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Decolonising Language & Word Choice: The Case for Linguistic Equity


14:00 - 15:30

Online Workshop Series 2023

KFPE_Workshop_Decolonising Language


  • Jasmine Neve (NADEL Center for Development and Cooperation at ETH Zurich)
  • Thomas Bearth (General and African Linguistics, University of Zurich)
  • Shruti Patel (NADEL Center for Development and Cooperation at ETH Zurich)
  • Djouroukoro Diallo (Center for the Study of Language and Society, University of Bern)

We shall explore two complementary dimensions of language bias from the angle of decolonizing research. The first looks at the notion of language as an attribute of collective identity: Languages matter, and yet, in colonial mindset, some more than others. How come that the colonial heritage of dominant language bias (DLB) still persists as a metascientific pattern legitimating marginalization from scientific activity at its receiving and producing end alike? Surprisingly, this aspect of DLB hardly causes sleepless nights to scholars on either side of the divide. The fact, however, that it is being increasingly challenged by end users (Bearth 2013) indicates that it is time to address the issue of linguistic equity as a structural and methodological problem in global science, not last in view of the mantra that ‘no one must be left behind’. [135]

The second part of the workshop provides a space to reflect on the role of word choice in the field of global development. Not only does the terminology used in this sector suffer from DLB, it has also resulted in a seldom questioned, perhaps even unconscious hierarchy amongst nations, people, and organisations. We will discuss the implications this has for the overall inclusion of actors in international cooperation. During the workshop, we will present a draft glossary of decolonial language and invite participants to debate and reflect on controversial terms.

2007_01-07 Kono Ditomba_Decolonising Language
2007_01-07 Kono Ditomba_Decolonising Language