15 October 2009


Here's an excerpt from "From language mixing to mixed language via purism? Spanish in contact with Zapotec (Oaxaca/Mexico)" by Martina Schrader-Kniffki (2008):

"The present study analyses aspects of the intense long-term contact between Spanish and Zapotec in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. After a short characterization of Zapotec and its language contact situation, which has developed since the colonial period, this article will systematically describe the consequences of this contact for Zapotec within a continuum of gradually differentiable contact varieties. Puristic attitudes of particular speaker groups who intend to reverse these consequences is a further aspect of this study. Puristic attitudes towards the Zapotec language are closely connected with the efforts of its standardization and manifest themselves in the lexicon of the incipient intents to introduce a written Zapotec variety. Inconsistent with this purism, the search for a standardization of this hitherto oral language is unfolding with an almost exclusive orientation towards Spanish as a well established written language. This orientation leads to a discontinuous contact variety of Zapotec." (p. 49)

All over the world, "purism" is the real enemy of multilingual writing. Instead of mirroring the "language really used by men" [and women], as William Wordsworth put it famously (excuse his sexist language), writers feel obligated to write in "well established written languages." Writers who give in to the demands of purist critics are betraying their craft, because they would rather be praised by prescriptive linguists or monolingual critics than by the vast masses of readers, who speak and would love to read in their natural mixed languages.

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