Colonialism and Missionary linguistics

Zimmermann, Klaus & Birte Kellermeier-Rehbein, ed., Colonialism and Missionary Linguistics, Berlin, de Gruyter, 2015, 266 p., ISBN 978-3-11-036048-6, prix : 99,95 euros.

A lot of what we know about “exotic languages” is owed to the linguistic activities of missionaries. They had the languages put into writing, described their grammar and lexicon, and worked towards a standardization, which often came with Eurocentric manipulation. Colonial missionary work as intellectual (religious) conquest formed part of the Europeans’ political colonial rule, although it sometimes went against the specific objectives of the official administration. In most cases, it did not help to stop (or even reinforced) the displacement and discrimination of those languages, despite oftentimes providing their very first (sometimes remarkable, sometimes incorrect) descriptions.

This volume presents exemplary studies on Catholic and Protestant missionary linguistics, in the framework of the respective colonial situation and policies under Spanish, German, or British rule. The contributions cover colonial contexts in Latin America, Africa, and Asia across the centuries. They demonstrate how missionaries dealing with linguistic analyses and descriptions cooperated with colonial institutions and how their linguistic knowledge contributed to European domination.

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