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Language Planing in Brasil

Language Planing in Brasil

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Published by serromerro
Language Planing in Brasil
Language Planing in Brasil

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Published by: serromerro on May 16, 2011
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(Received 12 May 2003; accepted in revised form 30 November 2003)ABSTRACT. The purpose of this article is to analyse the linguistic situation in Braziland to discuss the relationship between Portuguese and the 200 other languages, about170 indigenous, spoken in the country. It focuses on three points: the historical process of language unification, recent official language policy initiatives, and linguistic prejudice. Iexamine two manifestations of linguistic prejudice, one against external elements and theother against supposedly inferior internal elements, pointing out to a common origin: themyth that the Portuguese language in Brazil is characterised by an astonishing unity.KEY WORDS: Brazil, Brazilian Portuguese, language policy in Brazil, language unifica-tion, linguistic ideology, linguistic prejudice, monolingualism
?Brazil is an astonishing country in several ways. It is the only Portuguese-speaking country in America and is surrounded by Spanish-speakingcountries. The fifth largest country in the world, with a population of 175 million inhabitants, Brazil is and was almost always viewed, both byforeign observers but also by its own population, as an enormous, linguisti-cally homogeneous giant. Generally, Brazilians assume that everybody inBrazil speaks a unique variety of the Portuguese language. Accordingto this language perception, Brazil is a country without any linguisticproblems.This language perception by Brazilians can be considered correct onlyin the sense that almost everyone can communicate through Portugueseeverywhere within the Brazilian territory. And it is also correct if wecompare Brazil to countries where there is official bilingualism or multi-lingualism and two or more languages are considered official languages of the nation and where a relevant part of the population is made of activespeakers of more than one language. Indeed, in Brazil, almost the totalpopulation is constituted of monolingual Portuguese speakers, and the vastmajority of them will never learn a second language.But this perception of the Brazilian linguistic world can be alsoconsidered wrong if we recall that Portuguese is not in fact the only
 Language Policy
3–23, 2004.© 2004
Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
language of Brazil. Although it is true that the vast majority of Braziliansare monolingual, it is not true that Brazil as a whole is a monolingualcountry. Following a recent estimate, there are about 200 differentlanguages that are spoken within the Brazilian territory, of which approxi-mately 170 are indigenous languages, while the others are mainly of European or Asian origin. Therefore, Brazil is a multilingual nation, like94% of the countries in the world (Oliveira, 2002: 83–84).Certainly, these other languages are spoken by marginalised minoritieswithout a significant economic power, that is by indigenous groups andimmigrants. Moreover, they have never been recognised as legitimate oreven as existing by the media. It is also true that the major TV channelsalways consider the viewpoint of the majority in their programming. In thisrespect, the populations of non-Portuguese speakers in Brazil are ‘statisti-cally non-significant’ for them. Their choice is not only economic, but alsoideological. The media (including TV, radio and newspapers) have alwaysembraced the idea of Brazil being a linguistically homogeneous giant.Searching for the reasons for the “invisibility” of the real Brazilianlinguistic scenario, Oliveira (2002: 83) points to three possibilities: ignor-ance of the truth, overlooking the truth as a result of a political policythat intentionally projects a convenient idea of a monolingual country, orsimply pure linguistic prejudice.
For several levels, all these reasons stand together. The acceptancewithout discussion of the fact that Portuguese is Brazil’s unique language,felt as a natural phenomenon, has been in the past and is still nowfundamental to obtaining nation wide consensus to the repressive policiestowards the languages of Brazilian minorities (Oliveira, 2002: 83).Analysing the Brazilian linguistic scenario from another point of view,the three reasons pointed out by Oliveira (2002) can also be correlatedto the invisibility of the Portuguese varieties spoken in Brazil. The wide-spread belief that the language spoken in Brazil is highly homogeneous isdue probably to a twofold reason: firstly because there are no apparentproblems of mutual intelligibility in everyday communication betweenspeakers of different varieties of Brazilian Portuguese, when comparedwith what happens to different varieties of other languages, like Italian,Chinese and English; secondly, and more probable, because the intelli-gibility is not jeopardised by phonological, morphological and syntactic
From the perspective of their results, the first two possibilities pointed by Oliveiracan be considered one and the same; however, they are different in intentionality: in thefirst one, the ignorance of the truth is non-intentional; in the second one, it is a result of apolitical project.
5variations. This fact gives the false impression that the language is totallyhomogeneous.Again, the image that Brazilians have of their own language is not incomplete correspondence to reality. Historically, Brazilian Portuguese isa relatively recent variety of Portuguese. Because of this, there has notbeen enough time for the emergence of distinct dialects due to geographicor social isolation. In addition to this historical linguistic fact, the socio-linguistic effect of TV Globo (the most important national TV network),beaming its signal all over the national territory and making the countrya perfect ‘global village’, has enormous importance into setting a presti-gious variety of the language as a standard for everyone in the country.
Even with that powerful influence upon the life of the population, itwould surprise a linguist if a huge country like Brazil did not show anysignificant linguistic variation, considering the evidently striking socialand economical differences.Although there is no clear definition of what would be the standardBrazilian Portuguese, individuals tend to identify it with the varietyadopted by important TV news programmes, especially Jornal Nacional,the most important TV news programme on TV Globo. In this programme,the hosts speak a pasteurised linguistic variety, made up of ‘neutral’features from the two most important urban varieties: from Rio de Janeiroand São Paulo. The final result is a mixture of features that make a goodimpression upon educated people, with a clear effort to suppress anycharacteristic that would identify with only one of those varieties. In otherwords, the standard Brazilian Portuguese promoted by the TV news is nota natural variety of the language. On the contrary, it is an artificial variety
Fischer (2001: 174) notes that, after the Second World War, the intrusion of televisionincreased dialect levelling; because of that, “contamination and superimposition have sincebeen documented among large populations of viewers”. In his opinion, “at this moment,television is perhaps the single greatest cause of universal dialect levelling” – referring tothe use of standard American English, that is increasing at a rapid rate in those English-speaking countries that broadcast American programmes without ‘dubbing’. But Fischer(2001: 182) also notes that “in a contrasting process, the recent ‘modernization’ of theBritish Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has essentially eliminated what had come tobe called ‘BBC English’, an easily recognizable received pronunciation of the Englishlanguage that had long been held in high regard. Now, older listeners, be they in Britainor New Zealand, register alarm at hearing in BBC broadcasts what they register as ‘lower-class pronunciation’; they feel this not only ‘lower standards’ but also demonstrates ‘abeastly lack of good taste’. However, such protestations are meaningless in the larger sagaof living languages. ‘Superior’ dialects are only a chimera, as special dialects themselvesvery soon mutate and/or lose what made them special.”

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