Thursday, April 24, 2008

Language Policy Statement Of The Garifuna Nation

Adopted at CABO meeting Dec. 1997

We, the Garifuna people, although living within the borders of various countries (including but not limited to Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, St. Vincent, and the United States), represent a single, united ethnic community known as the Garifuna Nation. Our language is the Garifuna language. This language has a dictionary, a working orthography, and a corpus of literature and descriptive grammatical work.

The Garifuna people recognize the natural and inherent interconnectedness of language and culture and that our language is the primary vehicle for the transmission of our culture. We believe that our survival depends on both the preservation of our traditional language and on social and economic development. Therefore, language policies and goals described here also impact and are intimately connected with our economic development and cultural survival.

As an indigenous people, the Garifuna Nation has basic rights to autonomy and self-determination, and the right to maintain and preserve Garifuna language and culture. Further, the Garifuna Nation recognizes the right of the Garifuna communities and member organizations in each country to establish and implement local level language policies and development initiatives, and expects these rights to be guaranteed by local governments, as described by the United Nations Draft Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

We, the Garifuna Nation, declare that our ancestral language is Garifuna, and that Garifuna is the language of the Garifuna Nation, regardless of the level of individual competence.


In order to ensure the survival of the Garifuna language, the Garifuna Nation adopts the following language maintenance policies. In the process, we expect recognition of the Garifuna language by the governments of Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala.

These policies are reflected in the thrust of the Garifuna National Language Program, and will result in the formation and execution of language preservation projects and initiatives at all levels within the Garifuna Nation. The Garifuna Nation encourages its various communities to develop local level language maintenance strategies which are tailored to the unique circumstances and needs of the given community.

Lexical expansion
Our Garifuna language is a modern language capable of expressing the complete range of human communicative intentions. Our language is also capable of lexical expansion into contemporary technical and specialized semantic fields, including mathematics, information technology, economics, politics, science, etc. We hereby mandate the formation of a special international Garifuna committee to develop and determine appropriate new vocabulary so that Garinagu may speak on any subject without resorting to the use of foreign lexemes. This committee will represent Garinagu from all the various geographic regions, and will meet on a regular basis in an on-going process of development of new vocabulary where needed.

Corpus planning
The Garifuna Nation is committed to the finalization and standardization of a Garifuna orthography which is acceptable to all speakers. Much orthographic work has already been accomplished, and the remaining linguistic and stylistic questions will be resolved and a standardized Garifuna orthography adopted in the near future.

The Garifuna Nation also mandates the training of teachers and other interested and appropriate individuals in the use of the new Garifuna orthography (reading and writing), in order to promote and promulgate the production of literature, plays, videos, and other cultural materials in Garifuna. Access to publication will also be secured for all regions. We believe that the acquisition of literacy in the ancestral language will expand the domains of use of the Garifuna language, and will allow contemporary Garinagu the maximum potential for creative expression in their language.

Language acquisition and use
The Garifuna Nation recognizes that the single most important factor in the survival of our language is its transmission to the children. Our goal is for all Garifuna children to learn the ancestral language in the natural way, in the home, and we call on Garifuna parents to reclaim Garifuna as the language of the home.

For Garifuna parents whose competence in the language is imperfect, local programs to help parents improve their mastery of Garifuna should be implemented.

The Garifuna Nation recognizes the need for greater opportunities to practice and use the ancestral language, and calls for the establishment of fora at all levels promoting use of the language. In addition, we realize that elder speakers are a valuable linguistic resource, and we encourage the consultation of elder speakers and their involvement with language learners. In turn, elder speakers should be encouraging and supportive of language learners.

Resources and funding
In order to put into action Garifuna language maintenance, preservation, and revitalization efforts, we require resources, both human and monetary. The Garifuna Nation welcomes all persons seriously interested in participating in or contributing to the Garifuna National Language Program. In addition, grant writing skills will be developed at various levels within the Garifuna Nation in order to secure necessary funds for the enactment of our goals.

Linguistic documentation
The Garifuna Nation is committed to the development of a comprehensive grammatical description of our language which can be adapted for use in the classroom, facilitating the formal instruction of our children in Garifuna.

In general, Garifuna people welcome the interest of linguists in our unique language. We expect, however, a high degree of cultural sensitivity and responsibility. In addition, we require copies of any work produced which deals with our language, and especially appreciate materials and other work which may also be utilized in our language preservation and revitalization efforts.

The Garifuna Nation expects recognition of the Garifuna language by the governments of Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala.


Through this statement, the Garifuna Nation makes known our intention to exercise greater control over the schools in our communities and over the education of our children, rights guaranteed to us in the United Nations Draft Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as other national and regional agreements and legislation.

The Garifuna Nation requires of national and local governments not only recognition of the legal right to maintain our language, but implementation of the effective right to maintain our language through the allocation of resources, personnel, funds and equipment.

Schools in all Garifuna communities will institute a curriculum teaching the history and culture of the Garifuna people, including the story of the origin of the Garinagu and the Garifuna language, aspects of Garifuna cosmology, traditional Garifuna foods, and Garifuna songs and dance.

The Garifuna Nation also expects to act on our right to educate our children in our traditional Garifuna language, through programs designed to meet the educational, linguistic, and cultural preservation needs and goals of each individual Garifuna community within the Garifuna Nation. As an indigenous people, the Garifuna Nation reserves the right for our children to be educated in their ancestral language as a first or second language.

In keeping with the historical Garifuna tradition of academic excellence, the Garifuna Nation expects for our children an education which is culturally sensitive and linguistically responsible, and also prepares our children for the wider social context. We assert that our children are fully capable of developing a high level of mastery in both their ancestral language and the national language, and expect the use of Garifuna as a medium of instruction to increase student success and performance, increase student awareness and knowledge of their culture and history, and enhance educational opportunity; in addition, we believe that the inclusion of our language and culture in the school program in our communities will reaffirm traditional Garifuna values and pride in each of the nation states of which we are a part.

In addition to the use of our ancestral language in the formal education of our children, the Garifuna Nation also calls for the initiation of Garifuna language instruction at all levels for any and all interested persons. These are to include courses of instruction for non-speakers of the language, as well as courses for Garifuna speakers who wish to acquire literacy in the language.




To facilitate and encourage the development and implementation of programs and projects with a view to ensuring the preservation, promotion, development and wider utilization of the Garifuna language.


1) To facilitate the development of the Garifuna language.
2) To standardize the orthography of the Garifuna language.
3) To facilitate the publication of literature including language learning and teaching materials.
4) To facilitate the acquisition of Garifuna language skills.
5) To provide fora that promote the use of Garifuna language skills.

Expected Results

1. Language Development
C The lexicon is expanded.
C There is an international mechanism in place for the development of new words and its authority is recognized and accepted in the entire Garifuna Nation.
C There is a mechanism for promulgating the agreements emerging from the language development efforts.
C The Garifuna language is used in domains for which it is currently inadequate.

2. A Standardized Orthography
C Orthographic agreements negotiated by influential persons from the participating countries and published and accepted everywhere.
C An orthographic guide is published and widely disseminated.

3. The Acquisition of Garifuna Language Skills
C Materials for teaching and learning Garifuna available
C A cadre of persons available in each participating country to deliver classes in Garifuna Language and Culture.
C Schools participate effectively in the transmission of Garifuna language and cultural skills.
C Programs in place in each country to encourage and facilitate the acquisition and use of Garifuna language skills.
C Garifuna households are supportive environments for Garifuna language learning.

4. The Publication of Literature in Garifuna
C Publishing capability developed by at least one Garifuna organization in each country.
C Assistance available to writers in Garifuna to improve their work and to get it published.
C Writers are recognized and international awards given for outstanding achievement in writing in Garifuna.
C Distribution network in place to market and make published works available in each of our countries.

5. Fora Promoting the Use of Garifuna
C Garifuna established as the primary language used in Garifuna sponsored events.
C Periodic contests are held that require competence in Garifuna language and culture.

6.Secure Financial Resources
C Local sources of financial and other resources identified and commitments secured.
C Financial support secured from external sources.

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