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Linguistics in a Colonial World: A Story of Language, Meaning, and Power

ISBN: 978-1-4051-0570-5
210 pages
September 2007, Wiley-Blackwell
Linguistics in a Colonial World: A Story of Language, Meaning, and Power (1405105704) cover image
Drawing on both original texts and critical literature, Linguistics in a Colonial World surveys the methods, meanings, and uses of early linguistic projects around the world.

* Explores how early endeavours in linguistics were used to aid in overcoming practical and ideological difficulties of colonial rule

* Traces the uses and effects of colonial linguistic projects in the shaping of identities and communities that were under, or in opposition to, imperial regimes

* Examines enduring influences of colonial linguistics in contemporary thinking about language and cultural difference

* Brings new insight into post-colonial controversies including endangered languages and language rights in the globalized twenty-first century
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Preface.

Acknowledgments.

List of Figures and Table.

1. The Linguistic in the Colonial.

2. Early Conversions, or, How Spanish Friars Made the Little Jump.

3. Imaging the Linguistic Past.

4. Philology's Evolutions.

5. Between Pentecost and Pidgins.

6. Colonial Linguists, (Proto)-National Languages.

7. Postcolonial Postscript.

References.

Language Index.

Persons Index.

Subject Index

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Joseph Errington is Professor of Anthropology and International and Area Studies, as well as Chair of the Council of Southeast Asian Studies, at Yale University. His research and writing have focused on linguistic dimensions of modernization and identity in Java and Indonesia, reflecting his broader interests in semiotics and the politics of language.
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  • Explores how early endeavours in linguistics were used to aid in overcoming practical and ideological difficulties of colonial rule
  • Traces the uses and effects of colonial linguistic projects in the shaping of identities and communities that were under, or in opposition to, imperial regimes
  • Examines enduring influences of colonial linguistics in contemporary thinking about language and cultural difference
  • Brings new insight into post-colonial controversies including endangered languages and language rights in the globalized twenty-first century
See More
"This slim book covers a lot of ground, geographically, historically, and intellectually." (Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, December 2008)

"Errington … provides a useful overview of analytical and methodological developments and changing applications in the history of linguistics. Highly recommended." (CHOICE, November 2008)

"The succinctness of the writing and the importance of the central argument make the reviewed text likely to appear on many course syllabi." (Journal of Sociolinguistics)

"This book provides both an introduction and an innovative argument about the development of colonial linguistics and its place in the rise of 19th century European linguistics as a field of expert knowledge. This is stimulating scholarship and a valuable teaching resource for linguistic anthropology, sociolinguistics, history of linguistics, cultural studies and historiography."
Kathryn Woolard, University of California: San Diego

"This splendid history of ideas is a nuanced reflection on how language and humanity became each other's deepest theoretical mirrors as the world made the transition from colonialism to the more recent forms of globalization. It is also a superb contribution to the general dialogue between linguistics and its cognate human sciences."
Arjun Appadurai, The New School

"In this concise, eloquent yet wide-ranging book, Joseph Errington demonstrates the importance of understanding linguistics as a special kind of colonial encounter. Linguistics, he shows, has always operated within particular relations of power, constructs of sameness and difference, and ways of reducing languages to writing. The European science of language helped legislate on the one hand national difference in Europe and on the other human inequality in European empires. Linguistics, Errington shows, may claim scientificity but it can never be insulated from the speech of those it studies; it is always entangled with contexts, projects and linguistic ideologies from the past. This book therefore provides not only key historical discussion of the long and fraught connections among colonialism, linguistic description, literacy practices, and social imaginations, but also challenges any contemporary practising linguist – whether engaged in pan-human speculations about universal language, continuing missionary linguistic projects, or attempts to save and preserve endangered languages – to understand current postcolonial linguistic projects in relation to the colonial past."
Alastair Pennycook, University of Technology-Sydney

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