African Languages, Development and the State

By Richard Fardon; Graham Furniss | Go to book overview

7

The language situation and language use in Mozambique

J.M.M. Katupha

The choice of language and the use to which it is put is central to a people’s definition of themselves in relation to the entire universe. Hence language has always been at the heart of the two contending social forces in the Africa of the twentieth century.

(wa Thiong’o 1986:4)

Thinking about policy behind the current language situation in Mozambique is no different from other countries in independent black Africa today. It vacillates between dismantling colonial relationships on the one hand, and on the other striving for nation-building, technical development as well as openness to the outside world. This has led such countries generally to adopt language policies in which the language of the former colonizing power is used for official communication, while social communication relies largely on African languages. Indeed, in the process of purging society of colonial values, the languages of the colonizing powers are considered untouchable. This may be compared with the resolution passed by the Organisation of African Unity, which, while vehemently condemning the evils of colonialism, urges every member state to accept as sacred the current territorial boundaries, a product of colonialism. The aim of this paper (which was first presented at the nineteenth Annual African Linguistics Conference, Boston University, April 1988) is to discuss language use and its specificities as well as inherent contradictions in Mozambique arising from the current language policy.

The paper characterizes the multilingual situation of the country. Then it discusses the social use of each group of languages. Functional bilingualism emerges as a possible language policy to be adopted by Government. The last part of the paper suggests that functional bilingualism is a provisional solution securing cultural preservation and modernization until African languages are able to fulfil the functions of European languages.

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