Saturday, August 03, 2013

The role of Tetum in Timor-Leste language policy for national languages

No último congresso do EuroSEAS (The European Association for South East Asian Studies), o sétimo, chamado de 7th EuroSEAS Conference, que ocorreu no  Instituto Superior de Ciências Sociais e Políticas (ISCSP) da Universidade de Lisboa, entre os dias 02 e 05 de Julho, deste ano de 2013, foi apresentado um trabalho de co-autoria minha e de Zuzana Greksakova intitulado The role of Tetum in Timor-Leste language policy for national languages.

A comunicação foi apresentada no âmbito do Painel 58, coordenado por Antonia Soriente (the University of Naples ‘L’Orientale’ Italy), cuja temática é CHALLENGES TO (ENDANGERED) MINORITY LANGUAGES IN SE ASIA. De acordo com o resumo (abstract) abaixo deste painel, o principal objetivo é o de estudar o impacto de línguas consideradas majoritárias sobre as minorias linguísticas e as línguas ameaçadas no sudeste asiático: 

Panel Abstract
Across Southeast Asia, especially since many nations gained political independence in the post second world war period, the languages of, generally speaking, the dominant ethnic groups have tended to become superordinate in many respects (as media of State education, broadcasting, the law, among the others). This is the case of Malay and Indonesian, Khmer, Thai and Vietnamese among the others. This panel examines the effects of the rise of superordinate languages on minority endangered languages such as language loss, borrowings as a result of external influence, bilingualism, language policy and its links with social position. Papers will deal with any subfield of linguistics and different approaches and persuasions on the minority languages of South East Asia that are facing decline at an unprecedented speed and in particular will report on what is being done in terms of documentation and conservation. 

Dentro desta temática, nossa comunicação procurou avaliar o impacto da política linguística conduzida em Timor-Leste voltada principalmente para a valorização e difusão do Tetun Prasa, e seu impacto sobre as demais línguas locais do país. Segue nosso abstract, que também pode ser baixado no seguinte link

Abstract: Timor is a small island in Southeast Asia that lies north of Australia and west of the Pacific Islands. Its eastern part, República Democrática de Timor-Leste (Democratic Republic of East Timor) regained its independence only in 2002, while the western half of the island is part of the Indonesian territory. According to the current Timorese Constitution, Portuguese and Tetum are both official languages with English and Indonesian being working languages. Except of Tetum, a native Austronesian language that functions as a lingua franca on the Island, these other three languages stated in the Constitution are foreign (non-native) languages. According to the same document, there are another 15 Timorese languages elevated to the status of national language and these shall be valued and developed by the Timorese Government  together with Tetum. Recently, the use of Tetum language has expended in Timorese society due to an extensive linguistic research aimed at improving its lexicon through dictionaries, vocabularies and didactic materials and nowadays Tetum is spoken by more than 80% Timorese. According to the language policy of Instituto Nacional de Linguística (INL – National Institute of Linguistics), the official institution responsible for conducting research on Timorese languages and publishing materials on them, Tetum also plays an important role as a reference for standard orthography and lexicon development of other Timorese national languages. This paper intends to analyze the benefits (the same ortography pattern as a unifying factor of all native languages) and the shortcomings (the process of homogenization of these languages and the inability of the common orthography to represent accurately phonemes of native languages) of this language policy on Timorese local languages.

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