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How common is bi-lingualism?
I would like to read some more support for several of the claims in this
post: "Bi-lingual and multi-lingual situations are rather the norm and not
the exception around the world. In fact a mono-lingual context is rather
the result of severe linguistic politics and a part of European's modernism."
The second sentence offers a causal claim which I'm not sure I'd accept,
but first I wonder about the earlier claim that bi- and multi-lingual
situations are the world's norm.
Is it a fact that most poeple have spoken more than one language? My sense
of world history (a sense, not knowledge) suggests only minorities spoke
more than single languages in traditional societies Asia, Africa, the
Americas and Europe. (Most never went more than 30 miles from their
birthplaces in their lives, the old saw goes. In the world's mostly small
villages surely mostly one language was spoken by most people.) If this is
true, then perhaps multi-lingualism is in fact more an artifact of the
disruptions caused by European colonialism and, later, modernity.
But before leaping to speculation about causes: Can we agree on some
factual base. Do most of the earth's 6 billion today live in bi- or
multi-lingual situations? I'm not sure they do.
Did most of earth's people live in bi- or multi-lingual situations before
1500? I'm not sure they did.
If it turns out that bi- and multi-lingualism is more of an effect of the
disruptions caused by Euroamerican global imperialsim, does encouraging bi-
and multi-lingualism today more often serve the interests of global capital
than it does the flourishing of local (most often monolignual?) communities?
Houston Wood, Academic Coordinator for Writing
Hawaii Pacific University, Honolulu, HI 96813
808-544-1118 fax:808-544-0862 firstname.lastname@example.org