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Creoles & Language Rights. LG474 notes Language Rights Peter L Patrick Univ of Essex. Two Creole Cases. Contrast 2 situations Jamaica: large majority of Creole speakers with no guarantee of non-discrimination on grounds of language (based on Brown-Blake 2005)

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creoles language rights

Creoles & Language Rights

LG474 notes

Language Rights

Peter L Patrick

Univ of Essex

two creole cases
Two Creole Cases
  • Contrast 2 situations
    • Jamaica: large majority of Creole speakers with no guarantee of non-discrimination on grounds of language (based on Brown-Blake 2005)
    • Nicaragua: small minority of coastal Creole speakers with problematic conception & implementation of language rights on ethnic grounds (based on Freeland 2004)
creole english in jamaica
Creole & English in Jamaica
  • JamC a language of ethnic and national identification
  • Formed c1700 from African & British English inputs
  • Other language groups now very small & bilingual
  • 2.5m speakers of JC in Jamaica, 20-50k+ overseas
  • >90% of population of African origins, <2% “white”
  • Under 10% are native speakers of Standard JamEng
  • Ie societal bilingualism – but not for many individuals
  • Std Eng= language of school/govt/media til 1970-80s
  • Diversity – not diglossic, bilingual or bidialectal, but a Creole continuum linked to social stratification
status of creole english
Status of Creole & English
  • English, JamC are not recognized as official languages in law
  • But English is presumed to be the national language, eg
    • Art. 20 of the Jamaican Constitution provides for assistance of interpreters in court for suspects who cannot understand English
  • Legislative review of Bill of Rights (2001) proposed to include language as grounds for prohibiting discrimination.
    • Does not yet exist in any Commonwealth Caribbean constitution,
    • though most are based on European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedom – which does have it
    • Is it because JamC is not perceived as distinct from English?
    • Pre-Independence debates considered recognizing “some African language” for heritage reasons in Constitution – no mention of JC!
  • Compare LPP #29: “Selling National Language Ideology”
grounds for discrimination
Grounds for discrimination
  • Jam. Const’n prohibits discrimination on grounds of “race, colour, place of origin, political opinion, creed”
    • Revised Charter of Rights plans to add sex, class
    • Arguably mother tongue is immutable like race, sex, etc.
    • One can alter one’s linguistic identity – so too other grounds (political views, religion) can be easily changed
  • Committee strongly favored outlawing discrimination based on language in comparable situations, but had
  • ...reservations about the state being vulnerable if it failed to give equal prominence to Creole in all contexts
2 theories of discrimination i
2 theories of discrimination, I
  • Direct discrimination (US law= disparate treatment)
    • Objective: to promote equality of treatment
    • People distinguished on specific ground may not be treated differently in the same context, resulting in (dis)advantage
    • Negative duty: the state must simply not discriminate
      • Ex: equal opportunity hiring practices
    • (Proving disp. treatment in US law requires evidence of intent)
  • Matches definition of discrimination in Jam. Constitution
    • Not burdensome or costly for state to put into practice
  • What then is the problem? Why the reservations? Can’t language be incorporated in Charter of Rights?
2 theories of discrimination ii
2 theories of discrimination, II
  • Indirect discrimination (US law= disparate impact)
    • Objective: to promote substantive equality of outcome
    • Formally equal treatment may lead to unequal results
    • Such practices may be prohibited where they result in disadvantage to a protected group
    • (No need to prove intent to discriminate under US law)
  • Positive duties may be required of the state
    • Principle: treat different groups differently to achieve comparable results – movement toward equality over time
      • Ex: affirmative action hiring practices
    • May impose high costs on state to achieve social goals
nature of the reservations
Nature of the reservations
  • Must the state provide translation/interpretation from/ into JamC in all public forums and communications?
  • Is official bilingualism required to support said rights?
  • How can it work if most Jamaicans don’t recognize that JamC is a language distinct from English?
  • What are the consequences for the school system?
  • Are other-language speakers entitled to said rights?
  • No action taken, pending clarification and language planning work – see Jamaican Language Unit
comparable case in us law
Comparable case in US law
  • Lau v Nichols (1974):14th Amendment equal protection
    • 2,856 Chinese-dominant schoolchildren needed language help
    • 63% received no translation or ESL class; only 15% full-time help
  • Court argued all children had the same educational opportunity, hence it did not illegally discriminate: no duty to give special aid
    • Ie, the deficiency “lies within the children themselves… in failing to learn the English language… the Constitution offers no relief”
  • US Supreme Court moved analysis to Civil Rights Act Title VI:
    • students “received fewer benefits” from school, & were “deprived… of a meaningful opportunity to participate” – mark of discrimination
  • School must take steps to rectify the language deficiencies of children belonging to a minority group based on national origin
  • Court did not endorse bilingual education (but Lau Guidelines by HEW andEqual Educational Opportunity Act of 1974 did – for a time..)
can indirect cases be won
Can indirect cases be won?
  • Lau and the EEOA invoked positive duties of (US) state
  • Since most Jamaicans are Creole monolingual/dominant and JamC is historically associated w/class and colour,
  • A monoglot policy of public education and communication in English creates disparate impact, advantaging English/ bilingual group over Creole monolinguals
  • Creole-dominants are excluded from full participation in activities and processes sponsored and required by state
    • English-only is policy but already not reality in classrooms
  • Reservations not legally well-founded since new Charter only outlaws direct discrimination – indirect type unlikely to succeed in litigation (acc. to Brown-Blake)
political basis for opposition
Political basis for opposition?
  • Social stratification historically marked by race/colour but competence in Std Eng is the most overt marker today
  • Middle-class bilinguals inherited political hegemony from colonial govt. – nation-building via education
  • MC act as language brokers for lower class dealing w/officialdom
  • Outlawing indirect linguistic discrimination could redress limited access of WC to state info/institutions/control, thus
  • Threaten source of political and economic power of MC
  • Reservations of Committee may thus be ideological and protective of self-interest
  • JC remains a (90%+!) “minority language”: not a means of vertical mobility or full participation in national institutions
the way forward in jamaica
The way forward in Jamaica
  • Language planning (corpus, status & acquisition LP) in order to remove objections to legislative changes
    • Implement orthography for JamC – 1 Std, or many NStd?
    • Develop mass literacy in it – alongside StdEng literacy?
    • Develop admin./technical JamC terminology for officials
    • Expand mass-media and publishing domains for JamC
  • Language policy initiatives
    • Define employment criteria in terms of language needs
    • Monitor provision of state services w.r.t. bilingual materials
    • Educate the public (& legislators) on language issues
  • Ultimately:
    • Endorse both English & JamC as official national languages
what has been happening re lrs in the caribbean
What has been happening re LRs in the Caribbean?
  • 2001: proposal to include language as a basis for non-discrimination in the Constitution of Jamaica
  • 2002: Establishment of Jamaica Language Unit pursuant to report by parliamentary committee which had considered the proposal.
  • 2011: Charter on Language Rights and Language Policy in the Creole-speaking Caribbean adopted by Kingston conference
      • Significance:
        • One of few international documents dealing exclusively with language rights
        • Regionality
        • Recognises the particular linguistic environment of Caribbean Creoles ie they are majority languages w/o official recognition
        • Deals with all languages (including indigenous, endangered and sign) within the linguistic space of the Caribbean Creole-speaking territories
plans problems and politricks i
Plans, Problems and Politricks I
  • Ministry of Education Youth and Culture (MOEYC) has set options for bilingual education in Jamaica:
  • “1. Declare the Jamaican Language situation bilingual ascribing equal language status to SJE and JC. Tailor instruction to accommodate this status and permit instruction and assessment in both languages. Produce printed materials in both languages, and permit teaching in both languages using appropriate instructional strategies.
  • “2. While retaining SJE as the official language, promote the acquisition of basic literacy in the early years (eg. K – 3) in the home language [=JC] and facilitate the development of English as a second language.
plans problems and politricks ii
Plans, Problems and Politricks II
  • “3. Maintain SJE as the official language and promote basic communication through oral use of the home language in early years while facilitating development of literacy in English”

(Draft Language Education Policy, 2001 p. 20)

  • ...MOYEC has adopted Option 3, despite reservations as it was viewed as the most feasible. The objections to Options 1 and 2 are on the grounds that they are
  • ‘… not immediately feasible as there is no agreed orthography for Jamaican Creole... Issues such as funding for the adequate supply of literacy materials as well as political and social attitudes to Creole as a medium of instruction (Bryan 2000), particularly the latter, present obstacles difficult to overcome’.
comparing creole cases
Comparing Creole Cases
  • Problems of JamC are typical African diaspora ones
    • State goals: nation-building, modernization, social/economic progress, participatory democracy, social inclusion
    • Herderian myth of 1 people (“Out of many, one people”), 1 national identity, 1 (official, standard) language= poor match with post-slavery, creolized, syncretic Caribbean realities
  • Similar issues in very different context: Nicaragua
    • African-descent English Creole in Spanish-dominant state
    • Size/scale contrasts: instead of 95% of population, now 1%
    • Regional links with indigenous peoples of coast
  • Both: sociolinguistic factors crucial to interpreting law, securing/implementing language rights
nicaragua miskito creole
Nicaragua: Miskito/Creole
  • Miskito Coast of Nic.: pop. 118,000 (Foladori et al 1982)
  • Eng Creole spoken by various coastal ethnic groups
    • Creoles, African-European ancestry – MCC L1 – 50k/20%
    • [Negro/Creole racial divide, upward assimilation > Creole]
    • Indigenous peoples: Sumu (4%), Rama (0.5%) – MCC= L1
    • Post-slavery ethnicities: Garifuna African-Indian (1%), L1; and Miskito – African-Indian-European ancestry (57%), L2
    • [Also Ladinos – Spanish-speaking mestizos (15%), L2]
  • Spanish conquest 1520; British in Providence 1631
    • Pacific region the focus of Nic., Hispanic mestizaje state: cultural, economic, linguistic assimilation of indigenes
    • Caribbean coast: multilingual, interethnic w/indigenous cultures, English influence, tradition of regional autonomy
mestizaje indigenismo
Mestizaje & Indigenismo
  • Nic. inherits Latin Am. liberal indigenismo philosophy
    • Indigenismo a benign form of mestizaje (assimilation), with an essentialist focus on group identity
    • separates material culture from non-material practices
  • After Sandinista revolution, plans to develop Coast’s economy and foster local culture, esp. language
    • Languages need revitalizing and rescate.
  • Accepts definition of culture as bounded by national or ethnic lines and internally homogenous
    • Idealizes indigenous past, little knowledge of present
  • Sees culture/identity as best expressed in language
sandinista vs a vis coste o
Sandinista vs(a-vis?) Costeño
  • Costeño identity= all on coast, focus on indigenous
    • All distinguished from Mestizos, ‘usurpers’ of local power
    • Traditionally marginal to Hispanic colonial process
  • How did 1979 Sandinista revolution affect Costeños?
    • Region never effectively incorporated into Nic. state
    • Distrust of mestizo interventions, different assumptions
    • Shared goal of ending racial and ethnic discrimination
    • Sandinismo version of indigenismo: blend indigenous & European cultures into new Latin American one
    • But S. distrust Anglo culture, ambivalent re: African identity
    • Purist focus on revitalizing indigenous languages/cultures
    • Sees cultural change = loss of authentic identity
    • Attempt to split Creoles from Miskitu, Sumu & Rama
transnational creole identities
Transnational creole Identities
  • Creoles have triple identity, each trans-national:
    • Negros – African diasporic heritage out of slavery; < Jamaica via Rastafari, Garveyism, US identity politics
    • Creoles – Anglo diasporic focus on English, elite; < ‘free people of colour’ – independent, Protestant, literate
    • Costeños - autochthonous (“c”) creole group, (blood) links to indigenes, resistance to Spanish/Sandinistas
  • Focus on “Creole” asserts (nationally-/racially-derived) non-inferiority, status, via education; devalues “Negro”
  • Focus on “Costeño” asserts affiliation with indigenous peoples, claim to Nic. roots/citizenship; undercuts Anglo
  • Focus on “Negro” asserts African & class awareness, reminder of colour, class divisions w/in Anglo Creoles
mixing peoples language
Mixing peoples > language
  • All mark distinction from usurping Mestizo group
    • Irony: “C/creole” ~ “mestizo/aje” opposed, but both are ways of naming cultural syncretism, change and invention
    • Recent identities, unvalidated except at state level
    • Reflect conflict b/w European powers/languages: “Creole” recalls English struggle vs Spanish, resists Sandinistas
  • Common investment in Miskito Coast Creole language
    • English-lexicon Creole w/early Miskito (flora, fauna) and later Spanish (modern/public life) borrowings; Spanish bilingualism > syntactic calques (Holm 1978, 1988)