osp blog

The politics of typography

The open source font Gentium and The SIL Open Font License are both developed and distributed by S.I.L., also known as The Summer Institute for Linguistics, apparently a subsidiary of the Wicliffe Bible Translators. S.I.L. has developed large-scale ethno-linguistic research projects such as http://www.ethnologue.org, an attempt to map all indigenous languages of the world. The S.I.L. site does not give much information about the protestant character of it's mission, so we had to look for it somewhere else. Marcio Ferreira da Silva (Universidade de Sao Paulo) about the activities of S.I.L. in Brazil:

"S.I.L.'s objectives are no different from those of any other traditional mission: the conversion of the indians and the saving of their souls. Their methods, however, are in some ways peculiar, incorporating a bilingual educational model which is an integral part of their evangelical strategy."

"The judicial and administrative references from the beginning of the seventies should therefore be interpreted as the coming together of the religiously dogmatic educational model idealized by S.I.L. and the indigenous framework put forward by the military regime. In the Indian Statute - a law passed in 1973 -, for example, there is explicit reference to teaching reading and writing "in the language of the group to which they belong", but nothing regarding the of official recognition of these languages as means of communication with these ethnically different minorities (...) Overall, the teaching of communication skills in native language, included in law in the seventies, is born of a purely instrumental missionary practice."