Linguistic Imperialism and Minoan Archaeology (Greece)
In recent years the cultural politics of English and other international languages have become a major focus of debate within the field of applied linguistics. Much discussion has surrounded the concept of linguistic imperialism, which may be defined as a process in which ‘the dominance of English is asserted and maintained by the establishment and continuous reconstitution of structural and cultural inequalities between English and other languages’ (Phillipson 1992:47). Although other colonial languages operate in similar ways, the critique has mostly focused on English, since this occupies the top of the global linguistic hierarchy and is the primary medium through which the intellectual and political institutions of the industrialised ‘West’ exercise their influence throughout the world.
Hmmmm. Initially I was going to relegate this to just another bit of Po-Mo fluff (who knows, maybe it is), but after reading through it a couple of times, I think they make some valid points, others less so.
In principle, one can choose to publish internationally in any one of several languages. But, in practice, the research will receive more attention if published in English. Most archaeological journals of international standing are published in English; and most of their editors are ‘native English speakers’. In effect, this means that ‘non-native English speakers’ must adjust their style in order to suit specific Anglophone editorial conventions, and also master distinctly non-Greek discourses of practice, such as cognitive or processual archaeology.
One can sympathize with non-English speakers’ travails at having to (mostly) publish in a second language and it necessarily provides an additional hurdle, though I think editors and reviewers generally make some allowances for non-native speakers. But hey, we all have to deal with cognitive or processual or whatever whether we like it or not, even if we’re basically Darwinian evolutionists or behavioralists. We also all have to deal with the baggage left over from earlier work whether it’s in English, French, or German (especially so for Egyptology people).
The dominance of English as an international language does not necessarily imply a deliberate neo-colonial conspiracy, nor that non-Anglo archaeologists have been co-opted (Pennycook 2007). However, it does force us to abandon the myth of English as a neutral, ‘value-free’ medium of science, and to recognize all language as ideological practice.
I think true in some respects, but rather overblown. The language (probably a stand-in for culture, really) would have less impact were archaeology more scientific, whence the metalanguage of science would take over more and more meaning. I’m not sure how much influence English has on using the Mohs hardness scale, but probably not a whole lot.
Zahia Hawass in Egypt made it a requirement a few years ago that all site reports had to have a copy submitted in Arabic, though I’m not sure how or if that is being enforced. In 2003 I submitted mine in English only.
Still, probably worth reading over closely, if you’re interested in this sort of dry, esoteric archaeological discourse.