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Linguistics in a Colonial World

A Story of Language, Meaning, and Power

Joseph Errington

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Geisteswissenschaften, Kunst, Musik / Allgemeine und Vergleichende Sprachwissenschaft


Drawing on both original texts and critical literature,Linguistics in a Colonial World surveys the methods,meanings, and uses of early linguistic projects around theworld. * * Explores how early endeavours in linguistics were used to aidin overcoming practical and ideological difficulties of colonialrule * Traces the uses and effects of colonial linguistic projects inthe shaping of identities and communities that were under, or inopposition to, imperial regimes * Examines enduring influences of colonial linguistics incontemporary thinking about language and cultural difference * Brings new insight into post-colonial controversies includingendangered languages and language rights in the globalizedtwenty-first century


(Journal of the RoyalAnthropological Institute, December 2008)
"This slim book covers a lot of ground, geographically,historically, and intellectually."
(CHOICE,November 2008)
"Errington ... provides a useful overview of analytical andmethodological developments and changing applications in thehistory of linguistics. Highly recommended."
Kathryn Woolard, University of California: San Diego
"The succinctness of the writing and the importance of thecentral argument make the reviewed text likely to appear on manycourse syllabi." (Journal of Sociolinguistics)"This book provides both an introduction and an innovative argumentabout the development of colonial linguistics and its place in therise of 19th century European linguistics as a field of expertknowledge. This is stimulating scholarship and a valuable teachingresource for linguistic anthropology, sociolinguistics, history oflinguistics, cultural studies and historiography."
Arjun Appadurai, The New School
"This splendid history of ideas is a nuanced reflection on howlanguage and humanity became each other's deepest theoreticalmirrors as the world made the transition from colonialism to themore recent forms of globalization. It is also a superbcontribution to the general dialogue between linguistics and itscognate human sciences."
Alastair Pennycook, University of Technology-Sydney
"In this concise, eloquent yet wide-ranging book, JosephErrington demonstrates the importance of understanding linguisticsas a special kind of colonial encounter. Linguistics, he shows, hasalways operated within particular relations of power, constructs ofsameness and difference, and ways of reducing languages to writing.The European science of language helped legislate on the one handnational difference in Europe and on the other human inequality inEuropean empires. Linguistics, Errington shows, may claimscientificity but it can never be insulated from the speech ofthose it studies; it is always entangled with contexts, projectsand linguistic ideologies from the past. This book thereforeprovides not only key historical discussion of the long and fraughtconnections among colonialism, linguistic description, literacypractices, and social imaginations, but also challenges anycontemporary practising linguist - whether engaged inpan-human speculations about universal language, continuingmissionary linguistic projects, or attempts to save and preserveendangered languages - to understand current postcoloniallinguistic projects in relation to the colonial past."
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Linguistische Anthropologie, Anthropology, Angewandte Linguistik, Sprachwissenschaften, Anthropologie, Linguistic Anthropology, Linguistics, Applied Linguistics