How is Native language discussed in A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid? Give examples. In other words, how is the national/native language of Antigua exploited by the colonizers?

In A Small Place, Jamaica Kincaid discusses the fact that the national language of Antigua is English and that the British colonists have deliberately eliminated other languages. This means that even criticism of the crimes of colonialism must be expressed in the native language of the colonist, preventing an honest discussion of those crimes.

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In A Small Place, Jamaica Kincaid describes the role of language in the colonizing process. The national language of Antigua is English, and all other languages in the country are repressed or marginalized, including the original language of the islanders and even the Creole once spoken by the slaves. Kincaid points out that the use of English as the national language has achieved two goals for the colonizers. First, it has effectively extinguished all Antiguan culture except that of the colonial power, making Englishness synonymous with culture (which, she says, is the role of the Minister of Culture). Second, it has forced even those like Kincaid herself, who condemn the crimes of the British colonists, to "speak of this crime in the language of the criminal."

This, for Kincaid, is the greatest linguistic indignity of all. She explains eloquently, in the language of the criminals she condemns,

the language of the criminal can contain only the goodness of the criminal's deed. The language of the criminal can explain and express the deed only from the criminal's point of view. It cannot contain the horror of the deed, the injustice of the deed, the agony, the humiliation inflicted on me.

Kincaid goes on to say that the colonizers, who were always the masters of the language they used and imposed on others, just as they were masters of the slaves upon whom they imposed it, inevitably understand even such words as "right" and "wrong" according to their own corrupt moral codes. It is "wrong" when they do not receive their fair share of profits from slavery or when they are cheated by a slave trader. The slaves and their descendants have no language of their own in which to express the fundamental wrongness of slavery and are forced to use violence instead, which the colonizers then condemn as "wrong" in the language they have made universal and definitive.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on June 23, 2020
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