The European Union and languages

Get Complete Project Material File(s) Now! »



This chapter focuses on the theoretical framework of the study which is the postmodernism theory. Postmodernism celebrates diversity in society, and advocates the use of all languages in facets of life. Language is very important in any society since it touches the lives of all people. Postmodernism as a theory argues for the recognition of all languages, cultures, ethos and values which are relevant in the new modernity. Recognition of one‘s language the world over is a cherished ideal since languages carry the cultures of the speakers of the different languages. This theory is used to explain the importance of language to any learner. This chapter also discusses what postmodernism is, its characteristics or tenets. A conclusion of the chapter is to be drawn as well.

General overview of postmodernism

This research is guided by the postmodernism theoretical perspective. Postmodernism began as a theory of literature and literary criticism, concerned with the properties of the literary text, meaning and reading. Postmodernism also focuses on the role of language in society. Originally postmodernism, as a theory, was mainly concerned with issues to do with aesthetics and now it has permeated all functional areas (Zerzan, 2012) including cultural, philosophical and political experience. Postmodernism as a theory of literature and literary criticism arose after World War 2 in Europe. Heidegger is credited as the grandfather of postmodernism. By the 1980s, it became a dominant paradigm used for academic studies in the humanities and social sciences. Proponents of postmodernism symbolically trace its birth to the riots in Paris in May 1968 when students with the support of prominent scholars demanded changes in a rigid, closed and elitist European University. Postmodernism focuses on the role of language. Postmodernists argue that, language defines human nature and interaction in the society.

Defining postmodernism

Geary (2008:446) submits that:
Postmodernism can be described as a set of critical, strategic and rhetorical practices employing concepts such as difference, repetition, the trace, simulacrum, and hyper-reality to destabilize other concepts such as presence, identity, historical progress, epistemic certainty, and the univocity of meaning.
On the same note, Klages (2012:1) submits that:
Postmodernism is hard to define because it is a concept that appears in a wide range and variety of disciplines or areas of study including art, architecture, music, film, literature, sociology, communications, fashion and technology.
In a way postmodernism subsumes, assumes and extends modernism tendencies. Klages (2012) submits that the best way of defining postmodernism is to contrast it with modernism. Klages (2012:1) postulates that, ―Modernism … is the movement in visual arts, music, literature, and drama which rejected the Old Victorian standards of how art should be made, consumed, and what it should mean.‖ Thus Giddens (1990:16) submits that:
(modernity) … derives from the separation of time and space and their recombination informs which permits the precise time-zoning of social life, the disembedding of social systems, and the reflexive ordering and reordering of social relations in the light of continual inputs of knowledge affecting the actions of individuals and groups.
Postmodernism as a theory, deals with human nature; it explains what human being is and what it means to be human. Postmodernist societies presuppose individualism by viewing societies as mere aggregates of like individuals (Murphy, 1990). Postmodernism is against all forms of modernity.
In other words, modernism presents a fragmented view of human subjectivity and history. Postmodernism in contrast, does not lament the idea of fragmentation, provisionality or incoherence, it celebrates that (Klages, 2012) Postmodernism is thus a late 20th century movement in the arts, architecture, and criticism that was a departure from modernism. The major characteristics of postmodernism include sceptical interpretations of culture, literature, art, philosophy, history, economics, architecture, fiction and literary criticism. Postmodernism is commonly associated with deconstructionism and post-structuralism. Brann (1992) defines postmodernism as an incredulity towards metanarratives. Postmodernism was created as a philosophy by thinkers who knew and argued with the Western philosophical and intellectual traditions that preceded them. In other words, postmodernism is at variance with and strongly opposes Christianity, natural sciences and all philosophies that give priority to natural science as a system of knowledge including positivism and Marxism. Postmodernism is a social construct that describes movements which both arise from, and react against trends in modernism. It (postmodernism) as a movement has specific trends which are similar to modernism. Some of the specific traits or characteristics of it are formal purity, specifically art for art‘s sake, authenticity, universality and revolutionary or reactionary tendencies. Postmodernism is thus a set of sophisticate revealing texts to be gotten when all that preceded them have been properly studied. Brann (1992)

Characteristics of postmodernism

Some of the common characteristics or tenets of postmodernism are discussed below.

 Organisation of knowledge under postmodernism

Postmodernism as a theory of literary criticism is concerned with the organisation of knowledge. In the modern societies, knowledge was equated with science and was contrasted to narrative, science was seen as good knowledge and narrative was bad, primitive and irrational. Positive philosophies assert that science was the only valid investigatory procedure for determining objective truth. On the other hand, postmodernism denies the existence of ‗truth‘ in any sense. This is so because there is no objective truth because knowledge is relative to language systems. As noted by Klages (2012) knowledge was just good for its own sake, one gained knowledge in order to be knowledgeable in general. In postmodern societies, knowledge is functional; you learn things, not to know them, but to use that knowledge. This corroborates well with Sarup cited in Klages (2012:5) who avers that; ―Educational policy today put emphasis on skills and training, rather than vague humanist ideal of education in general.‖
In postmodern societies, the ability to control knowledge and meaning, not only through writing but also through disciplinary professional institutions, and in social relations is key to understanding and exercising power relations in society. An observation by Klages (2012:8) is worth submitting when she posits that:
Not only knowledge in postmodern societies characterised, stored, and arranged differently in postmodern societies than in modern ones. Specifically, the advent of electronic computer technologies has revolutionalised the modes of knowledge production, distribution, and consumption in our society.
Thus, in postmodern societies anything that is not able to be translated into a form recognisable and storable by a computer will cease to be knowledge, and they call it ―noise‖.


Inter-textuality is a postmodern trend which came as an alternative to formalism and structuralism. Thus, it is more related to post-structuralism than structuralism. However, because of its strong association with post-structuralism it was somehow pioneered by structuralist ideas. For example, Lacan’s rejection of meta-language and Kristeva ‘s notion of multiple voices in narrative context contributed to postmodern inter-textuality (Willett, 2004). Post-structuralists theorists like Lyotard (1924-1998) advanced inter-textuality at the expense of universalism in favour of experimentation and diversity in art. Post-structuralism also advanced postmodern inter-textuality through Baudrillard (2007) idea of inter-changeability of signs and multiple references. Thus postmodern art constitutes of ideas from different contexts and diverse cultures. Inter-textuality is also linked to postmodern art in light of Foucault‘s (1926-1984) concept of discursive regime which rejected absolutist thinking in favour of open-ended approach. In general poststructuralist contributed much to the development of postmodernism.
Inter-textuality as it rejected the notion of essentialism in favour of contingency. Postmodern theorists claim that in the postmodern epoch it is not possible to speak of originality or uniqueness of the artist since every artistic object is assembled from bits and pieces of already existing art (Allen, 2000). According to Willett (2004) one major characteristic of postmodernism is its conflation of high and low culture through the use of industrial materials and pop culture imagery. This view explains the inter-textual qualities of postmodern art. Every writer, speaker or artist before being a creator is a reader of texts or spectator of art therefore the work he or she produces comprise of references, quotation and influences of every kind (Warton and Still, 1990). That is an inter-textual approach to art studio practice.
In light of background ideas highlighted so far inter-textuality can be described as a trend that advocates cross fertilisation of references, quotations and influences in art. Postmodern inter-textuality has resulted in most contemporary artworks depicting traces of various art styles, cultures or ideologies. The proponent of inter-textuality denies the idea of original art because it limits the richness of an art work. Basically inter-textuality is whereby artworks portray evidences of imitations, appropriation, quotation and reference. Explaining inter-textuality in postmodern sense Willett (2004) says for a writer to write, for an artist to make an art references need to be put into play. Therefore, postmodern art should not be pure, unique or original but should rather reflect some interconnectedness and interdependence with other artworks.

Return to figuration

The postmodernists return to figuration come as a result of postmodernism of reaction and postmodernism of resistance (Harrison, and Wood (2003). Postmodernism is a reaction to lost traditions and postmodernism of resistance being a critique of modernism. Among other old art trends postmodernism is characterised by a return to figuration. Some scholars view postmodernism as ‗neo‘ modernism as it is characterised by the re-emergence of representation and reappearance of past trends and borrowing from old styles. Among other things, what is new about postmodernism in its notion of return to figuration, an aspect which was rejected by modernism Avant-garde. Theorists such as Eco criticised Avant-garde for destroying and defying the past. The return to figuration could have not happened without supposed death of Avant-garde (Willett, 2004). Unlike postmodernism, modernism Avant-garde never looked back it was ever forward. Contrary to modernism the idea of new styles is bankruptcy in postmodernism, what is evident is the resuscitation of dead styles such as figuration. Thus postmodernism is not concerned about stylistic innovation but imitation of dead styles. While modernism thrived on exploration of new possibilities and perpetual search for uniqueness, postmodernism returned to figurative painting that which had been rejected by modernists as old tradition or kitsch Postmodernism therefore picked up that which had been abandoned by modernists. Modernism marginalised figurative art, viewed it as not art, but postmodernism incorporates it as a worthwhile characteristic of art. Postmodern art is noted for the way it blurs the distinctions between what is perceived as fine or high art and what is generally seen as low or kitsch art.
Figuration is that art which has strong resemblance to the real world and people can interpret it differently. The artist uses personal judgement to define in visual form what he or she sees. Figuration is achieved through strong emphasis on structure, shape and the effect of light. Meyer (1973) says non-figurative work often rejects the analysis of the subject yet subject matter is the principal aspect which the general public is attracted or attached to when seeing art. The above view applauds figuration, and in a way justifies in resuscitation by postmodernism.

Pluralism and multiculturalism

The pluralistic and multicultural approach to art by postmodernism has resulted in some scholars defining it as a collage approach to art. Thus postmodernism combines a variety of ideas, styles and different art trends and is evident in postmodernism as noted on its combination of various art forms. Today is no distinction between what was formerly viewed as high and low art. Postmodernism is not aimed at being unique or individualistic but pluralistic. Unlike modernism, postmodernism does not have a universal dominant language of the time, it celebrates diversity. According to Hooks (1984:25), ―Postmodernism has provided a space which legitimises the search for the voices of displaced, marginalised, exploited and oppressed black people‖. Pluralism and multiculturalism is depicted by postmodernists stylistic eclecticism characterised by hybridization of art forms, combination of high and low art mixing of styles from different cultures and time. Therefore, postmodernists are not concerned about stylistic innovation, but recycling and resuscitation of existing images and styles. The pluralistic and multicultural qualities of postmodernism have resulted in modernism described as art without boarders or boundaries. Its art that is difficult to categorise. The postmodernism belief in pluralism and multiculturalism has led to the rejection of platonic absolutism in favour of relativism. This is reflected by postmodernism rejection of totalising and universal concepts such as Avant-garde. Pluralism and multiculturalism have brought about diffusion, negotiation and diversity in postmodernism art studio practice. Some language experts and linguists have rejected mono-cultural approach to language in favour of globalisation whereby communities borrow from different backgrounds. The role language plays in shaping human knowledge forms much of the postmodernism attitudes towards knowledge and the ability or inability for humans to understand concepts. In response to the imperial hegemony of dominant languages, Achebe (1969:44) is of the opinion that all postmodernist societies have to draw from Africa‘s experiences and see from ―where the rain began to beat us‖ as this will help to show that:
African people did not hear of culture for the first time from Europeans …, their societies … had a philosophy of great value and beauty, … they had poetry and above all had dignity.
There is no control of authorship and control of art by the art world which existed during the modernism. The art world market is free and diversified and with so many languages which should be respected. All languages are good and communities have different languages which should be respected.

1.1 Introduction
1.2 Background to the study
1.3 Statement of the problem
1.4 Aim of the study
1.5 Review of related literature
1.6 Significance of the study
1.7 Scope and organisation of the study
1.8 Operational definitions of key terms
1.9 Conclusion
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Studies done in Asia
2.3 The European Union and languages
2.4 Quebec in Canada
2.5 Australian language cases
2.6 Indigenous languages in Africa – the general view
2.7 Studies done in Africa
2.8 Studies done in Zimbabwe
2.8 Conclusion
3.1 Introduction
3.2 General overview of postmodernism
3.3 Postmodernism and languages
3.4 Conclusion
4.1 Introduction
4.2 The research design
4.3 Ethnography
4.4 Population of the study
4.5 Sampling procedures
4.6 Data gathering techniques
4.7 Data presentation, analysis and interpretation
4.8 Ethical considerations
4.9 Conclusion
5.1 Introduction
5.2 The importance of Tonga in the Zimbabwean education system
5.3 Results from document analysis
5.4 Perspectives from participants
5.5 Results from focus group discussions, interviews, observations and questionnaires
5.6 Effects of marginalisation of the Tonga language in Zimbabwe
5.7 The Zimbabwe Indigenous Languages Promotion Association (ZILPA)
5.8 Interventions on the promotion of Tonga language teaching in Zimbabwe
5.9 Conclusion
6.1 Introduction
6.2 Research findings
6.3 Rationale for Tonga in the curriculum
6.4 Findings in relation to theory
6.5 Recommendations
6.6 Future practice in Tonga language development
6.7 Conclusions

Related Posts