The modern mission: The language effects of Christianity

Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Language, Identity, and Education, 2005, 4 (2), pp. 137 - 155
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Christian missionaries have played a crucial role not only in assisting past and current forms of colonialism and neocolonialism, not only in attacking and destroying other ways of being, but also in terms of the language effects their projects have engendered. The choices missionaries have made to use local or European languages have been far more than a mere choice of medium. On the one hand, missionary language projects continue to use and promote European languages, and particularly English, for Christian purposes. The use of English language teaching as a means to convert the unsuspecting English language learner raise profound moral and political questions about what is going on in English classrooms around the world. On the other hand, missionary linguists have played a particular role in the construction and invention of languages around the world. Of particular concern here are the ways in which language use, and understandings of language use, have been-and still are-profoundly affected by missionary projects. Bilingualism between indigenous languages and a metropolitan language, for example, was part of a conservative missionary agenda in which converting to Christianity was the inevitable process of being bilingual. The ongoing legacy of the language effects of Christianity is something that needs urgent attention.
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