chapter  5
25 Pages

Righting Language Wrongs in a Plurilingual Context: Language Policy and Practice in Nicaragua’s Caribbean Coast Region

ByJane Freeland

Nicaragua’s Caribbean Coast is a multi-ethnic, plurilingual region whose seven languages represent a surprisingly wide variety of sociolinguistic situations within a relatively small geographical area, all interconnected in a complex ‘sociolinguistic ecology’ (Haugen, 1972/2001). Costeños (Coast people) today claim symbolic allegiance to six original ethnic languages. Some of these are no longer in daily use, others show considerable vitality, and others are endangered; some are written and almost standardized, while others manifest socially important internal variation and dialect loyalties. Since it became the object of competition in the seventeenth century between Spanish and English colonial ambitions, the region has been an almost archetypal ‘contact zone’: a space ‘where disparate cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other, often in highly asymmetrical relations of domination and subordination – like colonialism, slavery, or their aftermaths as they are lived out across the globe today’ (Pratt, 1992, p. 4). Indeed, the ethnogenesis of all its peoples has been radically influenced by these relations.1