistemological and political limitations of theories of language and empowerment that use these metaphors to disengage with the notion that the power of English can be harnessed by native speakers of African languages and concludes with a series of recommendations for creating a discourse that is more effective in challenging linguistic inequality in South Africa. Bibliogr., sum. [Journal abstract]