Title

Communicative event chains in an ethnography of Paraguayan language policy.

Publication Date

1-1-2013

Document Type

Article

Abstract

Language policy texts, talk and practices are situated in specific sociocultural contexts, yet they also seem to move across time and social space: an official text drafted in governmental chambers may be discussed in teachers' professional development and instantiated in classroom practice. Drawing on linguistic anthropological work showing how communicative signs circulate among contexts to constitute such phenomena as culture and identity (Agha 2007; Agha and Wortham 2005; Urban 2001; Wortham 2005), this article offers an account of language policy implementation as a constellation of communicative events connected to each other through their use of the same cultural forms. These chains of communicative events link people together as they become first receivers and then senders of some message (Agha 2007), in this case messages about what it means to be a Guarani speaker. Drawing on data from an ethnographic study of language policy in Paraguay, where all schoolchildren are to learn in both official languages, Spanish and Guarani, I trace two widely circulating images of the Guarani speaker as they appear in policy text, in educators' talk about policy and in practice as one way to make salient connections between texts and actors' interpretations of policy at various levels. Analysis reveals that educators bring to their appropriation of policy a meaning of the Guarani speaker that is not evident in policy text alone.