Reference : The old man and the letter: repertoires of literacy and languaging in a modern multie...
Scientific journals : Article
Arts & humanities : Languages & linguistics
The old man and the letter: repertoires of literacy and languaging in a modern multiethnic Gambian village
Juffermans, Kasper mailto [University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education (FLSHASE) > Languages, Culture, Media and Identities (LCMI) >]
Compare: A Journal of Comparative Education
Multilingual literacies in the global South: language policy, literacy learning and use
Yes (verified by ORBilu)
[en] ethnography ; literacy ; multilingualism ; West Africa ; languaging
[en] Recent developments mark a ‘human turn’ in sociolinguistics, i.e., a move away from languages as linguistic systems used by people, toward language or languaging as a sociolinguistic system performed by people. This article inscribes itself in that tradition and offers a micro-ethnographic analysis of a literacy event in rural Gambia. The incident relates to a letter that was ‘written’ by an old illiterate villager in the process of arranging a family member’s marriage. Although the event in itself is fairly insignificant and trivial, it is mobilised to gain an insight into the social and cultural organisation of literacy and languaging in this village. The old man’s letter is a typical moment of ‘grassroots literacy’ and is not ‘orthographic’ but ‘heterographic’ (reflecting more than one prescriptive regime) and ‘exographic’ (drawing on imported normativity). Local languaging here is not the sum of the local languages (Mandinka plus Jola plus Fula plus English) but is a complexly regimented repertoire in which different functions of language are distributed differently across languages and individuals.

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