The revitalization of the Portuguese language in Timor-Leste

Author: Karin Noemi Rühle Indart (Universidade Nacional Timor Lorosa\’e)
Speaker: Karin Noemi Rühle Indart
Topic: Linguistic Anthropology
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2019 General Session


In this article we will discuss the mythical meaning of the Portuguese language in Timor-Leste, analyzing, more specifically, the fatalistic view regarding the future of this language in the post-independent country. We conclude that the revitalization of Portuguese is extremely important for the progress of East Timorese nationalism, when we analyze the discourse of fourteen managers and policy makers on the linguistic decisions made in the Timorese education system after independence. The absolute majority of respondents showed a great optimism regarding the permanence and dissemination of Portuguese in the Timorese future, even in the face of pressures to change the language of instruction and the reality of the inconsistency of the Portuguese reintroduction policy in the education system. We find that the language is related to the myth of national origin or the dominant myth and its importance for the construction of national identity and state establishment. This confidence in the future of and through language has several levels, some more pragmatic seek to see the achievable progress; others more idealistic see advances, even small, as a march to progress; there are still the mystics who bind the Portuguese Language to the invisible and miraculous forces that can, in the end, even resurrect a dying national ideal. It is only possible to understand the mythical perspective of the language in the speeches presented under a socio-anthropological perspective and for that reason, we take as main theoretical reference the concepts of collective memory, dominant myth, mythscapes and national identity of Bell (2003). We used a qualitative approach (Biklen & Bogdan 1991) for content analysis (Vala 1986 and Quivy & Campenhoudt 2008) and description of the revitalization process of the Portuguese language presented in interviews.


BELL, D. S. A. (2003). Mythscape: Memory, Mythology, and National Identidy. In British Journal of Sociology, vol. 54, pp. 63-81.

Biklen, Sari & Bogdan Robert. (1994). Investigação Qualitativa em Educação: Uma Introdução a Teorias e Métodos. Porto: Porto Editora.
Quivy, Raymond & Campenhoudt, Luc V. (2008). Manual de Investigação em Ciências Sociais. Lisboa: Gradiva.
Vala, Jorge. (1986). “A Análise de Conteúdo”, in: Augusto S. Silva / José M. Pinto (org.): Metodologias das Ciências Sociais, pp.101-128. Porto: Edições Afrontamento.
Keywords: Portuguese Language Revitalization, Dominant Myth, Timorese National Identity