Vernacular Literacy Analysis

1689 Words7 Pages
It is generally accepted that the introduction of literacy is a valuable contribution to educational progress. But, as shown by Mühlhäusler’s article, it has inevitable repercussions on unlettered societies worth considering before undertaking such an endeavour. Mühlhäusler deals with a range of sociolinguistic ramifications of the introduction of literacy to communities living in the Pacific area. His main thesis claims that the introduction of vernacular literacy causes linguistic, religious and social changes. He even goes so far as to assert that “[t]he most general long-term effect of literacy in the vernacular has been language decline and death” (190). In other words, Mühlhäusler presumes a causal relation between the introduction of…show more content…
Moreover, it is delineated that the vernacular literacy is transitional in a twofold way: While lamenting repeatedly that vernacular literacy “appears inevitably to lead to literacy in a non-traditional, typically metropolitan language” (199) he adds another aspect arguing that “the ideas encoded in written form are usually not traditional ones but rather new worldly and religious experiences” (199). Mühlhäusler criticizes with good reason the failure of mission-driven literacy undertakings by having provided predominantly religious material of Western culture.
Furthermore, Mühlhäusler demonstrates in how far literacy can influence the choice of religion. He claims that “traditional religions seem to be incompatible with a literate society” (202), because once literate people would have no chance to return to the old religion but rather could choose between the new and syncretistic ones. Mühlhäusler also suggests that the introduction of literacy implies a change towards a higher degree of perceived truth in written word among members of a newer literate
…show more content…
Apart from this he attracts criticism by asserting a causal relation between the introduction of vernacular literacy and the decline of vernacular literacy, that in turn would lead to language shift, without providing sufficient evidence for such a coincidence. He ignores the presence of other potential factors completely and seems not taking into account that the introduction of literacy rests usually upon a political intend, either colonial or postcolonial, respectively is restricted by language policies. The resulting questions are rather, whether a vernacular language, a language of wider communication or a former colonial language should be chosen for the introduction of literacy and which medium would involve the fewest undesirable

More about Vernacular Literacy Analysis

Open Document