08 October 2009

Language and imperialism

Those that insist that second-language writers write in exactly the same way as mother-tongue writers are, to use the jargon of literary theory, complicit in hegemony (translated into a bit more lay English, this means "subconsciously continuing colonial or class domination"). Literature in Africa, according to some, deliberately indigenizes European languages in order to decolonize or recolonize their former colonizers. (As Filipino poet Gemino H. Abad likes to put it when he talks about Filipinos writing in English, Filipinos have "colonized the English language.") Here, for example, is an observation by Peter W. Vakunta: "Linguistic creolization exists in virtually every country on the African continent. Everywhere, people of all ages are trying to jettison the yoke of cultural imperialism by indigenizing European languages in an attempt to better convey their thought patterns, imagination and lived experiences." In other words, when a writer consciously exploits her/his mother tongue while writing in a second or foreign language, political and not just aesthetic issues enter the picture.

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