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Language Development and Changing Language Attitudes in a Small West African Language Group

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Title:Language Development and Changing Language Attitudes in a Small West African Language Group
Authors:Morton, Deborah
Zaske, Stefanie
Contributors:Morton, Deborah (speaker)
Zaske, Stefanie (speaker)
Date Issued:04 Mar 2017
Description:The Anii people of Togo and Benin (West Africa) are a minority language group, surrounded by unrelated languages whose speaker populations are much bigger than those of Anii. For over fifty years, the Anii have also been exposed to conflicting language ideologies from outside their community. These ideologies come from governmental and non-governmental organizations that have both promoted the use of French as the language of education and government, and sought to encourage language development and literacy in the 'languages of the people', including Anii (cf. Author2 2014). This study uses interview data to explore the evolution of language attitudes among the Anii people in response to various language-development initiatives they have experienced. The earliest efforts to expand the use of Anii beyond its traditional use (as an oral means of communication within the Anii community), such as government-sponsored literacy classes starting in the 1970s, were often regarded as being directed towards the poor and uneducated. This impression was likely strengthened by the Marxist rhetoric of the time that treated such classes as alternatives to school-based education, and also by the teaching methods, which were considered odd (even amusing). These types of initiatives were generally not embraced by wealthy and educated Anii, and resulted in many Anii people viewing their language as rural, or even backwards. In contrast, more recent language-development initiatives such as the creation of Anii programs on local and national radio, and a magazine that is published in paper and on-line formats, appear to have given rise to much more positive attitudes towards Anii. In particular, the use of modern technologies has been viewed as making Anii more similar to (and thus more equal in value to) both European languages and (perhaps more importantly) the languages of the larger ethnic groups the Anii people come in contact with. The data presented here also illustrate how the Anii people's changing views of their language has affected their views of themselves, their history and culture, and their place in the multilingual and multiethnic environment in which they live. References: Author2. 2014. Ecriture de la langue anii: Tome 1. Bassila: SIL Bassila
Appears in Collections: 5th International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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