Ethnic nationalism and gendered morality in the semiotic construction of the Moro language of Sudan

In: Faits de Langues
Siri LamoureauxLOST Group, Martin-Luther-University

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This paper brings together discussions on language and nationalism, with gender and nationalism. Drawing from ‘language ideology’ and ‘indexical gender’ from a linguistic anthropological approach, it traces the emergence of the “Moro language”, in the context of a Moro ethnic national movement, originating in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan, and how it became indexically linked with masculine authority. Moro identify as Nuba and Christian, as opposed to Arab and Muslim, the dominant identities. Christian literacy, spearheaded by patriarchal leadership became the frame through which Moro organized ethnic identity and unity. The constructed language, as the object of metapragmatic evaluation, is also tightly woven into norms of morality and gender within the community. Two registers are identified: textuality is normatively masculine and orality is normatively feminine. The Moro community draws on gendered ideologies to produce a new writing and speaking style, the “Moro Bible Language” (MBL). MBL results from the interweaving of the two registers in language standardization practices. Negotiating the ideologies that bring MBL to life occurs in metalinguistic discourse, teaching, learning and speaking styles. Since the politics of standardization are foregrounded, even seeming apolitical projects are laden with moral worth in the turbulent context of rapid cultural change.

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