Innovations and Reproductions in Cultures and Societies
(IRICS) Vienna, 9 - 11 december 2005

<< Postcolonial innovations and transformations: Putting language in the forefront

Linguistic traces of colonial structure

Hugo C. Cardoso (Universiteit van Amsterdam)



Integrated in India only in 1961, the former Portuguese territory of Diu provides a good example of a small and relatively isolated post-colonial society whose structure surfaces to a large extent in linguistic terms. In this paper I argue that, in the case of Diu, language is the colonial remain that most closely echoes the former culture and power structure (more encompassing even than religion, as it extends to several denominational groups). After observing the distribution of knowledge of Standard Portuguese (SP) and Indo-Portuguese (IP; v. Schuchardt 1883) across a traditionally Gujarati-speaking territory, I maintain that these varieties nowadays play more evident a role in defining social groups than their minority status would seem to allow. Following LePage & Tabouret-Keller’s (1985:248) suggestion that several social groupings (e.g. ethnic, racial, cultural, religious, age) ‘are liable to have linguistic connotations’, I show that the associations of Portuguese in Diu operate on different levels in and across the traditional domains:

a) Religion    

c) Ideology       

e) Economic affluence     

b) Social status

d) Age

e) Education

The perceived distinction between (continuum-type approximations of) SP and IP also operates along some of the previous lines, and is particularly evident concerning the latter. The prestige attached to SP is important to understand the complex ways in which both SP and IP relate to these domains. In this paper, the notion of prestige is invoked, not so much as a driving force for linguistic change but as a factor in understanding certain aspects of the community’s linguistic behaviour.

While English has been officially recognised and upheld by India, SP and IP have been ignored by all official counts (e.g. Census of India 1991 and 2001). As such, Diu presents an interesting case of (peaceful) conflict between colonial and post-colonial linguistic policies that mirror modern-day politics on a national level. In connection to this, a strong case will be made for the necessity of (post-colonial) language policies that do not treat colonial languages as perverse reminders of imperialism but rather, as with IP, as community languages and cultural documents worth preserving.


Department of Planning and Statistics, U. T. Administration of Daman and Diu (2003). Basic data (2002-2003). Daman: Government Printing Press.

LePage, Robert B. & Andrée Tabouret-Keller (1985) Acts of identity: Creole-based approaches to language and ethnicity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Schuchardt, Hugo (1883) “Kreolische Studies III. Ueber das Indoportugiesische von Diu”, em Sitzungsberichte der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Wien (philosophisch-historische Klasse) 103:3-18.

Innovationen und Reproduktionen in Kulturen und Gesellschaften (IRICS) Wien, 9. bis 11. Dezember 2005

WEBDESIGN: Peter R. Horn 2005-10-06