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LANGUAGE POLICY IN BRAZIL: MONOLINGUALISM AND LINGUISTIC PREJUDICE
(Received 12 May 2003; accepted in revised form 30 November 2003)
ABSTRACT. The purpose of this article is to analyse the linguistic situation in Brazil and to discuss the relationship between Portuguese and the 200 other languages, about 170 indigenous, spoken in the country. It focuses on three points: the historical process of language uniﬁcation, recent ofﬁcial language policy initiatives, and linguistic prejudice. I examine two manifestations of linguistic prejudice, one against external elements and the other against supposedly inferior internal elements, pointing out to a common origin: the myth that the Portuguese language in Brazil is characterised by an astonishing unity. KEY WORDS: Brazil, Brazilian Portuguese, language policy in Brazil, language uniﬁcation, linguistic ideology, linguistic prejudice, monolingualism
I S T HERE R EALLY A L INGUISTIC Q UESTION C ONCERNING B RAZIL ? Brazil is an astonishing country in several ways. It is the only Portuguesespeaking country in America and is surrounded by Spanish-speaking countries. The ﬁfth largest country in the world, with a population of 175 million inhabitants, Brazil is and was almost always viewed, both by foreign observers but also by its own population, as an enormous, linguistically homogeneous giant. Generally, Brazilians assume that everybody in Brazil speaks a unique variety of the Portuguese language. According to this language perception, Brazil is a country without any linguistic problems. This language perception by Brazilians can be considered correct only in the sense that almost everyone can communicate through Portuguese everywhere within the Brazilian territory. And it is also correct if we compare Brazil to countries where there is ofﬁcial bilingualism or multilingualism and two or more languages are considered ofﬁcial languages of the nation and where a relevant part of the population is made of active speakers of more than one language. Indeed, in Brazil, almost the total population is constituted of monolingual Portuguese speakers, and the vast majority of them will never learn a second language. But this perception of the Brazilian linguistic world can be also considered wrong if we recall that Portuguese is not in fact the only
Language Policy 3: 3–23, 2004. © 2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
language of Brazil. Although it is true that the vast majority of Brazilians are monolingual, it is not true that Brazil as a whole is a monolingual country. Following a recent estimate, there are about 200 different languages that are spoken within the Brazilian territory, of which approximately 170 are indigenous languages, while the others are mainly of European or Asian origin. Therefore, Brazil is a multilingual nation, like 94% of the countries in the world (Oliveira, 2002: 83–84). Certainly, these other languages are spoken by marginalised minorities without a signiﬁcant economic power, that is by indigenous groups and immigrants. Moreover, they have never been recognised as legitimate or even as existing by the media. It is also true that the major TV channels always consider the viewpoint of the majority in their programming. In this respect, the populations of non-Portuguese speakers in Brazil are ‘statistically non-signiﬁcant’ for them. Their choice is not only economic, but also ideological. The media (including TV, radio and newspapers) have always embraced the idea of Brazil being a linguistically homogeneous giant. Searching for the reasons for the “invisibility” of the real Brazilian linguistic scenario, Oliveira (2002: 83) points to three possibilities: ignorance of the truth, overlooking the truth as a result of a political policy that intentionally projects a convenient idea of a monolingual country, or simply pure linguistic prejudice.1 For several levels, all these reasons stand together. The acceptance without discussion of the fact that Portuguese is Brazil’s unique language, felt as a natural phenomenon, has been in the past and is still now fundamental to obtaining nation wide consensus to the repressive policies towards 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 correlated to the invisibility of the Portuguese varieties spoken in Brazil. The widespread belief that the language spoken in Brazil is highly homogeneous is due probably to a twofold reason: ﬁrstly because there are no apparent problems of mutual intelligibility in everyday communication between speakers of different varieties of Brazilian Portuguese, when compared with what happens to different varieties of other languages, like Italian, Chinese and English; secondly, and more probable, because the intelligibility is not jeopardised by phonological, morphological and syntactic
1 From the perspective of their results, the ﬁrst two possibilities pointed by Oliveira can be considered one and the same; however, they are different in intentionality: in the ﬁrst one, the ignorance of the truth is non-intentional; in the second one, it is a result of a political project.
because of that. after the Second World War. This fact gives the false impression that the language is totally homogeneous. as special dialects themselves very soon mutate and/or lose what made them special. Because of this. it is an artiﬁcial variety 2 Fischer (2001: 174) notes that. be they in Britain or New Zealand. However. considering the evidently striking social and economical differences. In his opinion. the most important TV news programme on TV Globo. On the contrary. they feel this not only ‘lower standards’ but also demonstrates ‘a beastly lack of good taste’. In addition to this historical linguistic fact. older listeners. television is perhaps the single greatest cause of universal dialect levelling” – referring to the use of standard American English. the sociolinguistic effect of TV Globo (the most important national TV network). beaming its signal all over the national territory and making the country a perfect ‘global village’. Now. Again. made up of ‘neutral’ features from the two most important urban varieties: from Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. the hosts speak a pasteurised linguistic variety. that is increasing at a rapid rate in those Englishspeaking countries that broadcast American programmes without ‘dubbing’. In other words. Brazilian Portuguese is a relatively recent variety of Portuguese. the standard Brazilian Portuguese promoted by the TV news is not a natural variety of the language. especially Jornal Nacional. In this programme. there has not been enough time for the emergence of distinct dialects due to geographic or social isolation.” . “at this moment. Historically. register alarm at hearing in BBC broadcasts what they register as ‘lowerclass pronunciation’. The ﬁnal result is a mixture of features that make a good impression upon educated people. the recent ‘modernization’ of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has essentially eliminated what had come to be called ‘BBC English’. the image that Brazilians have of their own language is not in complete correspondence to reality.LANGUAGE POLICY IN BRAZIL 5 variations. individuals tend to identify it with the variety adopted by important TV news programmes. the intrusion of television increased dialect levelling. ‘Superior’ dialects are only a chimera. has enormous importance into setting a prestigious variety of the language as a standard for everyone in the country. “contamination and superimposition have since been documented among large populations of viewers”. Although there is no clear deﬁnition of what would be the standard Brazilian Portuguese. it would surprise a linguist if a huge country like Brazil did not show any signiﬁcant linguistic variation. such protestations are meaningless in the larger saga of living languages. with a clear effort to suppress any characteristic that would identify with only one of those varieties.2 Even with that powerful inﬂuence upon the life of the population. But Fischer (2001: 182) also notes that “in a contrasting process. an easily recognizable received pronunciation of the English language that had long been held in high regard.
ordinary people do 3 Moreover. Non-stigmatised regional varieties are accepted only as a ‘secondary’ source of information. And the stigmatised social varieties only appear in this context as the voice of very poor people. Since people are not deaf to linguistic variation and are capable of realising that the variety they speak is different from the Portuguese spoken on television. by emphasising regional or social accents to the maximum. ignore the scientiﬁc discourse about language. In the same way that the common sense view never sees that other languages are spoken in addition to Portuguese in Brazil. the varieties of the vast majority of the population are never considered as belonging to Brazilian Portuguese.6 GLADIS MASSINI-CAGLIARI and a convenient way to manipulate the language problems in a huge and heterogeneous country like Brazil. the vast majority of the Brazilian people develop a very strong complex of linguistic incompetence: they believe they do not speak Portuguese. the linguistic problem is never posed as a question in the national agenda. Consequently. or as the voice of criminals. TV Globo maintains in its staff speech specialists to train the readers of the news to pronounce the ‘global’ variety of Brazilian Portuguese. and this means ignoring the dangerous consequences of this idealisation of language problems. This is good evidence that the social stereotypes in relation to language in Brazil are carefully built and strongly reinforced by the media. When it is. In spite of the apparently harmonious linguistic scenario (or because of that). Only ofﬁcial and traditional discourses about language problems seem to be acceptable in Brazilian society. The most striking truth about linguistic variation is the fact that even highly educated people. It also reveals a general and somehow ofﬁcial disbelief in the heterogeneity of the language in the country. especially the ones that appear in the media. when they are presented as victims of violence or natural disasters. but an incorrect form that does not deserve the name of Portuguese. . it is never the voice of the ‘ofﬁcial’ news. it is considered a shortcoming of the educational system. it seems unthinkable to give higher status on TV to regional or social varieties of less importance. mainly the soap-operas (novelas). It is interesting to notice that the non-news TV programmes. because this would be an ‘ofﬁcial’ recognition that those varieties actually exist in the society. usually show some characters who speak with a caricatured variety. For this kind of programme. principally by the TV networks. instead of using an artist that is a native user of those regional or social accents.3 When a ‘non-Globo variety’ is needed.
most of them are already dying. with Tupi origins. taken to Curaçao and Aruba with the slaves that belonged to the Dutch. In the end. and. But. it is possible to see that Brazil was.e.4 The problems about language go beyond the identiﬁcation of regional and social varieties as linguistic problems. According to Faraco (2002: 39). the Portuguese language was spoken only in the coastal areas. much more than today. It is time to start a debate between the multiple discourses about language in Brazil (Faraco. after they were expelled from 4 Discussing this problem in the United States. 2002: 39). L ANGUAGE U NIFICATION When we look at the Brazilian linguistic past (a very recent one of 500 years. lingua franca or ‘general’ language). present in the everyday life of the people and even in educational strategies. only 170 remained (15% of the total amount). In São Paulo and in the territorial area of expansion resulting from the bandeirantes’ action (the bandeirantes were hunters of native slaves and gold and precious stone prospectors). it is not a simple shortcoming of the educational system. According to Rodrigues (1998: 5). It is time to start a more scientiﬁc discussion involving the multiple aspects of language in society. we still live in a pre-scientiﬁc dogmatic and obscurantist age. Papiamento. an indigenous language. Moreover. African languages that resisted slavery. by 2000. in terms of thinking about language. a multilingual territory. being spoken by very small populations and with almost no chance of surviving because of the advance of Portuguese. even so. we come across ignorance and prejudice. a Portuguese based Creole. in addition to Portuguese and Creole varieties derived from Portuguese (for example. It is an important political problem that deeply affects several social situations. Baugh (1999: 6) asks: “Should some citizens be discriminated against because of our collective linguistic ignorance?” . This was the language spoken by the Jesuits and described by José de Anchieta (1595). there were more than one thousand native indigenous spoken languages when Cabral arrived in Brazil in the year 1500.LANGUAGE POLICY IN BRAZIL 7 not have access to a critical view about the traditional mythical misunderstandings about language. the spoken language was the língua geral (i. Until the middle of the 18th century.. In the Northeast there were indigenous tribal languages that survived extinction. in terms of surviving documents – all of the indigenous languages spoken in Brazil only recently began to be written).
2002: 151–152). It happened between 1870 (when the ciclo da borracha – rubber economy – began) and 1918 (end of the First World War) (Oliveira. 6 On November 22. especially the língua geral. monolingual Portuguese speakers. then how could they have rights to a formal education?) was. 2002.d. from 1834 to 1841.). com/group/CVL and http://www. in an area of approximately 300. In the north. Nheengatu is the language of day to day communication among the resident populations and it is the language of trade (Bessa Freire.000 km2 . To impose Portuguese on African and native slaves without guaranteeing the means for its effective learning (if slaves were not even considered persons. the ﬁrst step in the direction of using Portuguese as an instrument of social exclusion. see Rodrigues (n. accessed on 14 February 2003). spread over the region (Zilles. . http://groups. in the Amazonian region.br.000 Nordestinos (North-Easterners). native and Africans.6 A proof of its survival in 5 Concerning South-American l´nguas gerais and structural changes common to all of ı them. prohibiting the use and teaching of any other language. 1983: 73 – apud. The most important initiative from those times was the Marquês de Pombal’s ‘Diretório dos índios’ (‘Directory of the Indians’).000 speakers of this language. It established Portuguese as the one and only language of Brazil. state of Amazonas. The imposition of Portuguese as the obligatory language was made at a time when that language was practically the exclusive domain of white people.000 to 500. It was the ﬁrst time in the history of Brazil that an indigenous language obtained ofﬁcial status by law (Gilvan Müller de Oliveira. Although the replacement of Nheengatu by Portuguese continues. who were responsible for administration and territorial exploration. It was accelerated by the death of 40. in those days. published in 1757.8 GLADIS MASSINI-CAGLIARI Recife by the Portuguese). three indigenous languages (Nheengatu. 2002: 86).ipol. in the revolution called Cabanagem. or Nheengatu. The disappearance of Nheengatu was gradual. Tukano and Baniwa) were declared ofﬁcial languages in São Gabriel da Cachoeira. and who constituted a very small sector of the population. it still survives in the region of Manaus and Alto Rio Negro. other indigenous languages were spoken and another type of lingua franca. in addition to Portuguese. also originated from an indigenous language. the Amazonian língua geral.yahoo. every initiative of language policy was based on repression (Bagno.5 In Brazil. since colonial times. Oliveira. There. 2002b: 54). It takes only a short step from this repressive situation to the linguistic prejudice that stigmatises the popular use of speech today.org. 2002: 86). and completed with the arrival of between 300.
but it is possible to estimate that.htm (accessed on 1 February 2003). (Words originally in Portuguese remain untouched in both Portuguese and English versions. considered as belonging to three different linguistic branches: Tupi. These data refer only to those individuals who live in aldeias (Indian villages). on Kaxinawá). And there are others who speak only Portuguese.br/indios/conteudo.7 Today.funai. When we observe the distribution of indigenous populations in Brazil today. written in Nheengatu (see Table 1). There are families. In opposition to the trend of replacing Indian languages with Portuguese. besides these. Katukina. . Fargetti. Apinayé. that could not be identiﬁed as related to any of the three major branches: Karib.gov. distributed in 215 communities.000 and 190. many Indians speak only their own language. Besides these. there are between 100. on Juruna. The linguist Aryon Dall’Igna Rodrigues (1985.8 Even today.2% of the population. there are about 345. 2002. Mura. there are languages that can be subdivided in different dialects: for example. it is possible to see traces of the historical movement of political and economic expansion. The majority of indigenous societies that preserved their languages live today in the northern. in Brazil. bilingual education is seen today as the only way of preserving native languages in Brazil. Txapakura. He grouped those languages in families. Yanoama. Tukano. especially by indigenous teachers 7 Example collected and presented by Gilvan Müller de Oliveira (2002: 86). Others speak Portuguese as their second language. not knowing Portuguese.LANGUAGE POLICY IN BRAZIL 9 the area is the existence of election propaganda. In fact. it is possible to see today a revitalisation process whereby the oral language is reinforced with written language in a few Xingu villages. central and southern regions of Brazil.000 Indians living outside the reservas indígenas (Indian reservations). however. 1999) established a genealogic classiﬁcation for Brazilian Indigenous languages that is until today the most respected in the scientiﬁc community. Maku. the language spoken by the groups Krikati. Pükobyê and Apaniekrá (Canela) are dialects of the Timbira language. that represent about only 0. Pano. that began with the adoption of a bilingual literacy methodology in schools located inside the aldeias (cf. including urban areas.) 8 Information available on Funai’s (Fundação Nacional do ´ Indio – The National Indian Foundation) homepage. 1996. Macro-Jê and Aruak. The English version is mine. In the other regions. http://www. Monte. The translation to Portuguese is also his. they were pushed back as urbanisation advanced. Nambikwara and Guaikuru. Gavião (Pará). Ramkokametrá (Canela). Krahó.000 indigenous people.
ti mira puxi. Ele vai ser a voz dos povos do Alto Rio Negro na Assembl´ ia e Legislativa. I embrace you. meus parentes. my relatives. e Ix´ ayumana penh´ . A´ ussu Alto Rio Negro mirait´ e a nheenga kuri Assembl´ ia e Legislativa up´ . e A´ yan´ anama. Alto Rio Negro mirait´ arã a S´ muit´ e a M buessara Aloysio Nogueira Aos povos do alto Rio Negro Meus irmãos: ´ O Professor Aloysio Nogueira e candidato a Deputado Estadual. Professor Auxiliomar Silva Ugarte. o professor Aloysio Nogueira vai ser o nosso valente guerreiro. My brothers: To the people of Alto Rio Negro candidato Deputado Estadual arã A´ mira katu. Como deputado estadual. Teacher Aloysio Nogueira will be our brave warrior. He is our friend (relative). GLADIS MASSINI-CAGLIARI yan´ maramunhangara kirimbawa e kuri. e M buessara Aloysio Nogueira ussu Teacher Aloysio Nogueira is candidato to Deputado Estadual He is a good person. Ele e nosso amigo (parente). s´ anamait´ . He will be the voice of Alto Rio Negro’s people in the Assembl´ ia e Legislativa. ı . e e e a M buessara Auxiliomar Silva Ugarte su´. Eu vos abraço. ´ ´ Ele e gente boa. Teacher Auxiliomar Silva Ugarte.10 TABLE 1 Election propaganda in Nheengatu with Portuguese and English translations. Acting as Deputado Estadual. e e Deputado estadual yaw´ .
Their ancestral presence in the geographic area of Brazil can only be traced in the lexicon. where several important literary texts were 9 Cavalcanti (1996) studies the interaction between teacher educators and indigenous teachers in a Guarani community in the South of Brazil. communities of fugitive slaves. all educational attempts in the past aimed to “integrate” indigenous people. African languages never stabilised or became spoken in Brazil. .10 In spite of the dominance of língua geral at the beginning of the colonisation. but in the sense of “to transform them into something different from what they were”. Monte. instead of being an “instrument of imposition and assimilation”. and the “cross-cultural” misunderstandings to take account of the divergent interest of both groups and the wider political context of the oppression of indigenous people in Brazil. differentiated. There is today in Brazil a movement to recover a few terms and traditions related to religions of African origin. Hebrew and Welsh. 1996. religious practices. music and parts of the body remain in the lexicon. in which their legacy is restricted to names. She describes the conﬂicts originated by this situation of interaction. the inﬂuence of indigenous languages on the structure of current Brazilian Portuguese is almost nonexistent. And there are also movements of racial afﬁrmation. 1994. Kahn. the Portuguese transported to Brazil an enormous number of African slaves. The inﬂuence of African languages on Brazilian Portuguese is even less signiﬁcant than the inﬂuence of indigenous languages. 1997. As competent slave traders. Aiwá. Midlin. Only words referring to food. 10 Hornberger (1998: 451) reviews several situations concerning other languages (Maori. with practically no ramiﬁcations for language. especially of places. in order to avoid the formation of bonds of friendship and movements of insurrection. Maybe because of the success of the strategies adopted by the Portuguese.LANGUAGE POLICY IN BRAZIL 11 (cf. intercultural and bilingual” education can become an “instrument of afﬁrmation of different identities”. the Portuguese always knew that they had to separate families and members of the same tribe into different groups. Historically.9 But we must be cautious about the concept and introduction of bilingual education in this context. However. In the 18th century. In the same way. for example) in which bilingual schools were crucial instruments for language revitalisation. some of those languages were temporarily spoken in a few Quilombos. animals and food. In Grupioni’s (1997: 184) opinion. Portuguese was already the dominant language in the most developed cities. they used to separate speakers of the same language into different groups. Grupioni also recognises that only a “speciﬁc. 1997). From the beginning of the colonial period. despite the number of African descendants.
In the Japanese area of the city. emigrating “back” to Japan. they mixed with the local population and tended to abandon their native language in at most three generations.12 GLADIS MASSINI-CAGLIARI produced. Lebanese. because. In Southeast region. in certain ways. Japanese. more recently. because of the economic crisis.13 Spanish. There are large groups of Italians. born in Brazil in the majority) used to speak German at home. there are newspapers published in Japanese and bilingual schools. 1885: it stated that slaves over 65 years old a would be freed. It is curious to notice that. They came under violent linguistic and cultural repression during Getúlio Vargas’ Estado Novo (1937–1945).458 (Brazilian citizens. there were periods of increment in the number of immigrants (especially after the two world wars) and periods of decrease in this number (mainly in recent years. to pay independent workers was cheaper and more productive than to maintain slaves. 12 Lei do Sexagen´ rio (‘Law of the Sixties’). Brazilian Japanese descendants are re-crossing the oceans in the contrary direction. large groups of immigrants began to arrive in Brazil. among which was the poet Tomás Antônio Gonzaga. They are known by the name dekasseguis. besides the great differences in labour systems. Lei do Ventre Livre11 and Lei do Sexagenário12 ) which culminated in the abolition of slavery in 1888. 1871: it stated that the newborn children of slaves would be free from that date. and 458. Of course. because their variety is considered impolite. uneducated and archaic.054. Portuguese was the dominant language in Gregório de Matos’ Bahia (18th century). In the South. especially in the states of Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul (but even in some cities of São Paulo. In an estimated national population of 50 million inhabitants. Their adaptation in the country is very difﬁcult. and. aiming to substitute slave labour in agriculture. 11 Lei do Ventre Livre (‘Law of the free womb’). 644. From 1820. Portuguese was also the language of the inconﬁdentes from Minas Gerais (18th century). . Italian (Oliveira. because of the economic crisis). Brazil has never stopped receiving immigrants since then. there are in Brazil descendants of immigrants from virtually everywhere in the world. in the Southeast). the majority do not speak the Japanese language anymore and those who still know the language are stigmatised. with the beginning of the ofﬁcial processes (e.g. Chinese and Korean. the structure of small agricultural properties and homogeneous colonisation provided suitable conditions for the maintenance of German and Italian languages in some areas. German and Italian immigrants and their descendants eventually became victims of the policy of linguistic uniﬁcation. Of course. and with the recognition that. these important poets were educated European Portuguese speakers. in present days. Today. 2002: 88). 13 São Paulo is considered the largest Japanese city outside Japan. Germans.
even in boundary regions. it involves an agreement between Portugal and Brazil. maybe because the two most recent initiatives in this respect are less “violent” than earlier policies of repression (less violent in the sense that no one is supposed to be killed because of their language). and. it is necessary to say that an accord of this nature. But they are still highly questionable. does not involve a linguistic question in a strict sense. referring to the way by which Portuguese will be spelled on both sides of the Atlantic. Since . today. because the African countries tend to adopt the European Portuguese spelling. even if Brazil and Portugal could reach a common understanding and consequent agreement about this matter (as has been attempted since the 1980s). R ECENT O FFICIAL I NITIATIVES OF L ANGUAGE P OLICY Topics related to linguistic policy are always approached in Brazil today by the most important newspapers and magazines as mere “issues of cultural interest” (Schmitz. imprisoned and tortured several individuals. since orthography (spelling) is an object of law. being so. the problem is not a question of linguistic science. In fact. Brazil is often viewed as a gigantic ‘aldeia global’ (global village). since changes in orthographic system do not affect the structure of the language. the most powerful and popular Brazilian TV network in the formation of general opinion is striking. In this respect. means of communication (newspapers. as. but of diplomacy and of juridical order. in both countries. As has been said previously. the government took over control and ownership of the schools of German and Italian communities. With Independence and (lately) with the Republic. The government also closed down the presses that published newspapers in German or Italian and persecuted.LANGUAGE POLICY IN BRAZIL 13 because of the juridical concept of crime idiomático (= idiomatic crime). 2002: 88). First of all. Portuguese was always considered the unique language of Brazil. linguistic uniﬁcation processes in favour of Portuguese have been continuously reinforced. inasmuch as the inﬂuence of TV Globo. With economic development after the Second World War. In practice. The ﬁrst one concerns the Acordo Ortográﬁco (Orthographic Accord) among Portuguese-speaking countries. ofﬁcially. purely because they had spoken their maternal languages in public or in private (Oliveira. it is ofﬁcial only in its country of origin. radio and television) began to reach every part of the Brazilian territory and reinforce the dominance of Portuguese. differences concerning the language spoken in these two countries would not be reduced. 2002: 87–88). and also in the creation and maintenance of a language standard. From 1941 to 1945.
Judge. on any foreigner who has been living in Brazil for more than one year (Zilles. . 1992. purist manifestations against loans are not always codiﬁed into law. unneeded ones). including legal sanctions with a ﬁne to those who use “abusive” (sic!) foreign words (that is. Portuguese needs to be “defended” from the invasion of foreign words (mainly from English origin) and “promoted” in the national territory.fear of invasion that threatens control. an idealisation (Fiorin. 2002). proposed by Deputado Aldo Rebelo (Partido Comunista do Brasil – São Paulo). then fear is probably the feeling that generates the aversion to loans . the Accord and its proponents are primarily concerned with political and diplomatic efﬁciency. 2002: 113). Discussions over this subject began in the end of the XIXth century. 15 This kind of law (i. See also Garcez (1995). 1994 – cf. Similar laws were approved in France (Toubon law. that threatens the supposed language purity and the monolithic nationality. see Barbour (2002). because it proposes the prohibition of the use of foreign words in Brazil. it would be more practical to solve this quarrel at a legal level.e. who shows that.14 GLADIS MASSINI-CAGLIARI differences in the orthography adopted in Portugal and Brazil are very small. it is in fact based on a homogeneous and aesthetic conception of language. including work places. 2002: 146–147). giving ofﬁcial status to both spelling systems in both countries (concerning the very few words in which traditionally there are differences in spelling). 1996). This supposed possibility of equal communication at all levels is nothing more than a myth. words that have equivalents in Portuguese). Ruzza. although they persist as a prescriptivist force [concerning German.15 Apparently aiming to protect humble people that do not know how to speak English against “harmful North-American intruder words”. 2002) and Italy (during the fascist period – cf. It is known by the name Lei dos Estrangeirismos. Iceland (Vikør. since it is still being discussed in the Câmara dos Deputados (Chamber of the Deputies) and in the Senado (Senate). According to Deputado Rebelo. Cagliari. Although the projected law alludes to regional peculiarities of speech and writing and recognises that languages change with time. that has not yet been approved. and lastly. Rebelo’s projected law imposes the use of Portuguese in public spaces. defending the language of the nation against borrowings from foreign languages) is neither a novelty nor a Brazilian creation. If desire is the force that moves language users towards borrowing words from foreign languages (many times. for example. fear of plurality and diversity (Garcez & 14 This is not the ﬁrst attempt to achieve an Accord over Orthography between Brazil and Portugal. Spelling reforms were made independently by the two countries and there were unsuccessful efforts towards uniﬁcation in the 1940s (cf. Mar-Molinero (2002) analyses this problem in Spain]. However. because the language is considered mainly in its unity.14 The most recent initiative of language policy in Brazil is the Projeto de Lei Número 1676 de 1999 (Projected Law #1676/1999). 2002). while most of the debate revolves around issues of linguistic efﬁciency.
2002: 101). the Rebelo bill has been set aside by Brazil’s Senate. It is even more interesting to observe that these two manifestations of linguistic prejudice (against the external element and against the supposed inferior internal element) have a common origin: the myth that Portuguese language in Brazil is characterised by an amazing unity (Bagno. in ofﬁcial and popular speeches. 2002a: 15) and the association between State (the Nation) and Portuguese as its ofﬁcial language (Silva & Moura. in the media. 2002: 27). It is interesting to observe that individuals that criticise the “scandalous” presence of foreign words in our “pure” Portuguese are the same that condemn popular. 2002). In this context. On the one hand. and creates commissions to translate the “needed” foreign technical terms. 2002: 11). it also wills to strengthen relations between Brazil and the community of Portuguese-speaking countries. linguistic differences that mark internal divisions of society are overshadowed (Garcez & Zilles. Despite its supposed nationalistic appeal that seduced politicians and journalists. However. on the other hand. the anti-foreign-words project still continues to deﬁne the language of the nation as one which must be protected against the foreign menace. in several ways it is a declaration of “good intentions”. it proposes the creation of means for the renovation of Portuguese teaching in Brazil as well as the formation of Portuguese teachers. to the socially controllable written pattern. whose limits are deﬁned by an elite. the exclusion of speech and ways of speaking that are not in strict correspondence with . regional and informal Portuguese (Schmitz. when an external element is conﬁgured as a common menace. a substitutive text was presented by Senator Amir Lando. The new version of the law was proposed in May 28th 2003. Differences between Brazilians who speak differently and who mark their different identity precisely in the way they speak are simply erased. it still legitimises the deﬁnition of the national language as restricted to the language of power. An initiative based on fear does not match with a people who have always been proud to be a result of a racial mixture. Because of this reaction. in commercial advertisements and posters. and doing so. 2002: 34). Among various measures. Instead. Aldo Rebelo’s proposal was severely criticised by sectors of the media and mainly by Brazilian linguists (see the book edited by Faraco. It is a revised version that was prepared with the contribution of both Brazilian Association of Linguistics (ABRALIN) and Brazilian Association of Applied Linguistics (ALAB). the denial of multilingualism and.LANGUAGE POLICY IN BRAZIL 15 Zilles. Although it continues to forbid the use of foreign words in ofﬁcial documents.
that some expressions belong to the speech of younger persons and that particular expressions can only be used in informal situations. the Gaúcha (Rio Grande do Sul) variety from those spoken in the northeast and north. To know one language is also to know its varieties. the scenario did not change all over the world – even in the most powerful and educated countries. good or bad. 2002: 114). since its beginning. However. etc. they are simply different (Fiorin. hoping that social and linguistic prejudices generated by prescriptivism could naturally disappear and be beaten by the development of linguistic research and more scientiﬁcally based educational systems (Silva & Moura. the scenario did not change in Brazil. he/she does not learn just one language: he/she learns the speciﬁc variety of the language spoken by his/her parents. 1989). etc. social. Facing these facts. instead it will always be the result of a historical process: contacts with populations of other countries. A native speaker also knows differences in linguistic uses: for example. as in the United States. without mentioning all other types of varieties of Portuguese in Brazil. Every speaker is necessarily a “polyglot” in his own language. Modern sociolinguistics analyses language variants in accordance with a particular situation of interaction.16 GLADIS MASSINI-CAGLIARI this idealised Portuguese are direct and concrete results of a social posture plenty of linguistic prejudice. Any language used in any society cannot be prescribed by language guardians. we learn to distinguish variation. elegant or inelegant. linguists labeled the prescriptivist posture as pre-scientiﬁc. As native speakers of one language. but we are hearers of all varieties of the language (Cagliari.16 Recently. 2002: 9–10). political trajectory. Native speakers of Brazilian Portuguese know how to distinguish the Paulista (São Paulo) variety from the Carioca (Rio de Janeiro) variety. cultural experiences. for example. situational and temporal variants. Modern linguists recognise languages as a collection of regional. the debate about linguistic prejudice has returned to provoke discussions among Brazilian linguists. in this sense. We may learn to speak just one variety. L INGUISTIC P REJUDICE When a child begins to speak. To know Portuguese. There are important studies focusing on . right or wrong. The adoption of a speciﬁc linguistic variety has the function of marking the inclusion of an individual into the social group to which he belongs and of giving identity to the members of this speciﬁc group. 16 Considering the persistence of manifestations of linguistic prejudice in society. is not only to know rules that exist exclusively in the language learned from school. Varieties are not ugly or beautiful.
linking it to past issues about language. In this sense. culture and education of people of African descent in the United States. focuses on regional and social variation. He examines the assumption of standard English speakers that non-standard English speakers are ignorant. the perception that manifestations of linguistic prejudice persisted in our society. including ofﬁcial initiatives (for example. Deputado Aldo Rebelo’s proposal). Smitherman (2000) comments on the late 1990s Ebonics controversy. geographic origin. the education system tries to impose its linguistic pattern as if it were in fact the common language to all 175 million Brazilians. not recognising the true diversity of the Portuguese language spoken in Brazil. This myth is harmful to education because. the enormous success of new media-friendly purist grammarians). 2002a: 15). because judgements on language extend to those who non-standard English in that country that show how linguistic prejudice emerges in several dimensions. and educational implications. Baugh (1999: 6) discusses the relevance of AfricanAmerican Vernacular English (AAVE) to education and social policies. The serious differences in social status explain the existence of a true linguistic abyss between speakers of non-standard varieties (the vast majority of our population) and speakers of a (supposed) standard variety in Brazil (Bagno. the recognition of the fact that the symbolic power of language can lead to stronger interactions between language uses and social prejudice that could not be imagined by descriptivist language researchers (Silva & Moura. The most damaging point about the linguistic prejudice against the varieties of Brazilian Portuguese spoken in the poorer sectors of the population is the correlation linking poverty to cognitive and mental deﬁcits. socioeconomic situation and educational level (Bagno.LANGUAGE POLICY IN BRAZIL 17 because it is impossible not to notice that prejudice is far from being defeated in the country. but especially in the media (for example. independently of geographic region. The linguistic prejudice in Brazil manifests itself with a stronger ferocity in relation to the speech of the poorer sector of the population. there is a common stereotype . showing that it is “far from being an impoverished dialect”. 17 Baugh (1999) discusses this correlation and its damaging consequences in the United States. do not “think properly”. Lippi-Green (1997). Rickford (1999) covers three central areas correlated to AAVE/Ebonics studies: phonological and grammatical features of AAVE. From this viewpoint. despite it continues to stigmatise speakers as “uneducated ” members of the society. for example. secondly. concerning AAVE. she also examines how employers discriminate on the basis of language use and reveals how the judicial system uses language to protect the status quo. Two reasons have been pointed out: ﬁrstly.17 And. those who do not “speak correctly”. evolution of AAVE. Bagno (2002a: 15) believes that the idea that Brazilian Portuguese is characterised by an amazing unity is the most dangerous and serious of all the myths that compose the mosaic of linguistic prejudice in Brazil. independent of their age. 2002a: 15). looking at how the media works to promote linguistic stereotyping. 2002: 10).
although illogical. results in the conﬁnement of the students to their own world. 2002: 76–77). In this way. The separation of the rationality of the educated class. there is no scientiﬁc reason against the adoption of non-standard varieties of Portuguese by the education system. However. Even those who consider popular language to be creative and spontaneous. in comparison to the Brazilian situation. It is not difﬁcult to ﬁnd coincidences here. on the other. condemning them endlessly to poverty. but the education system must promote the use of a standard variety. speakers of non-standard varieties are automatically considered non-capable workers and.18 GLADIS MASSINI-CAGLIARI speak it. some scholars who discussed language prejudice and the contradictory dilemma of the education system concerning non-standard varieties preferred not to use the word “dialect”. if it is presented and treated as one among many varieties of the language. . on one side. non-capable individuals. is a well-established dichotomy in the culture. A non-discriminative educational approach to the dialects spoken by the students must promote their use in adequate situations. 18 Recently. A good programme should teach how the non-prestigious varieties are structured along with the study of the descriptive grammar of a standard variety. from the pre-rational spontaneity of the poorer. consequently. Since all dialects18 of the language are equally efﬁcient. In Brazil. that non-standard speakers could speak “properly” if “only they put forth sufﬁcient effort”. since the advantages the students will gain from it are evident. because it is also an instrument of self-positioning and of individual afﬁrmation as a member of a speciﬁc group inside the whole society. disguised in an understanding appreciation of speciﬁc values of popular language and culture (Moura. the decision to teach standard Portuguese at Brazilian schools is not intrinsically discriminatory of the other varieties. In this sense. choosing the linguistic variety of the community as the language for education purposes. the education system is obliged to live in an eternal contradiction: the variety spoken by the students should not be discriminated against. fall into another kind of prejudice. preventing them from enlarging their horizons and from promoting themselves socially – education is still a powerful instrument of social promotion. like for example the ex-President Sarney. because of its pejorative appeal to the public view. That is why Smitherman (2000: 14) prefers to consider AAVE a ‘language’ – and not a ‘dialect’ of American English. that is responsible for this misconception. whether they are prestigious or not. particularly in the case of non-prestigious stigmatised varieties. this is the main reason that explains why linguistic prejudice against the speech of popular classes is so widespread.
an attitude of harmonious co-existence with diversity was never considered. Indeed. has constituted a place of movements of language uniﬁcation towards Portuguese.LANGUAGE POLICY IN BRAZIL 19 C ONCLUSION Brazilians like to see themselves as a result of a racial mixture and they are quite proud of this image (in spite of the fact that this idea tends to hide racial and social prejudices that. Unfortunately. in parties celebrating Dia do Índio – Indian’s Day). but an inferior and illegitimate variety. Their article discusses the connection between assumptions underlying linguistic ideologies and other social ideologies related to individualism and social mobility through education. Even today. 1988: 439). compared to European Portuguese – the “correct” model for the language. it is not possible to present an easy and immediate solution to the present situation that could terminate linguistic prejudice deﬁnitely and help ordinary Brazilians perceive the linguistic reality of the country. They compare and contrast two particularly accepted ideologies in the United States: the monolingualism ideology that denies the importance of native and immigrant languages. the existence of linguistic diversity in Brazil is always denied. and in both levels: concerning other languages and concerning varieties of Brazilian Portuguese. in fact. versatility. the majority of the people believe that Brazilians speak Portuguese. In this scenario. . . since colonial times. This image is also a commonplace to Brazilianists. . and the question of standard English ideologies that is similar to the one adopted in this paper (concerning Brazilian Portuguese) can be found in Wiley and Lukes (1996). and in the common sense of the population. in ofﬁcial discourses. They do not know that there are several different indigenous languages: most of the people think that there is only one (and this idea is reinforced every year by the educational system. who always like to see Brazil as a kind of multiracial paradise. that is used to position speakers of different varieties of the same language within a social hierarchy. The majority of the population ignore the linguistic reality of the country. because the country. In the case of co-existence of different languages in indigenous communities and in groups of immigrants. and stability of (.) languages” (Hornberger. the linguistic reality does not ﬁt the description of racial harmony.19 However. and the standard English ideology. bilingual schools have been seen as powerful weapons of afﬁrmation and vitalisation of languages of 19 An approach to monolingualism in the U. a harmonious country that unites several different races in the same geographic area.S. persist in the country). It is well known that “language policy and language education can serve as vehicles for promoting the vitality. in the media. without civil war or nationalist conﬂicts.
. . R EFERENCES Aiwá. . But it is not possible to propose the creation of bilingual schools. I would like also to thank two anonymous reviewers. because we are not talking about ‘minorities’ in a strict sense. University of Oxford. [Cassandra. who offered interesting comments. Leitura e escrita em escolas indígenas [Reading and writing in indigenous schools] (pp.) pressures (. [Apurinã School: An experience for the revitalisation of the indigenous language. And this kind of respect-based language policy is something that Brazil has never seen before. Geraldo Marques (1997). Cassandra. como se faz [Linguistic prejudice: What it is and how it does]. 1978: 64).] In Carlos Alberto Faraco (Ed). Coimbra. Estrangeirismos – guerras em torno da língua [Foreign terms – language wars]. the keyword to the formulation of a positive language policy in Brazil seems to be respect: respect towards speakers of other languages. 1998: 453). respect to one’s own (legitimate) variety. Anchieta. . “the whole notion of language minority has more to do with power than with numbers” (Hornberger. Campinas: ALB. Marcos (2002b). respect concerning different varieties of Portuguese. 2nd edition (pp. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS A previous version of this paper was presented in a session of the Hillary term Seminar in the Centre for Brazilian Studies. The research that originated this paper was supported by CAPES (BEX0095/02-8). Special thanks to Cristina Martins Fargetti and Gilvan Müller de Oliveira. since speakers of nonstandard Brazilian Portuguese are the majority of the population. 209–212). the ideal educational system is the one that celebrates rather than tolerates the linguistic diversity.20 GLADIS MASSINI-CAGLIARI minority groups. Arte de grammatica da lingua mais usada na costa do Brasil [Art of grammar of the most used language on the coast of Brazil]. 49–83). I would like to thank the audience. Finally. Fênix e outros mitos. Bagno. São Paulo: Loyola. . However. Since “the language policy of the school system is both a result of (. in both cases. n. in the future.p. Marcos (2002a). Bagno. in the case of stigmatised varieties of Portuguese. whose comments greatly improved this text. Joseph de (1595). Mercado de Letras.) and a source of pressure itself” (Spolsky. Nonetheless. Phoenix and other myths. São Paulo: Parábola. Escola Apurinã: uma experiência de revitalização da língua indígena. it is possible to turn this powerful pressure to a positive direction.] In Wilmar D’Angelis & Juracilda Veiga (Eds). Preconceito lingüístico – o que é. 16th edition.
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