Colonial & Islamic Language Policy And The Birth Of N’ko In Post-War French West Africa

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  What exactly was Sulemaana Kantè doing when he invented a non-Latin-, non-Arabic-based script, N’ko, for writing his mother-tongue of Manding in 1949 in French West Africa? In this paper I argue that Kantè’s language planning was a clear move in a
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  COLONIAL & ISLAMIC LANGUAGE POLICY AND THE BIRTH OF N’KO IN POST-WAR FRENCH WEST AFRICA Coleman Donaldson A Master’s Paper in Education, Culture and Society Presented to the Faculty of the Education, Culture and Society Division of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Master of Science Degree in Education March 2015  Abstract What exactly was Sulemaana Kantè doing when  he invented a non-Latin-, non-Arabic-based script, N’ko, for writing his mother-tongue of Manding in 1949 in French West Africa? In this  paper I argue that Kantè ’s language planning was a clear move in a quest for social change. Seizing on the implementational and ideological space that opened following   World War II in French West Africa, Kantè directly challenged the institutional language policies of both the Koranic and the French colonial schooling systems. In the Koranic system, language proficiency was of secondary concern; the main goal was making proper Muslims. Only the most advanced students learned Arabic and thereby joined the elite and influential clerical class. The French system, on the other hand, took the dissemination of French and repression of Arabic to be central to their goal of creating ideal colonial subjects . Kantè was not alone in questioning the hierarchies engendered by these systems. N’ko must also be understood as emerging in response to Kantè’s contemporaries in both the Islamic and political spheres of the post - War moment. Analyzing Kantè’s own background and trajectory, I argue that his efforts were a particular iteration of Afro-Muslim thought that flirted with ethno-nationalism and used mother-tongue medium of instruction to offer a vision of West African society that was distinct from a major educational reform movement of his day: the madrasa  movement that opted for Arabic-based education.    COLONIAL & ISLAMIC LANGUAGE POLICY AND THE BIRTH OF N’KO IN POST-WAR FRENCH WEST AFRICA InthenarrowestsenseN’ko(  )referstoanon-Latin-,non-Arabic-basedscriptfor  writingManding( màndenkán ),inventedin1949bytheGuinean,SùlemáanaKántɛ.Beforehis  12 deathin1987hewouldusethisuniqueorthographytopenover100books.Whydidthis “peasantintellectual”(Feierman,1990)dedicatehislifetowritinginascriptthathehimself  inventedandinalanguagethathadessentiallynoinstitutionalizedtraditionofwriting?Andwhy isanyoneabletoreadhistypesettextstodayandthentweetaboutthemfromtheirsmartphone? Toanswersuchquestionsrequiresdelvingintothe languagepolicies oftheothermajor  institutionalizedlociofeducationatthetime:thatis,thetraditionalKoranicschoolingsystem, andtheFrancophoneschoolsystemoftheFrenchcolonialruler.TheN'komovementfromits inceptionin1949directlychallengedtheseestablishmentsviaKantè’sapproachtolanguagein education: If writing is honey in terms of sweetness, then writing one's own language is ambrosia [ lílàlí ']. If writing is sauce, then writing one's own language is the seasoning [lit. 'its salt']. If reading is work then reading one's own language is its respite [  ɲɔ ́nɲɔnin ']. […] Many  people are discouraged in foreign language education as a result of retention difficulty and its long duration. All of these people can be savants in mother-tongue education. (Kantè, 2008b, my translation) 3   1  For the purposes of this paper, I will use a Latin-based orthography for Manding. In this regard, there is no one standard, though attempts have been made (see for instance Vydrin & Konta, 2014). Here, I follow the de facto official phonemic orthography synthesizing the various national standards that linguists use while also marking tone. Grave diacritics mark low tones and acute diacritics mark high tones. An unmarked vowel carries the same tone as the last marked vowel before it. The tonal article is noted by an apostrophe.   2  Henceforth, Sulemaana Kantè, ignoring tonal diacritics and using <è> in place of <ɛ>. I have opted to write Kantè’s first name as Sulemaana given that it is written as such by Kantè himself in the majority of his works that I have in my personal archive (see Vydrin 2012, p. 63 for a discussion)   3  All translations are mine unless otherwise noted.   1    WhiletheN’komovementishardlyunknowntoscholars(Hellweg,2013;Oyler,2005; Amselle,2001,2003;Wyrod,2003,2008),itslanguagepolicy&languageplanningactivities haveonlybeenpartiallyaddressed(Vydrin,2011),despitetheirbeingoftheutmostcentrality. Moreover,scholarshavefailedtoconnectthedotsbetweenN’koandanothersocialmovement thatemergedatessentiallythesametime:theMuslimeducationalreformor  Madrasa movement (Brenner,2001).Andyetbothtookmediumofinstructionasacentralcomponenttotheir   projectsforsocialchange.Giventhis,hereIseektobettersituatetheN'komovement'sgenesis, its unique language policy and its continued rise by addressing the following questions: •WhatwerethelanguagepoliciesexistingintheschoolsofboththetraditionalKoranic andtheFrenchcolonialsystems?Howandtowhatlargersociopoliticalideologiesand  projects were these policies related? •Howandinpursuitofwhatsocialchangedidthelate-colonialandpost-independence intellectualsofthedivergentN’koandMadrasamovementsattempttounsettlethese language policies? InthispaperIfirstanalyzethelanguagepolicyofthecenturiesoldKoranicschooling traditionofWestAfricawhichdidnotseektocontroldiscursivebehavioroutsideofthereligious spherebutdidleadtodistincthierarchiesinaccesstoknowledge.Next,IturntotheFrench coloniallanguagepoliciesandtrackthewaysthatunderdistinctlyWesternconditionsof   languagegovernmentality (Pennycook,2006),aperson’schoiceoflinguisticcodeinday-to-day lifebecamesomethingtoberegulatedandcontrolled.Finally,Iinvestigatethewaysthat languagegovernmentalityleadtospeechandinparticularmedium-of-instructionbecominga meansofarticulatingdivergentreformistvisionsofeducationandsocietythatwasgrappledover   bytheMadrasaandN’komovements.Bothusedlanguageasacenterpieceofarationalist epistemologythatunderminedthepedagogyandthereforestatusofthetraditionalKoranic 2    clericalclass.BothgesturedtowardspoliticalconfigurationsthatignoredtheFrenchcolonial  bordersthatwouldbecodifiedatindependence.Theirchoicesofmediumofinstructioninthe waningyearsofcolonialrulehoweverpointedtodistinctvisionsoftheidealdirectionforWest Africansociety.ThroughthemediumofArabic,theMadrasamovementsoughttomorefirmly insertWestAfricaintoaglobalIslamiccommunity.TheN’komovementontheotherhand, whileresolutelyMuslim,wasdistinctlyAfricanistandusedstandardizedMandingasarallying callforarangeofpersonsspreadacrossWestAfricathatforKantèformedonepeople descended from the Mali empire. Language Policy, Ideology and Project Inexploringinstitutionallanguagepoliciesinthispaper,Iseeknottoexaminehowthey couldbemorepedagogicallysound.IinvestigatethemratherbecauseIbelievethatlanguage  policiesallowustoexplorehowlanguagefiguresintotheideologicalstrugglesofdiverse socio-politicalprojects.Inthissection,Idrawuponscholarshipinlanguagepolicyandlinguistic anthropologytodevelopaframeworkforfruitfullyreasoningaboutlanguagepolicyinsucha way.InmyownconceptualizationIfinditusefultodrawonSchiffman’s(2006)distinction  between de facto and de jure language policy. De Jure Ononehandlanguagepoliciesare dejure .Theyareexplicitlystatedpiecesoflegislation ordecisionspasseddownfromhigherupsininstitutionssuchasgovernmentorschooldistricts. AgovernmentmayexplicitlystatethattelevisionshallbroadcastonlyinFrenchforinstance.Or  anAmericanhighschoolprincipalmaytellteachersthattheydonotwantchildrenbeingspoken toinSpanishinclass.  Dejure languagepolicyispursuedthroughactivitiesof languageplanning   3
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