Landscapes of Literacy: Global Issues and Local Language Literacy Practices in Two Rural Communities of Mexico
AuthorWatters, Juanita L.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis ethnographic study examines the local (Indigenous) language literacy practices and literacy events in their specific sociocultural contexts in two Indigenous language communities in Mexico. The languages of these two communities are among over 200 Indigenous languages of Mexico still spoken today, despite half a millennium of pressure against Indigenous languages by speakers of Spanish. The focus of this study is on how these languages, Mela'tajtol (Isthmus Nahuat), and Ngigua (Northern Popoloca), are being used today in their written form. Both the Mela'tajtol and SM Ngigua communities have a history of literacy practices in their own language, albeit not yet extensive. The social practices surrounding the uses of print compose what I have called landscapes of literacy. In my research I observed new contexts produced through texts and practices in the Mela'tajtol and SM Ngigua language communities. The research brings to light the significance of the geographic, historic and linguistic contexts of both communities, and the importance of recognizing the multilayered relationships of power among those involved in writing their languages. What emerges is a compelling picture of an unprecedented collaboration in each community between bilingual teachers motivated by national pressure to teach reading and writing of their language in the schools, and the principal participants of the study, who are not bilingual teachers, but who hold resources and skills they are eager to share in promoting their language in written form. The dissertation reviews frameworks of language planning and proposes a framework of power and human agency to further describe the layers of social meaning and responsibility identified and described in the research. This symbiotic relationship is also found in the national and international influences and resources for promoting the use of indigenous languages of Mexico in written form at the local levels (including the Mela'tajtol and SM Ngigua languages). UNESCO's recognition of challenges to literacy at the global level are compared to the challenges found regarding literacy in the local languages of the two communities of study. Implications are presented for further research, as well as recommendations for the two communities and other people of power involved in indigenous language cultivation.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Language, Reading & Culture