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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.
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variations. This fact gives the false impression that the language is totally homogeneous. Again, the image that Brazilians have of their own language is not in complete correspondence to reality. Historically, Brazilian Portuguese is a relatively recent variety of Portuguese. Because of this, there has not been enough time for the emergence of distinct dialects due to geographic or social isolation. In addition to this historical linguistic fact, 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’, has enormous importance into setting a prestigious variety of the language as a standard for everyone in the country.2 Even with that powerful inﬂuence upon the life of the population, it would surprise a linguist if a huge country like Brazil did not show any signiﬁcant linguistic variation, considering the evidently striking social and economical differences. Although there is no clear deﬁnition of what would be the standard Brazilian Portuguese, individuals tend to identify it with the variety adopted 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 Janeiro and São Paulo. The ﬁnal result is a mixture of features that make a good impression upon educated people, with a clear effort to suppress any characteristic that would identify with only one of those varieties. In other words, the standard Brazilian Portuguese promoted by the TV news is not a natural variety of the language. On the contrary, it is an artiﬁcial variety
2 Fischer (2001: 174) notes that, after the Second World War, the intrusion of television increased dialect levelling; because of that, “contamination and superimposition have since been documented among large populations of viewers”. In his opinion, “at this moment, television is perhaps the single greatest cause of universal dialect levelling” – referring to the use of standard American English, that is increasing at a rapid rate in those Englishspeaking countries that broadcast American programmes without ‘dubbing’. But Fischer (2001: 182) also notes that “in a contrasting process, the recent ‘modernization’ of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has essentially eliminated what had come to be called ‘BBC English’, an easily recognizable received pronunciation of the English language that had long been held in high regard. Now, older listeners, be they in Britain or New Zealand, register alarm at hearing in BBC broadcasts what they register as ‘lowerclass pronunciation’; they feel this not only ‘lower standards’ but also demonstrates ‘a beastly lack of good taste’. However, such protestations are meaningless in the larger saga of living languages. ‘Superior’ dialects are only a chimera, as special dialects themselves very soon mutate and/or lose what made them special.”
and a convenient way to manipulate the language problems in a huge and heterogeneous country like Brazil.3 When a ‘non-Globo variety’ is needed, it is never the voice of the ‘ofﬁcial’ news. 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, when they are presented as victims of violence or natural disasters, or as the voice of criminals. It is interesting to notice that the non-news TV programmes, mainly the soap-operas (novelas), usually show some characters who speak with a caricatured variety, by emphasising regional or social accents to the maximum, instead of using an artist that is a native user of those regional or social accents. For this kind of programme, it seems unthinkable to give higher status on TV to regional or social varieties of less importance, because this would be an ‘ofﬁcial’ recognition that those varieties actually exist in the society. This is good evidence that the social stereotypes in relation to language in Brazil are carefully built and strongly reinforced by the media, principally by the TV networks. It also reveals a general and somehow ofﬁcial disbelief in the heterogeneity of the language in the country. 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. 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, the vast majority of the Brazilian people develop a very strong complex of linguistic incompetence: they believe they do not speak Portuguese, but an incorrect form that does not deserve the name of Portuguese. In spite of the apparently harmonious linguistic scenario (or because of that), the linguistic problem is never posed as a question in the national agenda. When it is, it is considered a shortcoming of the educational system. Only ofﬁcial and traditional discourses about language problems seem to be acceptable in Brazilian society, and this means ignoring the dangerous consequences of this idealisation of language problems. The most striking truth about linguistic variation is the fact that even highly educated people, especially the ones that appear in the media, ignore the scientiﬁc discourse about language. Consequently, ordinary people do
3 Moreover, TV Globo maintains in its staff speech specialists to train the readers of the
news to pronounce the ‘global’ variety of Brazilian Portuguese.
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not have access to a critical view about the traditional mythical misunderstandings about language. According to Faraco (2002: 39), in terms of thinking about language, we still live in a pre-scientiﬁc dogmatic and obscurantist age.4 The problems about language go beyond the identiﬁcation of regional and social varieties as linguistic problems. It is an important political problem that deeply affects several social situations. Moreover, it is not a simple shortcoming of the educational system. In the end, we come across ignorance and prejudice, present in the everyday life of the people and even in educational strategies. It is time to start a more scientiﬁc discussion involving the multiple aspects of language in society. It is time to start a debate between the multiple discourses about language in Brazil (Faraco, 2002: 39). L ANGUAGE U NIFICATION When we look at the Brazilian linguistic past (a very recent one of 500 years, in terms of surviving documents – all of the indigenous languages spoken in Brazil only recently began to be written), it is possible to see that Brazil was, much more than today, a multilingual territory. According to Rodrigues (1998: 5), there were more than one thousand native indigenous spoken languages when Cabral arrived in Brazil in the year 1500. But, by 2000, only 170 remained (15% of the total amount), and, even so, most of them are already dying, being spoken by very small populations and with almost no chance of surviving because of the advance of Portuguese. Until the middle of the 18th century, the Portuguese language was spoken only in the coastal areas. 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), the spoken language was the língua geral (i.e., lingua franca or ‘general’ language), an indigenous language, with Tupi origins. This was the language spoken by the Jesuits and described by José de Anchieta (1595). In the Northeast there were indigenous tribal languages that survived extinction, African languages that resisted slavery, in addition to Portuguese and Creole varieties derived from Portuguese (for example, Papiamento, a Portuguese based Creole, taken to Curaçao and Aruba with the slaves that belonged to the Dutch, after they were expelled from
4 Discussing this problem in the United States, Baugh (1999: 6) asks: “Should some
citizens be discriminated against because of our collective linguistic ignorance?”
Recife by the Portuguese). In the north, other indigenous languages were spoken and another type of lingua franca, the Amazonian língua geral, or Nheengatu, also originated from an indigenous language, spread over the region (Zilles, 2002: 151–152).5 In Brazil, since colonial times, every initiative of language policy was based on repression (Bagno, 2002b: 54). The most important initiative from those times was the Marquês de Pombal’s ‘Diretório dos índios’ (‘Directory of the Indians’), published in 1757. It established Portuguese as the one and only language of Brazil, prohibiting the use and teaching of any other language, especially the língua geral. The imposition of Portuguese as the obligatory language was made at a time when that language was practically the exclusive domain of white people, who were responsible for administration and territorial exploration, and who constituted a very small sector of the population. To impose Portuguese on African and native slaves without guaranteeing the means for its effective learning (if slaves were not even considered persons, then how could they have rights to a formal education?) was, in those days, the ﬁrst step in the direction of using Portuguese as an instrument of social exclusion. It takes only a short step from this repressive situation to the linguistic prejudice that stigmatises the popular use of speech today. The disappearance of Nheengatu was gradual. It was accelerated by the death of 40,000 speakers of this language, native and Africans, in the revolution called Cabanagem, from 1834 to 1841, and completed with the arrival of between 300,000 to 500,000 Nordestinos (North-Easterners), monolingual Portuguese speakers, in the Amazonian region. It happened between 1870 (when the ciclo da borracha – rubber economy – began) and 1918 (end of the First World War) (Oliveira, 2002: 86). Although the replacement of Nheengatu by Portuguese continues, it still survives in the region of Manaus and Alto Rio Negro, in an area of approximately 300,000 km2 . There, Nheengatu is the language of day to day communication among the resident populations and it is the language of trade (Bessa Freire, 1983: 73 – apud; Oliveira, 2002: 86).6 A proof of its survival in
5 Concerning South-American l´nguas gerais and structural changes common to all of ı
them, see Rodrigues (n.d.). 6 On November 22, 2002, three indigenous languages (Nheengatu, Tukano and Baniwa) were declared ofﬁcial languages in São Gabriel da Cachoeira, state of Amazonas, in addition to Portuguese. It was the ﬁrst time in the history of Brazil that an indigenous language obtained ofﬁcial status by law (Gilvan Müller de Oliveira, http://groups.yahoo. com/group/CVL and http://www.ipol.org.br, accessed on 14 February 2003).
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the area is the existence of election propaganda, written in Nheengatu (see Table 1).7 Today, in Brazil, there are about 345,000 indigenous people, distributed in 215 communities, that represent about only 0.2% of the population. These data refer only to those individuals who live in aldeias (Indian villages), but it is possible to estimate that, besides these, there are between 100,000 and 190,000 Indians living outside the reservas indígenas (Indian reservations), including urban areas.8 Even today, many Indians speak only their own language, not knowing Portuguese. Others speak Portuguese as their second language. And there are others who speak only Portuguese. The linguist Aryon Dall’Igna Rodrigues (1985, 1999) established a genealogic classiﬁcation for Brazilian Indigenous languages that is until today the most respected in the scientiﬁc community. He grouped those languages in families, considered as belonging to three different linguistic branches: Tupi, Macro-Jê and Aruak. There are families, however, that could not be identiﬁed as related to any of the three major branches: Karib, Pano, Maku, Yanoama, Mura, Tukano, Katukina, Txapakura, Nambikwara and Guaikuru. Besides these, there are languages that can be subdivided in different dialects: for example, the language spoken by the groups Krikati, Ramkokametrá (Canela), Apinayé, Krahó, Gavião (Pará), Pükobyê and Apaniekrá (Canela) are dialects of the Timbira language. When we observe the distribution of indigenous populations in Brazil today, 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, central and southern regions of Brazil. In the other regions, they were pushed back as urbanisation advanced. In opposition to the trend of replacing Indian languages with Portuguese, it is possible to see today a revitalisation process whereby the oral language is reinforced with written language in a few Xingu villages, that began with the adoption of a bilingual literacy methodology in schools located inside the aldeias (cf. Fargetti, 2002, on Juruna; Monte, 1996, on Kaxinawá). In fact, bilingual education is seen today as the only way of preserving native languages in Brazil, especially by indigenous teachers
7 Example collected and presented by Gilvan Müller de Oliveira (2002: 86). The translation to Portuguese is also his. The English version is mine. (Words originally in Portuguese remain untouched in both Portuguese and English versions.) 8 Information available on Funai’s (Fundação Nacional do ´ Indio – The National Indian Foundation) homepage, http://www.funai.gov.br/indios/conteudo.htm (accessed on 1 February 2003).
TABLE 1 Election propaganda in Nheengatu with Portuguese and English translations. 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. ´ ´ Ele e gente boa. Ele e nosso amigo (parente). Como deputado estadual, o professor Aloysio Nogueira vai ser o nosso valente guerreiro. Ele vai ser a voz dos povos do Alto Rio Negro na Assembl´ ia e Legislativa. Eu vos abraço, meus parentes. Professor Auxiliomar Silva Ugarte. My brothers:
To the people of Alto Rio Negro
candidato Deputado Estadual arã A´ mira katu, ti mira puxi. e A´ yan´ anama. e e Deputado estadual yaw´ , e
M buessara Aloysio Nogueira ussu
Teacher Aloysio Nogueira is candidato to Deputado Estadual He is a good person. He is our friend (relative). Acting as Deputado Estadual, Teacher Aloysio Nogueira will be our brave warrior. He will be the voice of Alto Rio Negro’s people in the Assembl´ ia e Legislativa. I embrace you, my relatives. Teacher Auxiliomar Silva Ugarte.
yan´ maramunhangara kirimbawa e kuri. A´ ussu Alto Rio Negro mirait´ e a nheenga kuri Assembl´ ia e Legislativa up´ . e Ix´ ayumana penh´ , s´ anamait´ . e e e a
M buessara Auxiliomar Silva Ugarte
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(cf. Kahn, 1994; Monte, 1996; Midlin, 1997; Aiwá, 1997).9 But we must be cautious about the concept and introduction of bilingual education in this context. In Grupioni’s (1997: 184) opinion, all educational attempts in the past aimed to “integrate” indigenous people, but in the sense of “to transform them into something different from what they were”. However, Grupioni also recognises that only a “speciﬁc, differentiated, intercultural and bilingual” education can become an “instrument of afﬁrmation of different identities”, instead of being an “instrument of imposition and assimilation”.10 In spite of the dominance of língua geral at the beginning of the colonisation, the inﬂuence of indigenous languages on the structure of current Brazilian Portuguese is almost nonexistent. Their ancestral presence in the geographic area of Brazil can only be traced in the lexicon, in which their legacy is restricted to names, especially of places, animals and food. From the beginning of the colonial period, the Portuguese transported to Brazil an enormous number of African slaves. As competent slave traders, the Portuguese always knew that they had to separate families and members of the same tribe into different groups, in order to avoid the formation of bonds of friendship and movements of insurrection. In the same way, they used to separate speakers of the same language into different groups. Maybe because of the success of the strategies adopted by the Portuguese, African languages never stabilised or became spoken in Brazil, despite the number of African descendants. Historically, some of those languages were temporarily spoken in a few Quilombos, communities of fugitive slaves. The inﬂuence of African languages on Brazilian Portuguese is even less signiﬁcant than the inﬂuence of indigenous languages. Only words referring to food, religious practices, music and parts of the body remain in the lexicon. There is today in Brazil a movement to recover a few terms and traditions related to religions of African origin. And there are also movements of racial afﬁrmation, with practically no ramiﬁcations for language. In the 18th century, Portuguese was already the dominant language in the most developed cities, 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. She describes the conﬂicts originated by this situation of interaction, 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. 10 Hornberger (1998: 451) reviews several situations concerning other languages (Maori, Hebrew and Welsh, for example) in which bilingual schools were crucial instruments for language revitalisation.
produced. Portuguese was the dominant language in Gregório de Matos’ Bahia (18th century). Portuguese was also the language of the inconﬁdentes from Minas Gerais (18th century), among which was the poet Tomás Antônio Gonzaga. Of course, these important poets were educated European Portuguese speakers. From 1820, with the beginning of the ofﬁcial processes (e.g. Lei do Ventre Livre11 and Lei do Sexagenário12 ) which culminated in the abolition of slavery in 1888, and with the recognition that, in certain ways, to pay independent workers was cheaper and more productive than to maintain slaves, large groups of immigrants began to arrive in Brazil, aiming to substitute slave labour in agriculture. Brazil has never stopped receiving immigrants since then. Of course, 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, because of the economic crisis). Today, there are in Brazil descendants of immigrants from virtually everywhere in the world. There are large groups of Italians, Germans, Japanese,13 Spanish, Lebanese, and, more recently, Chinese and Korean. In Southeast region, they mixed with the local population and tended to abandon their native language in at most three generations. In the South, especially in the states of Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul (but even in some cities of São Paulo, in the Southeast), the structure of small agricultural properties and homogeneous colonisation provided suitable conditions for the maintenance of German and Italian languages in some areas. In an estimated national population of 50 million inhabitants, 644,458 (Brazilian citizens, born in Brazil in the majority) used to speak German at home, and 458,054, Italian (Oliveira, 2002: 88). German and Italian immigrants and their descendants eventually became victims of the policy of linguistic uniﬁcation. They came under violent linguistic and cultural repression during Getúlio Vargas’ Estado Novo (1937–1945),
11 Lei do Ventre Livre (‘Law of the free womb’), 1871: it stated that the newborn
children of slaves would be free from that date. 12 Lei do Sexagen´ rio (‘Law of the Sixties’), 1885: it stated that slaves over 65 years old a would be freed. 13 São Paulo is considered the largest Japanese city outside Japan. In the Japanese area of the city, there are newspapers published in Japanese and bilingual schools. It is curious to notice that, in present days, because of the economic crisis, Brazilian Japanese descendants are re-crossing the oceans in the contrary direction, emigrating “back” to Japan. They are known by the name dekasseguis. Their adaptation in the country is very difﬁcult, because, besides the great differences in labour systems, the majority do not speak the Japanese language anymore and those who still know the language are stigmatised, because their variety is considered impolite, uneducated and archaic.
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because of the juridical concept of crime idiomático (= idiomatic crime). From 1941 to 1945, the government took over control and ownership of the schools of German and Italian communities. The government also closed down the presses that published newspapers in German or Italian and persecuted, imprisoned and tortured several individuals, purely because they had spoken their maternal languages in public or in private (Oliveira, 2002: 87–88). With Independence and (lately) with the Republic, linguistic uniﬁcation processes in favour of Portuguese have been continuously reinforced, as, ofﬁcially, Portuguese was always considered the unique language of Brazil. With economic development after the Second World War, means of communication (newspapers, radio and television) began to reach every part of the Brazilian territory and reinforce the dominance of Portuguese, even in boundary regions. As has been said previously, today, Brazil is often viewed as a gigantic ‘aldeia global’ (global village), inasmuch as the inﬂuence of TV Globo, the most powerful and popular Brazilian TV network in the formation of general opinion is striking, and also in the creation and maintenance of a language standard. 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, 2002: 88), 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). But they are still highly questionable. The ﬁrst one concerns the Acordo Ortográﬁco (Orthographic Accord) among Portuguese-speaking countries. In practice, it involves an agreement between Portugal and Brazil, because the African countries tend to adopt the European Portuguese spelling. First of all, it is necessary to say that an accord of this nature, referring to the way by which Portuguese will be spelled on both sides of the Atlantic, does not involve a linguistic question in a strict sense, since changes in orthographic system do not affect the structure of the language. In this respect, even if Brazil and Portugal could reach a common understanding and consequent agreement about this matter (as has been attempted since the 1980s), differences concerning the language spoken in these two countries would not be reduced. In fact, the problem is not a question of linguistic science, but of diplomacy and of juridical order, since orthography (spelling) is an object of law, in both countries, and, being so, it is ofﬁcial only in its country of origin. Since
differences in the orthography adopted in Portugal and Brazil are very small, it would be more practical to solve this quarrel at a legal level, giving ofﬁcial status to both spelling systems in both countries (concerning the very few words in which traditionally there are differences in spelling).14 The most recent initiative of language policy in Brazil is the Projeto de Lei Número 1676 de 1999 (Projected Law #1676/1999), proposed by Deputado Aldo Rebelo (Partido Comunista do Brasil – São Paulo), that has not yet been approved, since it is still being discussed in the Câmara dos Deputados (Chamber of the Deputies) and in the Senado (Senate). It is known by the name Lei dos Estrangeirismos, because it proposes the prohibition of the use of foreign words in Brazil, including legal sanctions with a ﬁne to those who use “abusive” (sic!) foreign words (that is, words that have equivalents in Portuguese). According to Deputado Rebelo, Portuguese needs to be “defended” from the invasion of foreign words (mainly from English origin) and “promoted” in the national territory.15 Apparently aiming to protect humble people that do not know how to speak English against “harmful North-American intruder words”, Rebelo’s projected law imposes the use of Portuguese in public spaces, including work places, on any foreigner who has been living in Brazil for more than one year (Zilles, 2002: 146–147). Although the projected law alludes to regional peculiarities of speech and writing and recognises that languages change with time, it is in fact based on a homogeneous and aesthetic conception of language, because the language is considered mainly in its unity. This supposed possibility of equal communication at all levels is nothing more than a myth, an idealisation (Fiorin, 2002: 113). If desire is the force that moves language users towards borrowing words from foreign languages (many times, unneeded ones), then fear is probably the feeling that generates the aversion to loans - fear of invasion that threatens control, that threatens the supposed language purity and the monolithic nationality, and lastly, fear of plurality and diversity (Garcez &
14 This is not the ﬁrst attempt to achieve an Accord over Orthography between Brazil and Portugal. Discussions over this subject began in the end of the XIXth century. Spelling reforms were made independently by the two countries and there were unsuccessful efforts towards uniﬁcation in the 1940s (cf. Cagliari, 1992, 1996). See also Garcez (1995), who shows that, while most of the debate revolves around issues of linguistic efﬁciency, the Accord and its proponents are primarily concerned with political and diplomatic efﬁciency. 15 This kind of law (i.e. defending the language of the nation against borrowings from foreign languages) is neither a novelty nor a Brazilian creation. Similar laws were approved in France (Toubon law, 1994 – cf. Judge, 2002), Iceland (Vikør, 2002) and Italy (during the fascist period – cf. Ruzza, 2002), for example. However, purist manifestations against loans are not always codiﬁed into law, although they persist as a prescriptivist force [concerning German, see Barbour (2002); Mar-Molinero (2002) analyses this problem in Spain].
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Zilles, 2002: 34). An initiative based on fear does not match with a people who have always been proud to be a result of a racial mixture, in ofﬁcial and popular speeches. Despite its supposed nationalistic appeal that seduced politicians and journalists, Aldo Rebelo’s proposal was severely criticised by sectors of the media and mainly by Brazilian linguists (see the book edited by Faraco, 2002). Because of this reaction, the Rebelo bill has been set aside by Brazil’s Senate. Instead, a substitutive text was presented by Senator Amir Lando. 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 new version of the law was proposed in May 28th 2003. Although it continues to forbid the use of foreign words in ofﬁcial documents, in the media, in commercial advertisements and posters, and creates commissions to translate the “needed” foreign technical terms, in several ways it is a declaration of “good intentions”. Among various measures, it proposes the creation of means for the renovation of Portuguese teaching in Brazil as well as the formation of Portuguese teachers; it also wills to strengthen relations between Brazil and the community of Portuguese-speaking countries. However, the anti-foreign-words project still continues to deﬁne the language of the nation as one which must be protected against the foreign menace, and doing so, it still legitimises the deﬁnition of the national language as restricted to the language of power, to the socially controllable written pattern, whose limits are deﬁned by an elite. In this context, when an external element is conﬁgured as a common menace, linguistic differences that mark internal divisions of society are overshadowed (Garcez & Zilles, 2002: 27). Differences between Brazilians who speak differently and who mark their different identity precisely in the way they speak are simply erased. 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, regional and informal Portuguese (Schmitz, 2002: 101). 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, 2002a: 15) and the association between State (the Nation) and Portuguese as its ofﬁcial language (Silva & Moura, 2002: 11). On the one hand, the denial of multilingualism and, on the other hand, the exclusion of speech and ways of speaking that are not in strict correspondence with
this idealised Portuguese are direct and concrete results of a social posture plenty of linguistic prejudice. L INGUISTIC P REJUDICE When a child begins to speak, he/she does not learn just one language: he/she learns the speciﬁc variety of the language spoken by his/her parents. 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. As native speakers of one language, we learn to distinguish variation. We may learn to speak just one variety, but we are hearers of all varieties of the language (Cagliari, 1989). Every speaker is necessarily a “polyglot” in his own language. To know Portuguese, in this sense, is not only to know rules that exist exclusively in the language learned from school. Native speakers of Brazilian Portuguese know how to distinguish the Paulista (São Paulo) variety from the Carioca (Rio de Janeiro) variety, the Gaúcha (Rio Grande do Sul) variety from those spoken in the northeast and north, without mentioning all other types of varieties of Portuguese in Brazil. A native speaker also knows differences in linguistic uses: for example, that some expressions belong to the speech of younger persons and that particular expressions can only be used in informal situations, etc. To know one language is also to know its varieties. Varieties are not ugly or beautiful, right or wrong, good or bad, elegant or inelegant; they are simply different (Fiorin, 2002: 114). Modern linguists recognise languages as a collection of regional, social, situational and temporal variants. Modern sociolinguistics analyses language variants in accordance with a particular situation of interaction. Any language used in any society cannot be prescribed by language guardians; instead it will always be the result of a historical process: contacts with populations of other countries, cultural experiences, political trajectory, etc. Facing these facts, since its beginning, linguists labeled the prescriptivist posture as pre-scientiﬁc, 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, 2002: 9–10). However, the scenario did not change in Brazil.16 Recently, the debate about linguistic prejudice has returned to provoke discussions among Brazilian linguists,
16 Considering the persistence of manifestations of linguistic prejudice in society, the
scenario did not change all over the world – even in the most powerful and educated countries, as in the United States, for example. There are important studies focusing on
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because it is impossible not to notice that prejudice is far from being defeated in the country. Two reasons have been pointed out: ﬁrstly, the perception that manifestations of linguistic prejudice persisted in our society, including ofﬁcial initiatives (for example, Deputado Aldo Rebelo’s proposal), but especially in the media (for example, the enormous success of new media-friendly purist grammarians); secondly, 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, 2002: 10). 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. This myth is harmful to education because, not recognising the true diversity of the Portuguese language spoken in Brazil, the education system tries to impose its linguistic pattern as if it were in fact the common language to all 175 million Brazilians, independent of their age, geographic origin, socioeconomic situation and educational level (Bagno, 2002a: 15). The linguistic prejudice in Brazil manifests itself with a stronger ferocity in relation to the speech of the poorer sector of the population, independently of geographic region. 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, 2002a: 15). 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. From this viewpoint, those who do not “speak correctly”, do not “think properly”.17 And, because judgements on language extend to those who
non-standard English in that country that show how linguistic prejudice emerges in several dimensions. Lippi-Green (1997), for example, focuses on regional and social variation, looking at how the media works to promote linguistic stereotyping; 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. Baugh (1999: 6) discusses the relevance of AfricanAmerican Vernacular English (AAVE) to education and social policies, showing that it is “far from being an impoverished dialect”, despite it continues to stigmatise speakers as “uneducated ” members of the society. Smitherman (2000) comments on the late 1990s Ebonics controversy, linking it to past issues about language, culture and education of people of African descent in the United States. Rickford (1999) covers three central areas correlated to AAVE/Ebonics studies: phonological and grammatical features of AAVE; evolution of AAVE; and educational implications. 17 Baugh (1999) discusses this correlation and its damaging consequences in the United States, concerning AAVE. He examines the assumption of standard English speakers that non-standard English speakers are ignorant. In this sense, there is a common stereotype
speak it, speakers of non-standard varieties are automatically considered non-capable workers and, consequently, non-capable individuals. In Brazil, this is the main reason that explains why linguistic prejudice against the speech of popular classes is so widespread. The separation of the rationality of the educated class, on one side, from the pre-rational spontaneity of the poorer, on the other, is a well-established dichotomy in the culture. Even those who consider popular language to be creative and spontaneous, although illogical, like for example the ex-President Sarney, fall into another kind of prejudice, disguised in an understanding appreciation of speciﬁc values of popular language and culture (Moura, 2002: 76–77). Since all dialects18 of the language are equally efﬁcient, whether they are prestigious or not, there is no scientiﬁc reason against the adoption of non-standard varieties of Portuguese by the education system. However, choosing the linguistic variety of the community as the language for education purposes, particularly in the case of non-prestigious stigmatised varieties, results in the conﬁnement of the students to their own world, condemning them endlessly to poverty, preventing them from enlarging their horizons and from promoting themselves socially – education is still a powerful instrument of social promotion. In this sense, the education system is obliged to live in an eternal contradiction: the variety spoken by the students should not be discriminated against, because it is also an instrument of self-positioning and of individual afﬁrmation as a member of a speciﬁc group inside the whole society, but the education system must promote the use of a standard variety, since the advantages the students will gain from it are evident. A non-discriminative educational approach to the dialects spoken by the students must promote their use in adequate situations. In this way, the decision to teach standard Portuguese at Brazilian schools is not intrinsically discriminatory of the other varieties, if it is presented and treated as one among many varieties of the language. A good programme should teach how the non-prestigious varieties are structured along with the study of the descriptive grammar of a standard variety.
that non-standard speakers could speak “properly” if “only they put forth sufﬁcient effort”, that is responsible for this misconception. It is not difﬁcult to ﬁnd coincidences here, in comparison to the Brazilian situation. 18 Recently, 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”, 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.
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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, in fact, persist in the country). This image is also a commonplace to Brazilianists, who always like to see Brazil as a kind of multiracial paradise, a harmonious country that unites several different races in the same geographic area, without civil war or nationalist conﬂicts.19 However, the linguistic reality does not ﬁt the description of racial harmony, because the country, since colonial times, has constituted a place of movements of language uniﬁcation towards Portuguese. In this scenario, an attitude of harmonious co-existence with diversity was never considered. Even today, the existence of linguistic diversity in Brazil is always denied, in ofﬁcial discourses, in the media, and in the common sense of the population, and in both levels: concerning other languages and concerning varieties of Brazilian Portuguese. The majority of the population ignore the linguistic reality of the country. 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, in parties celebrating Dia do Índio – Indian’s Day). Indeed, the majority of the people believe that Brazilians speak Portuguese, but an inferior and illegitimate variety, compared to European Portuguese – the “correct” model for the language. Unfortunately, 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. It is well known that “language policy and language education can serve as vehicles for promoting the vitality, versatility, and stability of (. . .) languages” (Hornberger, 1988: 439). In the case of co-existence of different languages in indigenous communities and in groups of immigrants, bilingual schools have been seen as powerful weapons of afﬁrmation and vitalisation of languages of
19 An approach to monolingualism in the U.S. 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). They compare and contrast two particularly accepted ideologies in the United States: the monolingualism ideology that denies the importance of native and immigrant languages; and the standard English ideology, that is used to position speakers of different varieties of the same language within a social hierarchy. Their article discusses the connection between assumptions underlying linguistic ideologies and other social ideologies related to individualism and social mobility through education.
minority groups. But it is not possible to propose the creation of bilingual schools, in the case of stigmatised varieties of Portuguese, because we are not talking about ‘minorities’ in a strict sense, since speakers of nonstandard Brazilian Portuguese are the majority of the population. However, “the whole notion of language minority has more to do with power than with numbers” (Hornberger, 1998: 453). Nonetheless, in both cases, the ideal educational system is the one that celebrates rather than tolerates the linguistic diversity. Since “the language policy of the school system is both a result of (. . .) pressures (. . .) and a source of pressure itself” (Spolsky, 1978: 64), it is possible to turn this powerful pressure to a positive direction. Finally, in the future, the keyword to the formulation of a positive language policy in Brazil seems to be respect: respect towards speakers of other languages, respect concerning different varieties of Portuguese, respect to one’s own (legitimate) variety. And this kind of respect-based language policy is something that Brazil has never seen before.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS A previous version of this paper was presented in a session of the Hillary term Seminar in the Centre for Brazilian Studies, University of Oxford. I would like to thank the audience, who offered interesting comments. Special thanks to Cristina Martins Fargetti and Gilvan Müller de Oliveira. I would like also to thank two anonymous reviewers, whose comments greatly improved this text. The research that originated this paper was supported by CAPES (BEX0095/02-8).
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Silva, Fábio Lopes da & Moura, Heronides Maurílio de Melo (2002). Introdução. [Introduction.] In Fábio Lopes da Silva & Heronides M. de Melo Moura (Eds), O direito à fala – a questão do preconceito lingüístico [The right of speaking – the question of linguistic prejudice], 2nd, revised edition (pp. 9–15). Florianópolis: Insular. Smitherman, Geneva (2000). Talkin’ that talk: Language, culture, and education in African America. London: Routledge. Spolsky, Bernard (1978). Educational linguistics – an introduction. Rowley, Massachusetts: Newbury House Publishers. Vikør, Lars S. (2002). Northern Europe: Languages as prime markers of ethnic and national identity. In Stephen Barbour & Cathie Carmichael (Eds), Language and nationalism in Europe (pp. 105–129). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Wiley, Terence G. & Marguerite Lukes (1996). English-only and standard English ideologies in the US. TESOL Quarterly, 30(3), 511–535. Zilles, Ana Maria Stahl (2002). Ainda os equívocos no combate aos estrangeirismos. [Still the misunderstandings in the combat against foreign terms.] In Carlos Alberto Faraco (Ed), Estrangeirismos – guerras em torno da língua [Foreign terms – language wars], 2nd edition (pp. 143–161). São Paulo: Parábola.
Departamento de Lingüística Faculdade de Ciências e Letras Universidade Estadual Paulista – UNESP Campus de Araraquara Brazil E-mail: email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
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