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City College

Tim S. Raposa

Fishman's GIDS scale





Fishman’s Graded Intergenerational Disruption Scale

To assuage this quagmire, Fishman (1991) constructed a graded intergenerational disruption scale (GIDS) (similar to a Richter scale), ordered from most sociolinguistically disadvantaged (stage 8) to the least (stage 1). Note for this typology the terms “Xish/Xmen” are used to designate any particular threatened language/the speakers of that particular language and “Yish/Ymen” designates any particular dominant language/the speakers of that dominant language, following the occasionally used suffixes “-ish/-men” for various languages and the identity of their speakers:

Stage 8: most vestigial users of Xish are sociallly isolated old folks and Xish needs to be re-assembled from their mouths and memories and taught to demographically unconcentrated adults

Stage 7: most users of Xish are a socially integrated and ethnolinguistically active population but they are beyond child-bearing age

Stage 6: the attainment of intergenerational informal oralcy and its demographic concentration and institutional reinforcement

State 5: Xish literacy in home, school and community, but without taking on extra-communal reinforcement of such literacy

Stage 4: Xish in lower education (types a and b) that meets the requirements of compulsory education laws

Stage 3: use of Xish in the lower work sphere (outside of the Xish neighborhood/community) involving interaction between Xmen and Ymen

Stage 2: Xish in lower governmmental services and mass media but not in the higher spheres of either

Stage 1: some use of Xish in higher level educational, occupational, governmental and media efforts (but without the additional safety provided by political independence)

Although Fishman refers to stages 8-5 as the sien qua non of RLS (104), he elects “stage 6 (or by extension 6 through 4a)” as representing the grassroots Pro-RLSer’s (as Fishman calls those in favor of reversing language shift) first priority concerns for intergenerational mother tongue transmission, while “stages 4b-1 represent the focus on language maintenance…i.e. on the creation of the broader societal environment (going beyond childhood and adolescence to adulthood) in which the transmitted language can prosper and move toward a growing pool of speakers for subsequent intergenerational transmission” (113,114; italics mine).

With transitioning from stage 5 to stage 4, what Fishman calls “crossing the continental divide,” comes an important caveat: “there is as much danger in not crossing the ‘continental divide’ to the degree commensurate with one’s strength, as there is in crossing it prematurely, while still in a condition of internal and external weakness” (114).

At Stage 5 a speech community has “guided literacy” (96) with the purpose of aiding oralcy. Most importantly, Stage 5 is “primarily under intragroup sponsorship, with respect to both its acquisition, its content and its control” and “agencies of RLS-oriented literacy acquisition will receive no governmental funding on the one hand, and will not satisfy compulsory education requirements, on the other hand” (98).

Crossing the “continental divide” from stage 5 to either stage 4a or 4b depends on different degrees of in situ propriety over compulsory education. Community schools at stage 4a, “must accept major Yish authority and input in the ultimate decision as to what is minimally adequate and desirable” for compulsory education, however, use of Xish as a co-medium, in those schools attended only (or primarily) by Xish children and founded and self-supported only (or very largely) by Xish community funds, is, nevertheless, a possible compromise on the part of the polity insofar as the general social consensus is concerned with respect to what is minimally adequate and desirable in education. (99)

Such schools contrast with stage 4b schools which “provide an Xish component in the definition of minimally adequate and desirable education, but that are entirely funded from general tax funds” (100). Yet, Fishman notices that behind the “self-limiting” appearance of the Yish polity is the very same “two-fold” compromise:

Such self-limiting compromises, in which the strong have limited their own power to force the weak to follow the educational pattern so substantially dictated and controlled by the strong, have been made in the name of cultural democracy on several occasions and in several polities, but they require the same twofold compromise on the part of the RLSers…Yish authorities must give (and periodically renew or confirm) permission for such education and must agree to (and approve) Xish preferences in connection with at least part of the definition of what is minimally adequate and desirable in publicly funded education. (100)

Thus, the important difference between type 4a schools and type 4b schools is the degree to which community schools depend (monetarily or otherwise) on the dominant (Yish) polity.

As Fishman sees it, “from the point of view of maintaining the social boundaries that undergird minority language-in-culture, [schools] of type 4a are more completely under Xish control and may better reflect the subtleties of Xish society and culture far better and more fully than can schools of type 4b (101). A very crucial point follows this: Education links those who receive it to the reward system controlled by those who provide it. That is its function and that is what motivates its success. RLS activists must make sure that the education of Xish children links them as early as possible and as closely as possible to the maximal possible Xish cultural reward system. (102)

Self-regulation becomes more of a risk with increasing interactional dependency on the dominant language-in-culture. But, “RLS movements that safely secure stage 5 and below can remain intergenerationally secure, provided they can maintain sufficient ethnocultural separation from Yish encroachment on their own family-home-neighborhood-community intragroup institutional bases” (105).

The indigenous leaders at Sapukai now control Kringue Yvotyty. Since its curriculum is soon to be officially recognized in lieu of compulsory education, the Mbyá Guaraní at Sapukai, an ethnolinguistic minority group, are at Stage 4.

Recalling Fishman, “RLS activists must make sure that the education of [Mbyá Guaraní] children links them as early as possible and as closely as possible to the maximal possible [Mbyá Guaraní] cultural reward system” (1991: 102).

What constitutes the Mbyá Guaraní reward system at Sapukai? In addition to the impermeable bond that inheres between their religion and their native language, the Mbyá Guaraní of Sapukai have other socially structured prerogatives for their language. The Guaraní language is first taught in the family and is the first and only taught language in the school until children reach the age of 12, at which time they begin to learn Portuguese. But among them only the Guaraní language is spoken, in and outside, the community. So the most important reward is being able to speak with one’s kin and be included in the religious rituals. Portuguese is only spoken when conversing with Brazilians, although there may be a few Portuguese words used in Guaraní conversations where there are no semantic substitutes in Guaraní.

Thus, for the Mbyá Guaraní at Sapukai, Stages 6 through 4a, the grassroots first priority concerns of RLS movements are stable. These stages are vital to any RLS movements, but does success here ensure that graduates will continue to prefer speaking their native language?

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This page was last updated: Thursday, December 7, 2006 at 1:30:08 PM