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Languages at War: External Language Spread Policies in Lusophone Africa

Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau at the Turn of the 21 st Century


Carla Figueira

This study explores the argument that postcolonial Africa has been the setting for competing external language spread policies (LSPs) by ex-colonial European countries at the turn of the 21 st Century. It focuses on the external LSPs developed by the governments of Portugal, Brazil, United Kingdom, France and Germany towards Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau from the 1990s to the present. The study offers a perspective on the web of relationships involving European ex-colonial powers and the African postcolonial countries of Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique. The author seeks to examine the development of external (European) LSPs and the construction of politico-linguistic blocs in a complex context whilst taking into account the colonial heritage and its lingering dependencies, the construction and maintenance of nationhood and the increasing globalisation of the world.


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Foreword by Robert Phillipson


The warfare analysed by Carla Figueira is the battle for hearts and minds and influence, the goal of Westerners being to profit from the economies of vulnera- ble former colonies, often through continuing to exploit them. Portuguese is in combat with French and English in a new scramble for Africa and its resources - with language as a key battering ram. New alliances have emerged, countries identified as Lusophone, Francophone and Anglophone / Commonwealth. How- ever, in such countries only a small fraction of the population is proficient in these languages. The challenge for Carla Figueira has been to relate the forces and pressures impacting on national and international power to national identity and diversity, to linguistic imperialism and linguistic human rights, and the roles of the various constituences, including non-governmental organizations. She describes the theoretical ramparts for analysing the complex interlocking of the- se various factors. The instruments and agents of linguistic warfare are diag- nosed, as are the implications for the citizens of the countries involved. Carla Figueira’s book fills an important gap in the research literature. It ex- plores cultural and linguistic diplomacy through a comparative empirical study of the policies of France, Germany, Portugal and the UK in the ‘external’ spread of their languages. It relates the activities to their reception in two former Portu- guese colonies. Brazil was included because of the link between Portuguese- speaking Brazil and Portuguese former colonies in Africa. The study integrates approaches from the fields of international relations, development ‘aid’,...

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