Peace Linguistics: Contributions of Peacelinguactivist Francisco Gomes de Matos

EDUCATION, 23 Dec 2019

Jocelyn Wright | Humanising Language Teaching – TRANSCEND Media Service


Dec 2019 – If you have not heard of Brazilian language teacher, teacher trainer, scholar, human rights activist, and poet Francisco Cardoso Gomes de Matos, you may be curious to learn that his achievements include, among others: being a key advocate of peace linguistics (Crystal, 2004; Friedrich, 2007b) and contributing to the creation of international documents such as his 1984 Plea for a Language Rights Declaration, published by the Fédération Internationale des Professeurs de Langues Vivantes in FIPLV World News, co-sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the 1987 Declaration of Recife (on Linguistic Rights), published by Multilingua, and the 1996 Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights (UDLR, known as the Barcelona Declaration), approved by PEN International and co-sponsored by non-governmental organizations, again with the support of UNESCO (Craig, 2003; Gomes de Matos, 1985, 2004a; UNESCO, 1996).

Even before the term peace linguistics was first formally defined in Crystal’s (1999) A Dictionary of Language, this distinguished applied linguist began giving workshops and presentations and publishing academic and creative works educating about and promoting peace. His contributions to this emerging field are noteworthy.

In the last 25 years, numerous scholars and practitioners have been inspired by and joined the peace linguistics movement. However, this is not apparent to all. In 2017, for example, Curtis, a prominent member of the international association Teacher of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), published a professional article asking ‘Whatever happened to peace linguistics?’ following an academic review of literature entitled ‘Back from the battlefield: Resurrecting peace linguistics.’ This reveals that the peace-building efforts of Gomes de Matos (and others) in the field of language education are not as well-known as they should be.

In this paper, with an eye on (especially English) language teaching and learning, the goal is to introduce Gomes de Matos; share some of his original contributions reinforced by a sprinkling of his poetic works; and discuss these so as to address Curtis’ (2017b) question and shed brighter light on the current reality.

Biographical information about Gomes de Matos

From various sources (interviews, biographies, books, and academic reports) and generous responses to fact-checking inquiries by Gomes de Matos himself, we learn about his early life, interdisciplinary university studies, employment history and career path, and work with associations, all of which have inspired his contributions.

Gomes de Matos was born in Crato-Ceará, Brazil in 1933 and raised in Recife. At about nine years old, he first came into contact with English, learning it through interactions with American military personnel stationed there (APIRS, 2005). Subsequently, he came to love the language (Gomes de Matos, 2004b) and pursued it passionately because he wanted to share his knowledge with others.

As an undergraduate, he studied Portuguese, English, and German language and literature (1953-1956) and law (1956-1959) at Universidade Federal de Pernambuco in Recife (UFPE). In the second half of 1955, he participated in the International Teacher (of English) Development Program (ITDP) at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he pursued his postgraduate studies in linguistics (1959-1960). Continuously developing professionally, he attended the summer Linguistic Institute (1964) of the Linguistic Society of America at Indiana University in Bloomington and the landmark first Latin American Linguistic Institute (1966) at the Universidad de la República in Montevideo. Later (1971-1973), he completed a doctorate in applied linguistics at Pontifícia Universidade Católica in São Paulo (PUC-SP) amidst many professional activities described next.

Gomes de Matos, “one of the most productive Brazilian linguists” (Freitas de Luna, 2013, p. 317), began his eminent, international career teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) privately in the early 1950s. He next taught at a public high school as well as for the binational center Sociedade Cultural Brasil Estados Unidos and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), where he also taught his native Portuguese from 1957-1959. While on fellowship, he also taught both languages at the University of Michigan English Language Institute.

After returning to Brazil, Gomes de Matos began transitioning from teaching languages to applied linguistics, doing teacher training, and research. He first taught English for Specific Purposes (ESP) at his alma mater, UFPE (1961-1963), until linguistics became an instituted discipline there. Beside this, he taught linguistics at Universidade Federal da Paraíba (UFPB) in João Pessoa (1962-1963).

When appointed pedagogical director of the new Instituto do idiomas Yázigi, which housed the Centro de Lingüística Aplicada in 1966, he moved from Recife to São Paulo. He worked at the increasingly influential center until 1979. Concurrently, he served as an advisor for teachers of languages and linguistics at Serviço Nacional de Aprendizagem Comercial (SENAC-SP), a national professional education institute, and also taught linguistics at PUC-SP (1966-1979), except for time away as a visiting scholar at the University of Texas in Austin (1966), teaching at two Inter-American Linguistic Institutes for Programa Interamericano de Lingüística y Enseñanza de Idiomas (PILEI), first in Mexico City (1968) then in São Paulo (1969), and as a visiting scholar at the University of Ottawa two summers after.

From 1980 until retiring as Professor Emeritus of Linguistics in 2003, he taught at UFPE, having taught even longer (1980-2015) at the Teacher’s College Faculdade Frassinetti do Recife (formerly Faculdade de Filosofia do Recife, FAFIRE) except while sojourning as a Fulbright Visiting Professor teaching Portuguese at the University of Georgia in Athens (1985-1986). In 1988, he co-founded another institute, the Associação Brasil América (ABA) Global Education in Recife, for which he is currently President of the Board.

Over the last five decades, his research interests have evolved, starting with a shift from (general) applied linguistics to humanizing linguistics in the late 1970s. His focus on learners’ rights in the 1980s was a precursor to his pioneering work in peace linguistics in the 1990s. More recently, he has been involved with a newer area: nonkilling linguistics. All of these are outlined in later sections.

Gomes de Matos’ involvement in numerous professional associations and humanistic organizations also reflects his eclectic set of interests. Especially in the 1960s, he assisted in the pioneering of linguistics and language teaching associations and programs, such as the first PILEI in Cartagena in 1963. Significantly, the PILEI symposium he helped host in São Paulo in 1969 signaled the launching of sociolinguistics in Brazil (Gomes de Matos & Maris Bortoni, 1991). That year, he played a foundational role as first secretary of Associação Brasileira de Linguística (ABRALIN) and later (1981-1983) as president. Another association he actively helped to found in 1990 was Associação de Lingüística Aplicada do Brasil (ALAB). Internationally, he has been involved with language teaching associations as renowned as FIPLV, TESOL, Association Internationale de Linguistique Appliquée (AILA), and The Modern Language Association (MLA). As for humanistic organizations, Gomes de Matos is still active in many positions today. For instance, he is a member of the Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies’ (HDHS) Global Core Team, The Institute for Research on Unlimited Love, the Nonkilling Linguistics Research Committee of the Center for Global Nonkilling, and the Dom Hélder Câmara Human Rights Commission at UFPE.

 Key contributions of Gomes de Matos

Gomes de Matos believes in praxis as “reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it” (Freire, 1996, p. 33) or, in his specific terminology, reflaction (Friedrich, 2012b, p. 160). Thus, his contributions include both critical reflection and social action; they are both philosophical and pragmatic in nature (Gomes de Matos, 1991a; 2000). Work related to theory, action, and education that demonstrate his commitment to peace are explored here.

2.1 Conceptual contributions

Core to Gomes de Matos’ philosophy is a deep concern for human rights. As he states: “it is my conviction that human beings’ right to a peaceful and just life should be matched by a corresponding human responsibility to communicate peacefully” (Gomes de Matos, 2000, pp. 340-341). For this, a certain worldview helps, and his is depicted through a selection of important concepts, which are among his legacy.

HUMANIZing RIGHTS: A terminological plea

How humanizing is Humanism
When we speak of Human Rights?
Let’s give the concept dynamism
and also call it HUMANIZing RIGHTS

(Gomes de Matos, cited in HDHS, 2018)

Since the 1970s, Gomes de Matos has been preoccupied with the issue of humanizing (cf. humanistic) language teaching and learning (Gomes de Matos, 2002b). This is because, as a doctoral student, he noticed that the humanizing nature of language was not recognized among the accepted principles of linguistics (Gomes de Matos, 1994).

In 1977, he reportedly posed the following questions in a postface of a dictionary: How can language users be more linguistically humanized and how can teachers, students, teaching methods and materials be more humanizing? (da Costa & Barqueta, 2009; Gomes de Matos, 2004a). In line with this are insights presented in his 1982 article ‘Toward a human-improving applied linguistics’. He firmly believes that teachers should be transformative agents, which he calls humanizers, or people “imbued with the ideals and principles of human rights, justice, and peace and committed to applying them in their personal/professional actions” (Gomes de Matos, 2000, p. 341). According to him, a humanizer additionally values and demonstrates solidarity and compassion (APIRS, 2005).

Years later, Gomes de Matos (2008a) feels that humanization is still lacking in language education. He believes that “providing learners with dignifying and edifying learning experiences”, rather than humiliating and destructive ones, should be a core mission (Gomes de Matos, 1996, para. 2, original italics). His vision of dignifiers, another term this wordplay artist is known for, is of people “committed to help build a world of equal dignity to all” (personal correspondence, 11 July 2018). His strong conviction is also echoed in his World Dignity University motto: “Dignity makes the world go right/humiliation makes the world go wrong” (HDHS, 2018). His conclusion in ‘A HumanizING LIFE: A poem plea’ is that we should “seek a humanizing life/And live by humanizing rights!/That can humanize all humankind/And help us become humanizers!” (HDHS, 2018).

Peace Day: A poem plea

Establish a day as Peace Day?
Peace is needed all the time
Every day should be Peace Day
That’s my plea in this rhyme

(Gomes de Matos, cited in HDHS, 2018)

Another area of love and labor for Gomes de Matos has been peace linguistics (PL), a recent branch of peace studies (Friedrich, 2007a; 2007b; Gomes de Matos, 2018). Crystal defined it as

A climate of opinion which emerged during the 1990s, in which linguistic principles, methods, findings, and applications were seen as a means of promoting peace and human rights at a global level [adding that the approach] asserts the need to foster language attitudes which respect the dignity of individual speakers and speech communities (Crystal, 1999, pp. 254-255).

Practically, in this quest for sustainable peace, actors in the interdisciplinary field of PL attempt to create adequate “conditions for language users to communicate peacefully in varied settings” (Gomes de Matos, 2018, p. 291). More formally, PL “is concerned with the application of the insights gained from the (scientific) study of language to practical problems, such as how to help bring about world peace” (Curtis, 2018a, p. 12).

Gomes de Matos is a pioneer in PL. Citing Crystal, peace sociolinguist Friedrich notes that he “is probably the first self-proclaimed peace linguist” (Friedrich, 2007b, p. 52). In Crystal’s (2004) words: “Some [linguists], such as the Brazilian professor Francisco Gomes de Matos, have gone so far as to describe themselves explicitly as ‘applied peace linguists’” (Crystal, 2004, p. 24). Going further, psychologist Evelin Linder claims he is “one of the most important present-day peace linguists” (quoted in Gomes de Matos, 2017, p. 9).

As already mentioned, his work supporting linguistic rights in the 1980s culminated in the publication of a related plea and declaration. His efforts to advocate for PL officially debuted in 1987. After he learned about the first UNESCO-initiated Linguapax meeting, he reportedly published a brief note in the Greek Journal of Applied Linguistics in which he “made a case for Peace as a new universal in language education” (Gomes de Matos, 2004a, p. 188; 2014a, p. 416).

Soon after, he began talking about communicative peace in professional articles in FIPLV World News, such as ‘What the world needs now: Communicative peace’ (Gomes de Matos, 1991b) and ‘Using foreign languages for communicative peace’ (Gomes de Matos, 1992). Essentially, this involves “communicating constructively, in human-dignifying ways” or, to put it in his native tongue, “Comunicar bem é comunicar para o bem [Communicating well means communicating for the well-being of humankind]” (Gomes de Matos, 2000, p. 343). Gomes de Matos saw communicative peace as an extension of communicative competence (Freudenstein, 1992; Gomes de Matos, 2000; 2004a). This neologism garnered international attention (Freudenstein, 1992) and was even endorsed in 1993 by the sociolinguist Dell Hymes, who communicated the following:

So far as I know, you are the first person to connect the communicative dimension directly with the notion of peace. Of course the peaceful solution of human problems is of central concern to Habermas and his use of the notion of communicative competence, and many […] would regard communicative problems as barriers to peace. But the sharp conjunction of the phrase communicative peace seems to go farther, [suggesting] not only mediation, but meditation, the achievement of a peace within persons that is more than absence of conflict, but a state of being (Gomes de Matos, 2000, p. 339).

Gomes de Matos (2000) emphasizes the need to distinguish between simply communicating about peace and taking the more transformative action stance of communicating peacefully (p. 343). The outcome of using communicative peace is summed up in the title of another chapter: ‘LIF PLUS: The life-improving force of peaceful language use’ (Gomes de Matos, 2012). He earnestly believes we should “Learn to speak peace, the only global language that will cause violent communication to cease” (personal communication, 12 July 2018).

More than a universally avoided violence
It’s the constructing of peaceful permanence
More than preventing the evils of violence
Let’s universally sustain Nonkilling sense

(Gomes de Matos, cited in Friedrich, 2012a, p. 17).

Under the umbrella of PL, sociolinguistic work is also currently being undertaken in a new area called nonkilling linguistics (NKL), pioneered by Friedrich and Gomes de Matos (2012) and promoted through the initiating Center for Global Nonkilling set up by the political scientist Glenn Paige. To help us understand the concrete term nonkilling, Friedrich (2012a) explains that it is

[A]n absolutely measurable objective, one that can manifest itself both literally and figuratively [and that] speaks both to the goal of preserving the physical lives of individuals, communities, other species, the environment as well as the more metaphorical but also extremely important survival of languages, cultures, histories (oral and written), literary manifestations, etc. (p. 11).

Just as for communicative peace, in NKL, the aim is for languages to be used for peacemaking. However, because peace as a concept seems abstract to some (Friedrich, 2012a), this recent branch aspires to more than just deterring violence. Friedrich and Gomes de Matos (2012) note that

It is easy enough to observe that languages can be employed as instruments of harm […]. Thus, it seems intuitive to us that we need to tip the scale in the opposite direction by reinforcing instead those humanizing uses of language which help boost respect for human dignity and social inclusion. By doing so we may in some direct and indirect ways be advancing a nonkilling mentality (pp. 17-18).

Simply put, the aim of nonkilling linguistics is to use “principles of linguistics to help language users avoid and prevent acts of communicative violence and killing” (Gomes de Matos, 2014c, p. 198).

This section concludes with a reflective quote that still resonates today: “The road from [my] 1973 thesis to the present has been travelled on with the conviction that only by probing hitherto established concepts […] can we aspire to exercise our right to innovate for the well-being of learners and teachers and the communities in which they interact” (Gomes de Matos, 1994, p. 109).

2.2 Political contributions

Gomes de Matos’ political contributions are too numerous to mention exhaustively, and he (e.g. 2018) is still actively advocating for peace in language planning and education at macro, meso, and micro levels. This section highlights advances in two notable areas: learner rights and diplomatic training.

Freudenstein (2005) describes Gomes de Matos as “one of the foremost fighters for linguistic rights of students and the most prominent representative of peace education in the foreign- and second-language profession” (p. 245). Prior to 1984, recognition of learners’ language rights (and responsibilities) was not explicit, although Gomes de Matos (2002b) acknowledges the early efforts of humanist and critical scholars such as Gertrude Moskowitz and Paulo Freire, respectively.

From the 1980s, he invested energy towards furthering learners’ linguistic and intercultural rights (Gomes de Matos, 1994). According to him, “Language learning is humanising to the extent that, first and foremost, language learners’ rights be identified, recognised, respected, and implemented” (p. 107). He justifies this stance by saying, “Not only do I consider the importance of teachers’ perceptions of their own linguistic rights, but also learners’, since pedagogy has to be centered on two cooperating, and mutually motivating partners: the teacher and the learner” (Martel, 1998, sect. Linguistic educational rights in Brazil, para. 3).

Although this seems obvious today, back then, there were few discussions of linguistic rights in general (Gomes de Matos, 1985) and discussions on learners had focused mainly on their needs and interests (Gomes de Matos, 1986). Rights (e.g. to participate in decision-making and the selection of goals, topics, materials, and techniques) had “not yet been acknowledged in the scientific or educational literature” (Gomes de Matos, 1986, p. 9).

In his aforementioned 1984 plea, he penned two pioneering typologies of linguistic rights in which he recognizes both different rights and users. An abridged version of Gomes de Matos (2007) appears in Table 1. In support, Crystal writes in the Preface to the first edition of The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language, published in 1987, that Gomes de Matos’ 1984

[P]oints to the widespread occurrence of linguistic prejudice and discrimination around the world, and to the problems people face when they wish to receive special help in language learning and use. All people have the right to use their mother tongue, to learn a second language, to receive special treatment when suffering from a language handicap… but in many parts of the world, these rights are absent or inadequately provisioned (2010, p. vi).

Table 1: Two Typologies of Linguistic Rights

Typology 1 Typology 2
The right to ….

1.     Experience linguistic equality

2.     Acquire/learn one’s native language

3.     Use one’s native language

4.     Make one’s own linguistic choices

5.     Maintain and sustain one’s native language

6.     Enrich and value one’s native language

7.     Acquire/learn a second language

8.     Comprehend and attempt to produce language

9.     Receive specialized medical treatment for communication disorders

The individual linguistic rights of …

1.     Children

2.     Parents

3.     Learners

4.     Teachers

5.     Authors, writers, journalists

6.     Patients

7.     Women

8.     Bilinguals

9.     Participants in international meetings

In addition to advocating directly for these rights and others (cf. typologies in his 1986 and 2002b works), his early aims included “arousing and fostering awareness, both nationally and internationally, so that respect to a person’s language acquisition and language learning rights [are] both preached (disseminated) as well as practiced” (Gomes de Matos, 1986, p. 9).

After the achievement of the 1996 Barcelona Declaration, Gomes de Matos was optimistically confident that the linguistic rights declaration would have a positive impact on constitutions, legislation, educational policy, planning, and teacher education as well as multilingualism and interculturalism (Martel, 1998). However, twenty-one years after his initial plea, he “draws upon his path-paving career in linguistic rights and peace linguistics” (Cunningham & Hatoss, 2005, p. 17) to present another call for the rights of language users in his chapter ‘The fundamental communicative right: A plea’ (Gomes de Matos, 2005b). In a recent interview, Gomes de Matos declares that this critical issue with special regard to English as second and foreign language learners is still little explored (Scholes, 2018, p. 12).

Gomes de Matos often underscores the importance of collective action in his advocacy with this phrase: “Love your communicative neighbor” (Gomes de Matos, 2005a; 2008b). In an attempt to apply communicative peace, he has written about diplomatic communication. In 2000, he published ‘Harmonizing and humanizing political discourse’, a paper in which he promotes contributions of PL to the production and interpretation of discourse. This was followed by a conference paper, further calling for a transformation of “Diplomatic Communication into dignified and dignifying discourse” (Gomes de Matos, 2001, p. 287, original boldface).

In Coleman, Deutsch, and Marcus’ The Handbook of Conflict Resolution: Theory and research, he discusses ‘Language, peace, and conflict resolution’ (Gomes de Matos, 2014c, pp. 182-202). More recently still, he applies his pedagogy of positiveness to diplomatic communication in a chapter in Friedrich’s English for Diplomatic Purposes (Gomes de Matos, 2016).

Recognizing that “We can communicate in socially responsible or irresponsible ways; [and] bring out communicative harmony or disharmony” (Gomes de Matos, 2001, p. 282), he has long been at the forefront of language use advocacy. Being one to practice what he preaches, Gomes de Matos raises awareness of (de)humanizing uses of language throughout his original literary and scholarly publications (only a fraction of which are referred to in this paper). In these, he has paid acute attention to language choice for peace, publicly implementing his aforementioned motto, “Comunicar bem é comunicar para o bem”.

2.3 Educational contributions

In addition to research efforts and political action, Gomes de Matos’ educational contributions have resulted in concrete outcomes based on his philosophical outlook. It is now obvious “that fostering communicative peace and working on humanizing students” are two goals he sets for language education (Friedrich, 2007b, p. 52) and are clearly connected to his definition of applied peace linguistics “as an interdisciplinary approach aimed at helping educational systems create conditions for the preparation of human beings as peaceful language users” (Gomes de Matos, 2014c, p. 186). In personal communication on 12 July 2018, Gomes de Matos writes:

In the history of language teaching, schools expect students-as-language-users/learners to be able to communicate cogently, coherently, cohesively, concisely, correctly, and creatively. Why not also constructively/peacefully? Because LIF PLUS (yes, LIF) is not yet known and implemented globally. LIF PLUS stands for the Life Improving Force of Peaceful Language Use. To help language/literacy educators globalize peaceful communication, PEACE LINGUISTICS, an emerging branch of Applied Linguistics, is slowly rising.

Because of his belief that “The responsibility to learn how to use a language humanisingly should be one of the fundamental rights of all language users and essential in the preparation of L2 learners” (Gomes de Matos, 2002b, p. 308), he has led the way in advocating for humanizing changes in content, methods, and materials through curricular offerings and pedagogy.

While the 1987 International Seminar in Human Rights and Cultural Rights, co-sponsored by UNESCO, in which he lectured, was a landmark (Gomes de Matos, 2018), he facilitated workshops and taught other courses in applied linguistics and human rights to pre- and in-service teachers of Portuguese and English up until 2015 (Institute for Research on Unlimited Love, 2018; Martel, 1998).

Internationally, Gomes de Matos has made scholarly contributions to theoretical as well as applied linguistics with an impact on teaching for general as well as special domains (i.e. ESP), such as translation (Gomes de Matos, 1991a), politics (Gomes de Matos, 2000), and diplomatic communication (Gomes de Matos, 2001, 2016).

Currently, he coordinates two projects for HDHS: HumanDHS’s World Language for Equal Dignity Project and HumanDHS’s Creativity Through Equal Dignity Project. (HDHS, 2018). In terms of other initiatives, he also helped found the World Dignity University initiative (HDHS, 2018), “dedicated to the human rights ideal that all humans deserve to live dignified lives [and envisaged] as an academic ‘network of networks,’ a unity of universities, linked together by a shared commitment to dignity and peace” (Lindner, Hartling, Slaven, Spalthoff & Britton, 2010, pp. 6-8)

Freudenstein (2005) highlights that “[i]n order to achieve ‘communicative peace’, basic changes in educational thinking must take place” (p. 243), stating that this is what Gomes de Matos has been after: “[He] has repeatedly pointed out that peace-related items should not just be interspersed with other material and become only one topic among others. It ought rather to be accepted as an underlying philosophy; as a form of thinking from which all classroom activities should profit” (p. 245).

Gomes de Matos’ attempt at applying his concept of communicative peace to language education culminated in his pedagogy of positiveness, which, basically, consists of cultivating positive perceptions and responsible actions, including humanizing communication (Gomes de Matos, 2018). As stated in ‘Are you a humanizer?’ (1996), Gomes de Matos’ key question is: How can vocabulary and communication skills contribute to strengthening the learners’ sense of self-respect and respect for others? He puts forth one concrete way: the use of positivizers.

Gomes de Matos coined the term to refer to words “that convey positiveness, a positive attitude or perception” (Gomes de Matos 2016, p. 175) and, as a result, “reflect/enhance inherently constructive actions and attributes or qualities in human beings” (Gomes de Matos, 2001, p. 286). Examples of activities to teach these are found throughout his works (e.g. Gomes de Matos, 2000; 2002a; 2005a; 2008b; 2014a; 2014b; 2016). Below are a few stanzas from a plea to “users of mental marvels for meaning-making [to] communicative from the heart”:

A Plea for Using Positivizers

Let’s learn to use words that create affect
and their role in doing good let’s weigh
for kindness has a communicative effect
on how constructively we live every day
Let’s use words that humanize
And help Justice to restore
Let´s use words that positivize
And say to harm: Never more!

Let’s use words that help build self-confidence
and encourage people everywhere to cooperate
Let’s learn to express a strong interdependence
and a spirit of planetary citizenship celebrate

(Gomes de Matos, 2016, pp. 187-188)

Postivizers can, of course, be contrasted with negativizers (Gomes de Matos, 2000, 2016), which in being less peace-promoting, are less life-affirming, life-enhancing, life-saving, life-supporting, and life-sustaining (Gomes de Matos, 2018, p 291).

Undoubtedly over a career spanning more than 60 years, his research, advocacy, and teaching have touched the minds and hearts of thousands of students, trainees, practitioners, professionals, colleagues, scholars, and other readers from across the globe with ripple effects.


Peace talks
In gentle words
On firm beliefs
Through kind actions
With a planetary spirit

(Gomes de Matos, cited in HDHS, 2018)

In addition to presenting Gomes de Matos, this paper has set out to share some of his valuable lifework, focusing on specific theoretical, political, and educational contributions. If ever there were someone who literally follows Abraham Mustes’ quote “There is no way to peace; peace is the way”, Gomes de Matos is one of them. Appreciatively, Friedrich (2012a) notes:

[He] has always been in the forefront of linguist pursuits as they relate to peace and, now, nonkilling. […] Gomes de Matos was helping forge that discipline (as well as important linguistic rights documents) before many people were even aware this realm could be so prolific. We thank him for his vision and inspiration and […] insights on dignity, peace, nonkilling and diversity (p. 12).

Gomes de Matos may not be known to all, but his ecological footprint will be long-lasting. Hopefully, through this article, more will come to know of his achievements and develop and help foster communicative peace.

 Epigraph: Whatever happened to peace linguistics? Current reality

To go back to Curtis’ (2017b) question, if rephrased as “What has happened to peace linguistics?”, we might answer: With so many possible applications, it has gone in many different directions! Even if PL is not yet a well-known “specialized field” (Curtis, 2017a, p. 27), efforts towards peace-building have been numerous and diverse. This is easy to see, even taking only Gomes de Matos’ legacy into account. Yet, it should not be forgotten that “in January 1987, a group of dedicated foreign-language educators from fourteen European countries came together […] in order to discuss content and methods of teaching foreign languages and literatures for peace and understanding” at the first Linguapax meeting in Kiev (Freudenstein, 2005, p. 241), and Gomes de Matos, not among them, was indirectly influenced as were others.

Moreover, although the key term peace linguistics has not been employed often enough to describe relevant advances, this does not mean that efforts have not been ongoing. As Kruger (2015) affirms: “With reference to TESOL, it is evident that […], there have been little systematic and coherent attempt[s] to situate the discipline of TESOL in terms of peace education. This is, however, a growing field” (p. 70). What is clear, is that it is not easy to quantify, and greater systematic documentation of theoretical and practical work done in the field would be valuable.

Finally, Curtis is possibly one of those most highly influenced as of recent: in 2016, he developed a PL course at Brigham Young University in Hawaii (Curtis, 2017a). This interdisciplinary course was successfully piloted in the winter of 2017 and officially launched in 2018 (Curtis, 2017a). He claims that this is the first “credit-bearing, university-level course on PL” ever (Curtis, 2018a, p. 11). Moreover, Curtis just edited a special issue for The TESL Reporter in the fall of 2018 entitled ‘From peace language to peace linguistics’ and plans to publish a book entitled Peace Linguistics in 2019 (Curtis, 2018a). Curtis’ (2018a, 2018b) mission to redefine peace linguistics, putting a clearer emphasis on descriptive language analysis, will, hopefully, attract more urgent attention to this important field pioneered by Gomes de Matos and others.


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Francisco Gomes de Matos, Ph.D. is an applied peace linguist from Recife, Brazil. He has degrees in Languages, Law, and Linguistics. He is Professor Emeritus at the Universidade Federal de Pernambuco where he is active in the Dom Hélder Camara Human Rights Commission. He is one of the pioneers in Linguistic Rights (author of 1984 Plea for a Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights) and in the emerging area of Peace Linguistics. Currently he is President of the Board, ABA Global Education ( He can be reached at

 After studying linguistics and education, Jocelyn Wright began working in the Department of English Language and Literature at Mokpo National University in South Korea. Now, in her interdisciplinary doctoral studies, she is exploring applications of peace education to the context of language teaching and learning. Email:


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