8862 - Objectification and semiotic ideologies in Aché language activism

Language activists often construe language with regard to its semantico-referential function and thus foster its decontextualization into a possessable and valuable object, a faithful representation of an essentialized ethnic identity. Such objectification epitomizes a semiotic ideology that is the distinctive feature of the modern ontology, namely the division of the world into the social and natural domains (Latour) contingent upon a symbolic order to accurately represent it (Bauman/Briggs 2003). But decontextualization always-already implies the possibility of future recontextualizations. Objectified ‘languages’ enter linguistic markets as identity markers, for instance, as is the case with Aché language activism. Itself the product of the conjuncture of Aché, missionary, indigenist, and anthropologist semiotic ideologies, language activism promotes the objectification of the Aché language along three lines: (a) the transformation of speech into writing as in a Bible translation and a published book with testimonies of Aché elders; (b) the iconization of language in an orthography where certain graphemes have been chosen to recursively represent Aché’s difference to Guarani, the national language of Paraguay; and (c) the expediency of language as resource for political discourse when leaders claim language use to express cultural continuity and identity. My paper will explore the implications that these ‘modern’ transformations have for Aché linguistic and semiotic ideologies, especially in view of their traditional lack of an explicit philosophy of language like the nexus of word and soul as conceived by neighboring Guarani groups, and the implicit Aché valorization of performance over content.

Palavras-chaves: Lowland South America, objectification, ideology, decontextualization

Autores: Hauck, Jan David (University of California, Los Angeles, Ud States of Am / USA)


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