20 December 2009

"Local" versus "national" languages

One of the reasons I got interested in developing a multilingual theory of literature is the need for tools to approach literary texts written in several Philippine languages other than Filipino (or its mother language Tagalog). Writers writing in, say, Ilocano or Cebuano have necessarily to mix languages in a single text, because Filipino (or earlier, Tagalog) and English (not to mention Spanish for older writers) are so hegemonic (i.e., powerful and omnipresent) that they inordinately influence all other languages in the country. It is inappropriate to use the technical tools we have for analyzing "purely" English or Tagalog texts on these "local" (as opposed to "national" or "international") texts. The Philippine situation (with its 170-plus languages) is not unique. The same phenomenon, I am sure, occurs in countries such as Indonesia.

An interesting article appears in the blog Antara Kita of the Indonesia and East Timor Studies Committee on the novel Sitti Djaoerah (1927), written in Angkola Batak instead of Indonesian (or Bahasa). I wish the article had dealt with the multilingual nature of the novel, which it must have had.

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