Malagasy at the Mascarenes

Embargo until
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Comparative Studies in Society and History
European expansion from the fifteenth century produced much writing on, and sometimes in, non-European languages that served a broad array of imperial interests. Most European ventures into what one scholar has termed “colonial linguistics” were based on investigations among speakers of native tongues in the regions in which those speakers normally resided, twining language studies with observed “native” cultural qualities and setting out territories of colonial interest defined by local language and culture.1 Fewer colonial linguists ventured into plural societies to study the linguae francae of trade and labor that enabled communication across broad cultural and language differences, in part because such zones were considered dangerous and unstable, or lacking in mother tongues. Fewer still elected destinations of forced migration such as slave societies or freedmen’s towns and villages to examine the mother tongues of persons who had come coercively from afar, though many such settings in certain periods offered a rich menu of languages for study.2 1 Joseph Errington, “Colonial Linguistics,” Annual Review of Anthropology 30 (2001): 19–39. 2 Among the works of this nature are Alonso de Sandoval, Naturaleza policia sagrada y profana, costumbres y ritos, disciplina i cathecismo evange´lico de todos Etiopes (Sevilla, 1627); Sigismund Wilhelm Koelle, Polyglotta Africana: Or, a Comparative Vocabulary of Nearly Three Hundred Words and Phrases in More than One Hundred Distinct African Languages (London, 1854).
Malagasy, Mascarenes, French Revolution
Comparative Studies in Society and History 2007;49(3):582–610.