Nerdy Linguist

I spent a good chunk of last semester studying the effect of society and politics on language in Bolivia. I can only speak for the man I studied, but the results of that study were pretty surprising.
Have you ever read 1984? Do you remember Newspeak? In Newspeak, words that carried any rebellious connotations were deleted until the language would only allow a person to form positive, accepting statements about the government. In theory, if the people couldn't
speak negatively about Big Brother, they couldn't think negatively about him, either.
I went into my study just hoping to find semantic categories (think groups like "food words" "business words") where indigenous words were borrowed into Bolivian Spanish. What I found had nothing to do with semantic categories, but it had a lot to do with government and social class. I studied a man from the Bolivian middle class, and he refused to consciously borrow indigenous words into his Spanish, even though he knew an indigenous language. Why not borrow?
It has a lot to do with Morales, the current president of Bolivia. He's the first indigenous person to ever be elected president of the country, and he has some radical ideas. A lot of his ideology is socialistic. His view on language is far from Big Brother's. He is actually requiring all government officials to learn two of the most common indigenous languages. He's bringing back instruction in these languages in primary schools. And what do the people think? Well, the guy I interviewed thought it was pointless. To him, these languages have been without power for hundreds of years, and a few lessons isn't going to change that.
He likes the indigenous languages, he likes Spanish, and he likes to keep them separate. To him, the lower class uses indigenous languages, the upper class can borrow into their Spanish because they are secure enough in who their positions that they can say whatever they want, but the middle class has to keep both their languages pure. To give up their indigenous languages would be turning back on their heritage, their culture. To use these languages in their Spanish would make them look uneducated. Is this boring to you? To me, it's stuff that makes me want to grab a voice recorder and run after the next Bolivian I see!
Well, one thing's for sure. When I hit the streets of the country of my sangre Latina next week, I'm going to be listening to how people talk and asking them what they think. Bolivia is no 1984, and Bolivians can use whatever words they want to convey the most rebellious thoughts in the world if they desire. Can't wait to hear them.

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