Trans Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 16. Nr. Februar 2006

3.2. Postcolonial innovations and transformations: Putting language in the forefront
Herausgeber | Editor | Éditeur: Eric A. Anchimbe (University of Munich)

Dokumentation | Documentation | Documentation

Report: Postcolonial innovations and transformations: Putting language in the forefront

Eric A. Anchimbe (University of Munich)


This section brought together speakers from Australia, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Kenya, England, Holland, India, Japan, and USA. The diverse origins of the speakers strongly points to the diverse, yet intricately related, horizon of papers presented. We realised by the end of the section that several underlying aspects of languages and societies in their innovative and transformative itineraries were predominantly the same. Whether industrialised or not the dominant patterns of power interpretation, language planning, language death or survival, sociolinguistic (dis)advantage, foreign language imposition, national language and nation state, and the search for and construction of linguistic identities are generally similar and are motivated by the same underlying ideals. However, what varies are the ways through which each society pursues or integrates them into the general struggle for survival.

The major idea of transformations and innovations in societies and the corresponding impact on language(s) was recurrent in the papers although each adopted a perception that fitted the mix of races, persons, languages, and the historical and current statuses of the various societies. One significant impact of colonialism is the further linguistic admixture of societies that were already extensively multilingual. From Africa to Asia, the story is the same. At the turn of the millennium and with the continuous empowerment of indigenous languages in postcolonial contexts, there are new prospects for language planning policies that may include these indigenous languages in the national agenda. Bokamba G. Eyamba established the possibility of African languages definitely replacing foreign exoglossic languages if not as official then as national languages. Alice Wachira and Deo Nizonkiza discussed multilingual tendencies in Kenya and Burundi respectively. They paid close attention to the sweeping current of English, which seems to be leaving no one indifferent, not even in francophone Burundi that has no historical ties to Britain. This state-of-affairs has varying effects on other languages in the society. Ananya J. Kabir examined the possible death of, and the need for, the revival of the Kashimiri language Koshur, which unfortunately seems to be embedded in the political conflict over the Kashimir Valley – created predominantly by long colonial experiments, unplanned decolonisation, and unfulfilled postcolonial promises.

Besides just the mix of languages in multilingual communities, identity construction on languages also determines the allegiances members pay to the languages they speak. Thomas B. Klein (Gullah and Geechee in the US), Eric A. Anchimbe (French and English in Cameroon), Jessica Walker (English in the US) and Hugo C. Cardoso (Indo-Portuguese in Diu), from differing standpoints illustrated this. Some such identities are built on historical landmarks, new national signposts such as new varieties of colonial languages (New Englishes), and generally represent the ways people interpret changes in their societies. The interpretation of stages in the transformation of societies, also represented in patterns of communication, is often attitudinal. To Roy Bendor, the richness and complexity of cannibalism make it a fruitful point of departure for deconstructing and renegotiating cultural boundaries and positions of dominance that are predominantly featured in discourses of modernity, postcolonialism, development and globalisation. Similarly the changing realities in Hiberno English, as Tamami Shimada explained, have created resentment in certain patterns that make that variety distinct. Stigmatised as archaic and uneducated, the ‘do be’ form is now generally rejected. On the contrary, Divine Che Neba and Stephen Mforteh upheld that the indigenisation of colonial languages into local (national) varieties provides these nations the chance to solidify national identities created at the close of colonialism. These identities would not reflect the quagmire of colonialism given that these varieties have been tremendously embellished by the multicultural and multilinguistic atmosphere of these regions.

Colonialism or postcolonialism do not always refer to the imperial expansions of the west in the 18 th century and after but also to what Leith (1996) calls the first colonisation. This has to do especially with the Americas, Australia and New Zealand (in the case of English). However two papers (Jessica Walker and Thomas B. Klein) took us back to this period. Walker described the transformation of English into American English as an identity symbol, while Klein identified at what point speakers of Gullah and Geechee see themselves as belonging to a special entity, from which non-members are exempted. This not withstanding, the general patterns of innovation and transformation in languages were found to be predominantly similar and were determined by the search for and desire to create estimable identities.

© Eric A. Anchimbe (University of Munich)

3.2. Postcolonial innovations and transformations: Putting language in the forefront

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For quotation purposes:
Eric A. Anchimbe (University of Munich): Report: Postcolonial innovations and transformations: Putting language in the forefront. In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No. 16/2005. WWW:

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