Welcome to Linguis Europae, the EUC's language blog!

Linguis Europae is dedicated to a range of topics involving official state, regional, and minority languages in the EU. Posts are written in five languages by UI students and faculty! Check back regularly for updates!

Bridging the Gap: Language and Community in Action in East Central Illinois

Skye Mclean discusses the East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center (ECRIMAC), which provides services essential to refugee and immigrant resettlement in East-Central Illinois and aids in the exchange and preservation of their respective cultures.

Place and Space: Another Perspective on Crimea

Senior Andrey Starosin offers his perspective on the current events taking place in Crimea.

French Professor Revamps Course on "Language and Minorities in Europe"

Linguis Europae's own Zsuzsanna Fagyal and her course "Languages and Minorities in Europe" were featured in a recent issue of the School of Literatures, Cultures, and Linguistics.

Un'Ode al "Dialàtt Bulgnaiś": An Ode to the Bolgnese Dialect

Kaitlyn Russell muses on her fondness for the Italian dialect, Bolognese.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Belarusian on the Road to Revival

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia
Belarusian on the Road to Revival

by Alyssa Lowery

Alyssa Lowery graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in May 2016 with a B.A. in Linguistics and Spanish. She wrote this blog post as a student in SPAN 418 ‘Language and Minorities in Europe’ in Spring 2016.

Many people assume that the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 marks the revival of Belarusian in Belarus; others believe the Ukraine Crisis has prompted the Belarusian people to begin reviving their language and culture; however, with a 2015 article on The Guardian stating that “no more than 10% of Belarusians say they communicate in Belarusian in their day-to-day lives,” it’s easy to question whether this is actually the case (Barushka, 2015). The question now is: is the Belarusian language being revived at all?

During and immediately following the collapse of the USSR, there was certainly an increase in Belarusian language policies, such as the new Language Law, which “expected that Belarusian would become the language of science, culture and the media within three years; the language of congresses, conferences and state decrees within three to five years; of business within five years; and legal matters within a decade,” along with more minor laws following, including the Law on Culture, Law on Education and Law on Languages. (Bekus, 2014: 31) Given that only 10% of Belarusians use the language in their everyday lives, it is safe to say that the Language Law did not meet its expectations.

Twenty-five years after the fall of the Soviet Union, signs of revival should be seen by now. Despite the bleak statistic offered by The Guardian, they are – even if the increase isn’t as drastic as officials predicted it would be after the new Language Law. According to Belteleradiocompany, each year on the first Sunday of every September, the Belarusian people come together to celebrate the literature of their language on Belarusian Written Language Day. This demonstrates 1) a strong pride for their language and 2) the preservation and use of their language through literature. Belteleradiocompany also states that as of 2015, the Belarusian Writers’ Union included 590 writers. Another positive sign for the Belarusian language is the free group language courses such as Mova ci Kava (Language or Coffee), Mova Nanova (Language in a New Way) and Movaveda popping up and continuing to grow in popularity (Astapenia, 2014). Additionally, the language has been put into the education system. Classes in the Belarusian language as well as literature are taken between grades 1-9 according to the World Data on Education (7th Edition). So why are there so few people speaking Belarusian?

A major inhibitor of the revival of Belarusian is (or based on information presented in the following paragraph, it might be more accurate to say “was”) an internal factor: the Belarusian government. Alexander Lukashenko, president of Belarus, declared in 1994 that "people who speak the Belarusian language cannot do anything else apart from speak the Belarusian language, because it's impossible to express anything great in Belarusian.” A major factor in the learning and survival of any language is the mindset of the people toward the language. For Belarusian to be dismissed by the president, who should be fighting to keep the language alive, negatively portrays the language to the people. A statement this bold and degrading to a language not only discourages Belarusian speakers and learners, but it also means nonchalant regulation of the protections already in place for Belarusian.

With that being said, Lukashenko made a completely reversed statement on January 29, 2015, demonstrating a new era and mindset toward Belarusian. Lukashenko passionately stated, “it [Belarusian] makes us different from the Russians. The native language is a distinctive feature of the nation. We must not forget the Belarusian language. We must know it as well as the Russian language. It is will be the biggest pride for the any Belarusian. I do not want this legacy to be lost.” Lukashenko’s positive statement toward Belarusian, after two decades of promoting Russian and dismissing the nation’s language, changes the mindset for the country and also portrays optimism to his people that he will not only create policies for the language but also accurately enforce them. One very important person can make a big difference.

Taking into account where the Belarusian language started before the collapse of the Soviet Union and analyzing where it is now, to answer the question posed above, yes, there is a spark in the revival of the Belarusian language. The new positivity and passion surrounding Belarusian cannot be missed. UNESCO’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger still classifies the language as vulnerable, but with a recently changed mentality toward the language among government officials, Belarusian seems to be on the road to revival.

Works Cited

Astapenia, Ryhor. "Is Lukashenka Trying to Emancipate Belarus from Russian Culture?" Belarus Digest. 03 Oct. 2014. Web. .

Barushka, Katerina. "After Decades of Russian Dominance, Belarus Reclaims Its Language." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 28 Jan. 2015. Web. .

Bekus, Nelly. "“Hybrid” Linguistic Identity of Post-Soviet Belarus." Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe 13.4 (2014): 26-51. Web. .

"Belarusian Written Language Day Celebrated Annually on First Sunday of September." Belteleradiocompany. 27 Aug. 2015. Web. .

"Lukashenko: Belarusian Language Issue Has Been Resolved Once and for All." Belarus News: Belarusian Telegraph Agency. 29 Jan. 2015. Web. .

UNESCO-IBE, comp. "Belarus." World Data on Education 7th Edition (2011). Web. .


Monday, February 6, 2017

Italy’s Apathy Towards Neapolitano’s Imminent Death

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Italy’s Apathy Towards Napolitano’s Imminent Death

By Moisés G. Contreras

Moisés G. Contreras is a Junior at the University of Illinois majoring in Psychology and Italian, with a minor in Latina/Latino Studies. After completion of his degrees, he hopes to spend a year teaching English abroad. Naples is one of his favorite Italian cities, and very probably the site of his studying and teaching abroad plans.

The relationship between the majority and the minority can be detrimental, especially when it is overlooked and equity is not at the forefront. It is then interesting to apply this idea in a linguistic realm, where minority languages are mainly esteemed poorly and as not worthy of acknowledgement. In the situation of Italy and the question of regional and minority languages, the main issue is the vigorous and inconsiderate spread of Standard Italian across the state. There is legislation in Italy to protect certain minority languages, (Law 482/1999), but this law is not enough for the protection and cultivation of Italy’s regional languages. What is the particular reason that Neapolitan, for example, is not protected by a similar legislation, or even recognized in general for that matter?

The Neapolitan language is spoken in the southern part of Italy in regions like Abruzzo, Calabria, Campania, Lazio, and others nearby. This is roughly the area once covered by the Kingdom of Naples, after which the language was named. With the conception of the Kingdom and the language begins the vast and rich history of Neapolitan culture in literature, music, theater, and more. In regards to the Neapolitan musical history, la canzone napoletana, or “Neapolitan song”—which refers to the music sung in the Neapolitan language— is considered lightly prominent globally. For this reason, many say that the Neapolitan language is therefore the most known and exported worldwide amongst the Italic languages. And while it is a great tool to disseminate the Neapolitan language, this does not necessarily mean it is a tool being used to instruct the language or ensure its vitality by any means.

Unfortunately, this prominence is satisfactory for many political actors, since “the languages that show a higher degree of vitality tend to be less promoted, in the sense that fewer associations and organizations exist to protect them and their presence is more limited in education (including adult education)” (Coluzzi, 2008, p. 223). This mindset is extremely harmful to any regional language and it highlights the neglect many of these languages receive. With the propagation of Standard Italian thanks to, (or perhaps blamed to), mass media, institutional instruction, and other methods, this “ongoing process of Italianization… is slowly eroding these [regional and minority] languages from the inside” (Coluzzi, 2008, p. 219). For now, though, Standard Italian and Neapolitan are barely mutually intelligible, considering their distinct grammatical differences in lexicon and structure.

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Despite the steady decline in use of regional languages, made clear by ISTAT survey responses, there still is only a meager amount of laws and policies that make any type of effort to protect them. Sure, there is Law 482/1999, but it only offers protection to twelve minority languages in Italy. Even without much knowledge of this law, the map provided offers an idea of exactly which languages are protected, (mostly the languages of the minority communities in the nation). Although even with this protection, Friulian and Sardinian, sometimes regarded as varieties of Italian, “are usually considered to be a ‘poor’ or ‘impure’ image of the idealized language” (Iannàccaro & Dell’aquila, 2011. p. 38). The negative image that Italian ‘dialects’ are given alludes to the problem at hand: there is a severe lack of importance placed on protecting the languages of the many different cultures in Italy.

This “deliberate socio-political behavior” (Iannàccaro & Dell’aquila, 2011, p. 37) against the proper protection and preservation of these languages cannot be tolerated. It is as if political officials are willingly oblivious to the fact that, again referring to Neapolitan, there are many signals as to the decline of the language and its current eventual death. With UNESCO’s 9 factors, we can pinpoint a couple of these indicators in the Neapolitan language. In terms of intergenerational language transmission, probably the most important factor in ensuring a language’s vitality, Neapolitan has been graded as unsafe. This finding, coupled with the lack of Neapolitan instruction in educational institutions, paints a dreary picture for the future of the language as well. And mass media might as well be an accomplice to this attempted language murder, since it has very minimal response to new domains and media. It comes to no surprise to know that Neapolitan has no official status in any Italian region, despite its prominence.

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Neapolitan was merely the language in question in this post; however, it can be used as a representative of Italy’s regional languages and the injustice they are served. While the standardization of the Italian language is an exemplary method to unify the nation and build an identity that was missing up to recent times, it is disheartening to see what is consequently being neglected. Italy is a mosaic formed by the different cultures found within the regions in the peninsula. To be unbothered by the eventual loss of these regional languages would be ironic and counterproductive to cultivating and fundamentally understanding the true Italian culture and identity. May Italy and more importantly the Neapolitan people never forget, in the lyrics of a Neapolitan song, “comme si' bello, oje core napulitano”, (how beautiful you are, oh Neapolitan heart).

Works Cited.

Coluzzi, P. (2008). Language planning for Italian regional languages (“dialects”). Language Problems & Language Planning. 215-236.

Iannàccaro, G., Dell’aquila, V. (2011). Historical linguistic minorities: suggestions for classification and typology. Int’l. J. Soc. Lang. 29-45. 




Core napulitano. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ik1R5pb5ki8


Monday, January 23, 2017

Understanding the French Who Refuse to Speak English

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Understanding the French Who Refuse to Speak English

By Raphaela Berding

Raphaela Berding is a second year graduate student in European Union Studies. Her interests are in sociology, and she plans to complete a PhD in this field. Her research focuses on European culture and identity. She is from Germany and received her Bachelor’s degree in Multilingual Communication and Translational Studies. Berding has made her entry available in English and German as well.

Most non-French speaking travelers who have visited France might have experienced that some French do not answer in English when tourists ask them for directions. Since the overall attitude in France towards English is that it is “the most desirable language to possess in one’s linguistic repertoire” (Costa and Lambert 2009, 19), one can assume that these French might not have sufficient knowledge of English, and that it is not part of the French curriculum. However, this is not the case. In the French education system, English is the dominant foreign language (21) and in 2008, the former Minister of Education declared that he wanted every student to become bilingual in English (19). Furthermore, English is studied by the majority of students, and their number is increasing (20). So at least the younger generation should have sufficient knowledge of English to be able to give directions to an American tourist. Hence, there must be another reason for the French attitude towards English, and this might be the pride of their own language. Could it be an exaggerated pride? French used to be a “prestige lingua franca for centuries” (Wright 2006, 35) which is why one might think it is legitimate for the French to be so proud of their language. Even though French is said to be an easy language to learn for English speakers (Knowlton 2014), it has its difficulties, and particularities even in the graphic level, like accents, ligatures and special characters.

Throughout the francophone world it is not an unusual claim that French has “special qualities” (Wright 2006, 35). It seems that the French want the world to pay attention to these special qualities and their language again. In 2014, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development published the “Promoting French Worldwide” strategy (French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development 2014). Also, recently the French culture ministry has called for the creation of a new keyboard that would make it easier to use the special characters making the French language so unique (Breeden 2016). Indeed, some characters like the cedilla (ç) or ligatures (æ or œ) do not have dedicated keys and have to be inserted by complex keyboard shortcuts.

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But why are the French so concerned about their language and its spread? Is this attitude a legacy of their colonial power? And why are they so much more reserved about the promotion of linguistic diversity than other European countries, even though, according to Wright (2006), the French elite claims that plurilingualism is “necessary for healthy international development”? (50)

In order to understand the French attitude towards their language it is helpful to look at the history of France. We can observe a loss of power and influence after France dominated in political, economic, cultural, technological, and ideological areas in the 17th and 18th centuries, and people therefore wanted or needed to learn French because it was useful and profitable for them (Wright 38). Furthermore we can see a passing of several laws to protect the French language internally (Costa and Lambert 2009)

In 1539, French became the official language in administration areas throughout the kingdom of France (Costa and Lambert 2009, 16-17). Later, under the rein of Louis XIV, France expanded its territory both in the Spanish and German-speaking world, and with the territorial expansion came the language expansion (Wright 2006, 37). French was declared to be used in negotiations and even replaced Latin as the written language of diplomacy (ibid.). At the same time, Paris was the major cultural and scientific center of Europe, and thereby produced more reasons for people to learn French (ibid. 37-38).

All of this changed during the 19th century and France’s position on the continent was challenged, mainly by Germany, which was economically and militarily strong, Britain, which was a strong imperial power, and the United Stated, whose influence grew (ibid. 38-39). With the decreasing influence of France, also the French language lost its prestige. Hence, French was accompanied by English as a medium of discussion in the negotiations of the treaties after World War I, and even eliminated as a language in the negotiations after World War II (ibid. 39). Internally however, the Jules Ferry school laws from 1882 excluded any other language than French (Costa and Lambert 2009, 18), showing the rising concern of the French about the influence of their language.

The legacy of the decreasing influence of French in the 19th century after it was flourishing in 17th and 18th century might be part of the reason why some French nowadays refuse to speak in English. They are insecure about their, and jealous the other language and want to show the world that their nation is not giving in to the dominance and temptation of speaking English. They probably hold on to their Golden Age, to the time when French was the dominant language in Europe, and everybody wanted to learn it.

In the end, the evidence presented might indeed give the impression that some French refuse to speak English to prove people thinking the French influence is declining, wrong. However, another aspect that is worth mentioning, and might explain the attitude of French towards English, is that the French law has traditionally supported this special attitude and linguistic ideology in France. The Loi Toubon from 1994, a law relating to the usage of the French language, mandates that French is used as the “language of instruction, examinations and competitive examinations, as well as theses and dissertations in State and private educational institutions.” (Wright 2006, 51) This reminds of the Jules Ferry laws from 1882. From this derive two conclusions. First, the French are not using English, namely because they are afraid of making mistakes while speaking it because they don’t know how to because the French law prohibits the use of English once the student graduate from high school. So instead of speaking broken English they rather pretend not to know English at all. Second, it shows that the attitudes presented are mainly institutional and come from the conservative population. Costa and Lambert (2009) point out that “language policy is a manipulative tool in the continuous battle between different ideologies” (16). As Wright (2006) explains, the French people “are aware […] that to reject English means to stay outside the global forums […] and this is a sacrifice they do not appear to be willing to make to pursue a national language policy.” (54) In other words, the French people are open to use English, but it is mainly the mainstream policy makers do not want to accept initiatives that involve approaches to plurilingualism (Costa and Lambert 2009, 24).

Works cited:

Breeden, Aurelien. “France Pland a New Keyboard to Shift Control the Typists.” The New York Times. The New York Times Company, Jan 22, 2016. [http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/23/world/europe/france-plans-a-new-keyboard-to-shift-control-to-typists.html?_r=1]

Costa, James, and Patricia Lambert. "France and Language (s): Old Policies and New Challenges in Education. Towards a Renewed Framework?." (2009). 15-26. PDF File.

Deng, Boer. “English Is the Language of Science.” Slate. The Slate Group, Jan 6, 2015. Mar 8, 2016. [http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2015/01/english_is_the_language_of_science_u_s_dominance_means_other_scientists.html]

French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development. Promoting French Worldwide. Directorate-General of Global Affairs, Development and Partnerships, 2014. PDF file.

Knowlton, Emmett. “The Easiest And Most Difficult Languages For English Speakers To Learn.” Business Insider. Business Insider, May 27, 2014. Mar 8, 2016. [http://www.businessinsider.com/the-hardest-languages-to-learn-2014-5]

Wright, Sue. "French as a lingua franca." Annual review of applied linguistics 26 (2006): 35-60.


Die Gründe Wieso Einige Franzosen Kein Englisch Sprechen Wollen

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Die meisten nicht-Französisch sprechenden Reisenden, die schon einmal in Frankreich waren, haben es vielleicht schon erlebt, dass einige Franzosen sich weigern auf Englisch zu antworten wenn sie von Touristen nach dem Weg gefragt werden. Die generelle Einstellung in Frankreich ist, dass Englisch die beste Sprache ist, die man in seinem Sprachrepertoire haben kann (Costa und Lambert, 2009, 19, eigene Übersetzung). Deshalb könnte man annehmen, dass einige Franzosen einfach nicht genug Sprachkompetenz in Englisch haben, und dass de Sprache nicht Teil des Curriculums in Frankreich ist. Dies ist jedoch nicht der Fall. Englisch ist die vorherrschende Fremdsprache im französischen Bildungssystem (ebd. 21, eigene Übersetzung), und vor einigen Jahren erklärte der damalige Bildungsminister, dass jeder Schüler Sprachkompetenz in Englisch erwerben solle (ebd. 19, eigene Übersetzung). Ein Großteil der Schüler lernt außerdem Englisch, und die Anzahl steigt immer weiter (ebd. 20, eigene Übersetzung). Deshalb sollte doch zumindest die junge Generation genug Sprachkompetenz in Englisch haben, um englischsprachigen Touristen den Weg zu erklären. Es muss daher eine andere Erklärung für die Einstellung der Franzosen zur englischen Sprache geben, und die lässt sich im Stolz auf ihre eigene Sprache finden.

Französisch war für Jahrhunderte eine angesehene Lingua Franca (Wright, 2006, 35, eigene Übersetzung), weshalb es vielleicht legitim ist, dass Franzosen so stolz auf ihre Sprache sind. Obwohl Französisch für englische Muttersprachler einfach zu lernen sein soll (Knowlton, 2014, eigene Übersetzung), ist das geschriebene Französisch mit seinen Akzenten, Ligaturen und besonderen Schriftzeichen, sehr kompliziert. Es ist tatsächlich nicht unüblich in der frankophonen Welt zu sagen, dass Französisch „spezielle Qualitäten“ hat (Wright, 2006, 35, eigene Übersetzung).

Es scheint, dass die Franzosen nun wieder Aufmerksamkeit auf diese speziellen Qualitäten und ihre Sprache lenken wollen.2014 veröffentlichte das Französische Ministerium für auswärtige Angelegenheiten und Internationale Entwicklung die „Strategie zur weltweiten Promotion von Französisch“ (French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development, 2014, eigene Übersetzung). Außerdem setzte sich das französische Kultusministerium kürzlich dafür ein, eine neue Computertastatur zu erfinden, damit es einfacher wird, die für die Französische Sprache so besonderen Schriftzeichen zu benutzen (Breeden, 2016, eigene Übersetzung). Tatsächlich haben einige Schriftzeichen, wie die Cedille (ç) oder Ligaturen (æ oder œ) keine eigenen Tasten, und können nur durch komplexe Tastenkombinationen eingefügt werden.

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Aber wieso sind die Franzosen so besorgt über ihre Sprache und deren Verbreitung? Ist ihre Einstellung das Erbe von der Zeit als Kolonialmacht? Und wieso sind Franzosen so viel zurückhaltender über die Förderung von Sprachenvielfalt als andere Europäische Staaten, obwohl, die französische Elite laut Wright (2006) behauptet, dass Mehrsprachigkeit „notwendig ist für eine gesunde internationale Entwicklung“? (50, eigene Übersetzung)

Um diese Einstellung der Franzosen verstehen zu könne, ist es hilfreich einen Blick in die Geschichte Frankreichs zu werfen. Nachdem Frankreich im 17. Und 18. Jahrhundert politisch, ökonomisch, kulturell, technologisch und ideologisch dominierte, und viele daher aus Gründen der Profitabilität und Nützlichkeit Französisch lernen wollten oder mussten, verlor Frankreich an Macht und Einfluss (Wright, 2006, 50, eigene Übersetzung). Die Franzosen erließen zudem einige Gesetze um die Sprache intern zu schützen (Costa und Lambert, 2009, eigene Übersetzung).

Französisch wurde 1539 zur offiziellen Sprache in der Verwaltung im Königreich Frankreich (Costa und Lambert, 2009, 16-17, eigene Übersetzung). Unter der Herrschaft von Louis XIV erweiterte Frankreich sein Territorium sowohl im spanisch- als auch deutschsprachigen Gebiet, und mit der territorialen kam die sprachliche Ausbreitung (Wright, 2006, 37, eigene Übersetzung). Französisch sollte in Verhandlungen gesprochen werden, und ersetzte sogar Latein als die geschrieben Sprache der Diplomatie (ebd., eigene Übersetzung). Zur gleichen Zeit war Frankreich kulturelles und wissenschaftliches Zentrum Europas, und bot somit noch mehr Gründe um Französisch zu lernen (ebd., eigene Übersetzung).

Während des 19. Jahrhunderts änderte sich dies, und die vorherrschende Position Frankreichs wurde vor allem vom ökonomisch und militärisch starken Deutschland, von der Kolonialmacht England, und den immer einflussreicher werdenden Vereinigten Staaten herausgefordert (ebd. 38-39, eigene Übersetzung). Mit dem sinkenden Einfluss Frankreichs verlor gleichzeitig die französische Sprache an Prestige. In den Verhandlungen nach dem Ersten Weltkrieg zum Beispiel war Englisch die zweite Verhandlungssprache neben Französisch, welches in den Verhandlungen nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg sogar komplett gestrichen wurde (ebd. 39, eigene Übersetzung). Innerhalb Frankreichs wurden mit den Jules Ferry Schulgesetzen von 1882 jede andere Sprache außer Französisch ausschlossen, was die wachsende Besorgnis der Franzosen über ihre Sprache zeigt (Costa und Lambert, 2009, 18, eigene Übersetzung).

Das Erbe des sinkenden Einflusses von Französisch nach seiner Blütezeit im 17. Und 18. Jahrhundert könnte einer der Gründe sein, wieso einige Franzosen es heutzutage vermeiden, Englisch zu sprechen. Sie sind unsicher über ihre eigene Sprache, und neidisch auf die andere, und wollen der Welt zeigen, dass ihre Nation sich nicht der Versuchung und Dominanz des Englischen hingibt. Sie halten möglicherweise an ihrem Goldenen Zeitalter fest, als Französisch die dominante Sprache in Europa war, und jeder es lernen wollte.

Die Ausführungen hinterlassen den Eindruck, dass einige Franzosen es vermeiden Englisch zu sprechen, um denjenigen, die denken, dass der Französische Einfluss sinkt, zu zeigen, dass sie falsch liegen. Allerdings ist auch zu bemerken, dass die französische Gesetzgebung die spezielle Einstellung der Franzosen zu ihrer Sprache und sprachlichen Ideologie traditionell unterstützt. Das Loi Toubon von 1994 etwa, was die Benutzung des Französischen reguliert, schreibt vor, dass Französisch als Unterrichts- und Klausursprache, als auch als Sprache für Arbeiten und Dissertationen in staatlichen und privaten Institutionen benutzt werden soll (Wright, 2006, 51, eigene Übersetzung). Dies wiederum erinnert an die Jules Ferry Schulgesetze von 1882. Daraus lassen sich zwei Dinge schließen. Erstens, Franzosen sprechen kein Englisch, weil sie aus Mangel an Sprachwissen Angst davor haben Fehler zu machen, da Gesetze es verbieten, Englisch nach Beendigung der Schule zu benutzen. Zweitens, die Einstellungen sind hauptsächlich institutionell, und stammen von der konservativen Bevölkerung Frankreichs. Cosa und Lambert (2009) unterstreichen, dass „Sprachpolitik ein manipulatives Instrument im ständigen Kampf der Ideologien ist“ (54, eigene Übersetzung). Wright (2006) erklärt, dass Franzosen sich darüber bewusst sind, dass die Abneigung gegenüber Englisch dazu führt, dass sie außerhalb des globalen Forums bleiben, und dass sie nicht bereit sind, Opfer zu bringen und keine Änderungen in ihrer nationalen Sprachpolitik machen wollen (54, eigene Übersetzung). Mit anderen Worten, die französische Gesellschaft ist zwar offen gegenüber der Verwendung von Englisch, aber die etablierten Entscheidungsträger wollen keine Initiativen, die Ansätze zur Mehrsprachigkeit enthalten, akzeptieren (Costa und Lambert, 2009, 24, eigene Übersetzung).

Monday, December 12, 2016

Scottish Gaelic with an English Twist

By Victoria Dakajos

Victoria Dakajos recently graduated with a major in Agriculture and Consumer Economics and a concentration in Public Policy and Law. She completed a double minor in Communication and Political Science and is planning on attending law school. She wrote this piece while enrolled in PS 418 ‘Language and Minorities in Europe’ during the spring of 2016.

Scottish Gaelic with an English Twist

Scottish Gaelic, which is one of many minority languages in the European Union (EU), is undergoing revitalization and becoming a more commonly spoken language in Scotland. According to the 2011 Census (Nance, 2015, p.555), there are approximately 58,000 people that speak Scottish Gaelic, which corresponds to only 1% of the Scottish population. Most speakers are traditionally from the rural highlands and the Islands of Scotland.

Source: Wikipedia
As it increasingly becomes part of the daily vernacular, the younger generation is beginning to speak Scottish Gaelic more but with a bit of a twist. The younger generation is growing up with English as their first language, and the Scottish Gaelic that they are learning to speak is changing and different compared to how the older generation used to speak it. The change is mostly due to the new immersion schools also known as Gaelic-medium education.

Research has shown that when a person becomes bilingual, one-language’s features, mainly the native language, transfer to the second language that the person is learning. As Claire Nance says in her paper, “The structure of the community-dominant language may influence the direction of change in a minority language” (Nance, 2014, p. 15). This explains why many of the younger people feel that they do not have a Gaelic speaking accent because they did not grow up learning the traditional way to speak the language (Nance, 2015, p. 556-557). What they mean by accent is that they do not use the proper Gaelic lateral phonetics and use more of the English phonetic variation.

The older generations of Gaelic speakers are limited in their literacy skills because they spoke the language in their homes, at work, and on the playground. In school, however, they were only able to speak English. Unlike the younger generation, the older Gaelic speakers “learned English via immersion when they first attended school” giving them less practice to learn how to read and write the language (Nance, 2015, p. 3). The younger generations of Gaelic speakers learn half of their lessons in Gaelic, while the rest of their lessons are taught in English because of a shortage of Gaelic-speaking teachers.

One can noticeably see the difference in the language change by studying the pitch accents and how the generational accents compare. In her paper, Nance discusses that languages are divided into three broad categories: languages that make use of lexical tones such as Scottish Gaelic, languages that do not use lexical tones such as English, and languages that partially use lexical tones like Japanese (Nance, 2015, p. 4). Lexical pitch refers to the tone patterns in Scottish Gaelic.

Source: Wikipedia
It has been suggested across Indo-European languages that lexical pitch accent systems are very rare and may eventually be lost, which is why we can see this language change between the generations. Researchers think there can be many potential explanations, but one of the most common explanations for the lack of tones in the young generations’ Gaelic is because of the English language and how it does not have a lexical pitch accent prosodic system (Nance, 2015, p. 11). The younger speakers instead collapse Gaelic lateral categories so that it is more similar to the English system, and “Some young speakers produce laterals which are phonetically more similar to those reported to their dialect of English, than those of the older speaker groups who grew up in Gaelic-dominant environments” (Nance, 2014, p. 15). Another reason that we are seeing the change in Scottish Gaelic is that the younger generation is learning their Gaelic through immersion schools. Although most of the teachers are of the older generation and most use the dialect with the lexical pitch accent, it is possible that they received a more dialectally mixed input in their learning. Pronunciation was very rarely taught in immersion-type schools, which would explain why the lexical pitch accent would not be taught in the younger generations’ courses.

In the end, we can see from the facts presented here that the increased use of English among the younger generation speakers has contributed to the loss of lexical pitch among the younger speakers compared to the older generation. As explained above, most bilingual people use the features of one language and transfer it to the second. This is where we see a language change because younger Gaelic speakers use English features and especially lexicon, when speaking Gaelic. It is as if we see code-switching (CS) or language-mixing (LM) which means the “alternation of the two languages is locally meaningful within the conversation” (Smith-Christmas, 2016, p. 64-65). This describes why we are seeing such a language shift from the “new speakers” because they are mixing their two spoken languages together. We do see some differences when looking at people who come from parents with a Gaelic-speaking background and those who do not; we are still seeing this language change/shift even in the highlands where most Gaelic speakers live. In the future, we will start to notice the lexical pitch accent that older Gaelic speakers use will not really be needed anymore to be able to communicate.

Work Cited

Nance, C. (2015). Intonational variation and change in Scottish Gaelic. Lingua, 160 1-19. doi:10.1016/j.lingua.2015.03.008

Nance, C. (2015). ‘New’ Scottish Gaelic speakers in Glasgow: A phonetic study of language revitalisation. Language In Society, 44(4), 553-579. doi:10.1017/S0047404515000408

Nance, C. (2014). Phonetic variation in Scottish Gaelic laterals. Journal Of Phonetics, 471-17. doi:10.1016/j.wocn.2014.07.005

Smith-Christmas, C. (2016). Regression on the fused lect continuum? Discourse markers in Scottish Gaelic–English speech. Journal Of Pragmatics, 9464-75. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2016.01.007

Wikipedia. (2015, October). Gaelic speakers in Scotland (1755-2011) [Table]. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scottish_Gaelic

Wikipedia. (2015, October). Distribution in Scotland [map]. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scottish_Gaelic#/media/File:Scots_Gaelic_speakers_in_the_2011_census.png


Monday, December 5, 2016

Revitalizing the Inari Saami Language in Finland

Saami flag (7)
By Emily Cheng

Emily Cheng is an undergraduate student in linguistics. She is also very interested in film production and pursuing a Masters in Leadership for Creative Enterprises. She wrote this text as a senior enrolled in 418 ‘Language and Minorities in Europe’.

Inari Saami, also known as Aanaar Saami, is one of the three Saami languages spoken in Finland. All nine of the current Saami languages are considered endangered; with about 350 speakers, Inari Saami is considered seriously endangered (6). Inari Saami (IS) is spoken by the Inari Saami people, who reside in the municipality of Inari; most speakers are middle-aged or older. IS is the only Saami language spoken exclusively in Finland (1).

Location of Inari in Finland (8)
Problems with Inari Saami in Finland

The Saami people in Northern Europe suffer discrimination against their people, language, and culture. The clothing is considered strange, they often are not wealthy and therefore are considered to have a lower social status and to be inferior to modern cultures (5). The Saami language is viewed as an obstacle in a competitive environment and has a number of proponents who are fighting to keep the language out of schools in Finland. Often times, Saami parents decide to speak the official language with their children at home, to avoid humiliation and to give their children better opportunities (4). Inari Saami is a “minority of a minority”, complete with a small body of speakers; it too suffers diminished usage at home like the other Saami languages.

The Saami Language Act, passed in Finland in 1992 made a valiant effort to bring Saami up to the status of Finnish. However, it only extended to designated Saami areas. Smaller communities, such as the Inari Saami, did not experience the benefits of the act (5).

The path to success

The method of using language nests for the revitalization of Inari Saami perhaps has single-handedly began the relatively efficient and quick success of IS revitalization. A language nest is an early immersion of preschool-age children, taught completely in the local minority/indigenous language from Day 1 by linguistically and culturally proficient elders. Not only do children learn the language they don’t have access to at home, the preschool teachers and parents often develop proficiency in IS along the way (4).

The use of language nests has made IS more visible in the community, upgraded the status and prestige of the language, and is producing a generation of young bilinguals. More media and literature is also being produced in response to a shift in children’s culture.

The “Lost Generation”

After 2000, Inari Saami became the main language for school instruction with the “language nest generation”. However, with the rapid revitalization, there comes a lack of speakers aging 20-50 years old (2). Without adults, there is no force to produce teaching materials, provide financial backing, nor to occupy related jobs to the revitalization of IS.

The Giellagas Institute of the Oulu University had a solution. From August 2009 to August 2010, the CASLE (Complementary Aanaar Saami Language Education) program began (1, 3). Seventeen adult students, ranging in occupation from teachers, daycare personnel, a priest, and a radio journalist, participated in an intensive language course. Not only did courses produce language skills for these professionals critical for language transmission, they also covered Inari Saami culture and arranged internships in IS speaking workplaces (2). These seventeen individuals went on to revolutionize the Inari Saami revitalization.

Future endeavors

Even with the success of revitalizing Inari Saami, it still has a long way to go. There are still very few IS-speaking environments outside of the learning nests and schools. The lack of language rights for all Saami languages, as well as its diminished social status and lack of political power of the Saami people, still threatens the endangerment of the languages.

What do you think the future holds for the Saami languages?

If this topic interested you, check out this 10 minute documentary about the Inari Saami revitalization in the northeast of Finnish Lapland.


Works Cited

1. Pasanen, A. (2010) Revitalization of Inari Saami: reversal language shift in changing speech community [PPT document]. Retrieved from SlideShowes Web site: http://slideshowes.com/doc/351323/revitalization-of-inari-saami--reversal-language-shift-in

2. Pasanen, A. Solving the problem of the lost generation: Inari Saami language education for adults. Arkisto. Retrieved from http://www.arkisto.org/envision/images/Dokumentarkiv/Ph%20Annika%20Pasanen.pdf

3. Reyhner, J. (2013) Revitalizing the Aanaar Saami Language in Finland. Nabe Perspectives. Retrieved from North Arizona University. Web site: http://www2.nau.edu/~jar/NABE/Saami.pdf

4. Magga, O. H. & Skutnabb-Kangas, T. (2001) The Saami Languages: the present and the future. Endangered Languages, Endangered Lives. Retrieved from Cultural Survival. Web site: https://www.culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultural-survival-quarterly/saami-languages-present-and-future

5. Ricco, E. The Sámi Language Crisis. Sami Culture. Retrieved from Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services of the University of Texas. Web site: http://www.laits.utexas.edu/sami/dieda/ling/languagecrisis.htm

6. Sarivaara, E, et al. (2012) How to Revitalize an Indigenous Language? Adults’ Experiences of the Revitalization of the Sámi Language. Cross-Cultural Communication. Retrieved from CSCanada. Web site: http://www.cscanada.net/index.php/ccc/article/viewFile/j.ccc.1923670020130901.2121/3591

7. anjči. “Saami National Day 6 February.” Photograph. Wikimedia Commons. 6 Feb 2011. Web. 16 Apr 2016. Web site: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Saami_flag,_Troms%C3%B8_Norway.jpg

8. Joonasl. “Location of Inari in Finland.” Photograph. Wikimedia Commons. 5 Dec 2005. Web. 16 Apr 2016. Web site: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Inari_Suomen_maakuntakartalla.png

9. IET. “REBORN (with English subtitles)”. Online video clip. Youtube. Youtube, 9 July 2012. Web. 16 Apr 2016.


Monday, November 28, 2016

What is in store for Catalonia now that it has officially declared the beginning of its independence process?

By Erin LePoire

Erin LePoire graduated from University of Illinois in Spring 2016, with a degree in Human Development and Family Studies, and Spanish.

The people have spoken, or at least voted, and the regional parliament of Catalonia decided to begin the process of secession from Spain, with hopes of completing it by the year 2017 (Time.com). The likelihood of actually accomplishing secession remains to be seen, but the fact that the process has begun is a big step in and of itself. To look at how Catalonia got here, it is important to review Catalonia’s past.

Catalonia came to be a part of the Frankish Empire in the late 9th and 10th centuries, not becoming a part of the Spanish Empire until the 15th century with the marriage of Isabella and Ferdinand. The war of Spanish secession in the 18th century was a real blow to Catalonian independence, in that the Catalonian state was abolished and Spain became a ‘unified nation’ (cataloniavotes.eu). Fast forward to Franco’s dictatorship in the 1930’s and anything associated with Catalonia was repressed. People were exiled to France, and the Catalonian culture was suppressed. When Spain began to become a democracy again in the 70’s, a reemergence of Catalonian culture occurred. What really spurred this most recent push for independence however was Spain becoming an EU member state, and the 2009 collapse of the economy. With Barcelona being one of the biggest economic powerhouses in Spain, the economic downturn hit the region of Catalonia hard.

So what does this mean for Catalonia now that it has begun unilaterally the secession process? First and foremost, it means a lot of uncertainty. While Barcelona is the economic powerhouse of Spain, the region of Catalonia actually has a lot of debt (BBC). While yes, the debt was caused by the Spanish government taxing the Catalonian region in the first place; the process of secession really only exacerbates the issue. What’s more, is that Catalonia is not in control of its finances, an autonomy that has been granted to the other region in Spain that identifies as culturally different: the Basque Country. Not being financially autonomous means that Catalonia essentially doesn’t have the (recent) experience of financial stability or accountability, a pretty large component what it takes to successfully be an independent country. But stepping away from the economic negatives that successful Catalonian secession would have, what are the positives?

I think the major benefit of an independent Catalonia would be that the vibrant cultural identity of Catalonians would now have now an official and separate matching nation, and not just the constitutionally recognized “nationality”. The cultural aspects of Catalonia are quite different than the majority of Spain. This is most clearly seen in the views on bull fighting. Spaniards in general view it as a part of their culture, which Catalonians view it as cruel and inhumane towards animals (debatingeurope.eu). By beginning the process of secession from Spain, the Catalonian region begins to remove and distinctly distance itself from traditional ‘Spanish’ culture. This distinction of cultures can be beneficial, but can also have the negative effect of cultural monotony, which could lead to a very isolated Catalonia.

Lastly, and arguably the largest, impact that the beginning of the process of secession from Spain has had on Catalonia is the language. While around 11.5 million people in Spain speak Catalan, almost all of them are also fluent in Spanish (debatingeurope.eu). This leads to two possible scenarios, the first of which is that over generations, Catalan becomes the more dominant language. The second scenario is that people within and outside Catalonia need more than just Catalan to work, and so continue to use Spanish in addition to Catalan, leading to no drastic change in the status of the language. This second scenario leads to no real benefit to Catalan from Catalonian independence.

In conclusion, the beginning of the process of secession from Spain leaves many uncertainties for Catalonia. From the economic disadvantages to the Cultural gains and losses, what secession means for Catalonia remains to be seen. But it is still a long, uphill battle before independence is even remotely secured.

Works Cited


Monday, November 14, 2016

Swedish language policy in action: legal rights of migrant languages during the European refugee crisis

Poster for the anti-refugee Swedish Democrat party,
a growing political group (source).
By Sonja Brankovic

Sonja Brankovic is a senior studying mechanical engineering at U of Illinois. She took ITAL 418 this past spring as a part of her International Engineering Minor in Germanic Studies. Sonja says: “This class has been unlike any other in European history and culture in that it has opened my eyes to marginalized perspectives I have never encountered before (even in personal travel and studying abroad). The course gave me a foundation to analyze historical language topics—the evolution of Basque’s codification, the ongoing linguistic de-Russification in the Baltic countries—as well as the ability to assess how the current refugee crisis will have an impact on the European linguistic landscape. This assessment is the main theme of my blog entry, and will hopefully give an idea of why the influx of Middle Eastern languages to Sweden is such a complex issue, and will continue to be so over the next few generations.”

Swedish language policy in action: legal rights of migrant languages during the European refugee crisis

Figure 1: Total number of asylum applications in
2013, 2014, and 2016 [1] (source).
“The most generous country in Europe” has become a common boast about Sweden’s 2015 open-door policy for accepting Syrian and Somali war refugees. After Germany, Sweden is the destination of choice for many asylum-seekers—and as Figure 1 shows, the number of asylum applications is only increasing. But what are Sweden’s refugee policies once the initial welcome is complete? Where do refugees settle, and what are their daily activities? How do their children integrate into the Swedish educational system?

These questions reveal a complex web of answers that can only be found in Swedish policies for refugee settlement, employment, and schooling. After accepting tens of thousands of migrants in 2014 and 2015, the country has been filled nearly to its breaking point. The Swedish Migration Agency has become reliant on available housing in more urban areas and the attitudes of those recipient communities, which has resulted in large clusters of refugees living near larger cities. Södertälje, a town just outside of Stockholm, has a population that is 50% Syrian, Somali, and Afghan refugees [2]. The children living in such areas are being slowly introduced to Swedish schools; what languages will they learn there? Swedish, of course—but what of their mother-tongues and the history and traditions of their families and culture?

There are a few factors that distinguish Sweden’s reception of these war refugees:
  • Sweden is actively trying to provide a permanent home for these refugees, rather than just a temporary residence for the duration of the Syrian Civil War. Assistance is provided to procure housing, find jobs, and send refugee children to Swedish schools. This is a stark contrast to other European countries’ attitudes: Spain, the Netherlands, and now nearby Denmark have tightened border security and are not eager to accept more refugees [3], [4].
  • The populations of Syrian, Somali, and Afghan migrants in Sweden already outnumber the older, now-established migrant populations (many of which still speak their mother-tongue) [5]. This more than anything implies that refugee rights (including language rights) will become a point of educational contention in the future.
  • Sweden has liberal language policies for migrant/refugee tongues; Swedish schools are required to provide mother-tongue language classes if more than five students request the instruction and teaching materials/resources can be found [6]. This policy is much more generous than the ECRML (European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, which Sweden ratified in 2000), which has no provisions for migrant languages or any language that cannot establish historical roots in the country [7].

All of these factors suggest that Swedish government is going above and beyond the minimum duty of EU countries to welcome and settle these refugees (at least linguistically). But these liberal policies are not easily translated into the classrooms—or even into the minds of Swedish natives, who have grown increasingly wary of accepting refugees as readily as they did during 2015, when 1000–3000 asylum application were granted per month [8].

In November 2015, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven announced that Sweden was reversing its open-door policy; after that point, any arriving migrants would no longer receive automatic permanent asylum and the associated benefits. Later in December, the country backtracked even further and announced that Sweden would from then on only accept the EU-negotiated refugee minimum.

These cautious decisions are the product of increasing pressure on Swedish schools and a highly competitive job market, as well as social pressure from growing anti-refugee political parties. The burgeoning group of Swedish Democrats, which boasts 20% popular support by recent polls, has seized on recent sexual assaults and violence at refugee centers as reasons to stem the flow of migrants; a related point is that most refugees do not socialize with native Swedes (as seen in Södertälje) and the welcoming atmosphere perpetuated by the Swedish government belies the fact that most refugees live in their own communities; these communities are now being treated with suspicion and distaste by many Swedes (especially those associated with the SD, who claim that refugees have “muddied” the waters of a homogeneous Sweden) [9].

Moreover, and ignoring all of these social and political forebodings, these language instruction guarantees for refugee/migrant languages are clearly negative rights; while the government’s policies do not prevent refugees from staying connected with their cultures, there are virtually no government-sponsored televised programming in Arabic, and none of the refugee/migrant languages have been given the same formal municipal power as the traditional minority languages (which in the ECRML include rights within the judiciary, local administration, and cultural programming).

Figure 2: Mother-tongue instruction statistics
in Swedish schools [7] (source).
The question out of all of this becomes: will refugees in Sweden, despite its accommodating language policies, be able to take advantage of these opportunities to learn their mother-tongue? (“Do they even want to?”—as Figure 2 shows, migrant language instruction accounts for a large portion of mother-tongue education in Sweden). Is there legal recourse for refugees if they are denied this right? As of now, the answer falls within a murky territory of available school resources and community attitudes toward migrants. Despite the social and political blowback in the last few months, the refugees currently settled in Sweden will acculturate (not necessarily assimilate) to the country’s culture in the upcoming years; they will still retain their own religion and language, and the latter will have to account for a measurable rise in Arabic and Somali instruction in Swedish schools. Now is the time that refugees will have to establish their right to mother-tongue instruction if they hope to preserve (at least through their children) this major bridge to their past lives.

Works Cited

1. "Statistics." Swedish Migration Agency. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2016. <http://www.migrationsverket.se/English/About-the-Migration-Agency/Facts-and-statistics-/Statistics.html.

2. Harress, Christopher. "Syrian And Iraqi Refugees Are Half The Population Of This Swedish City." International Business Times. N.p., 03 July 2014. Web. 28 Mar. 2016. 


3. Pabst, Sabrina. "How EU Countries Handle the Refugee Crisis | Europe | DW.COM | 12.08.2015." DW.COM. N.p., 12 Aug. 2015. Web. 4 Apr. 2016. <http://www.dw.com/en/how-eu-countries-handle-the-refugee-crisis/a-18646316>.

4. "Protection and Asylum in Sweden." Swedish Migration Agency. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Apr. 2016.  1. <http://www.migrationsverket.se/English/Private-individuals/Protection-and-asylum-in-Sweden.html>.

5. "Statistical Database." Statistical Database. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2016. <http://www.statistikdatabasen.scb.se/pxweb/en/ssd/?rxid=f27ec97e-43e0-4a1c-9092-f7a2289ac255>.

6. Segerhammar, Amor, and Ann-Charlotte Karnermo. "Language Policy for Migrant Children in Sweden." Language Policy for Migrant Children in Sweden. Language Center Gothenburg, Sweden, 10 Nov. 2015. Web. 5 Apr. 2016. <http://www.slideshare.net/Rutufoundation/language-policy-for-migrant-children-in-sweden>.

7. "European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages." Treaty Office. The Council of Europe, n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2016. <http://www.coe.int/en/web/conventions/full-list/-/conventions/treaty/148>.

8. Traub, James. "The Death of the Most Generous Nation on Earth." Foreign Policy The Death of the Most Generous Nation on Earth Comments. N.p., 10 Feb. 2016. Web. 30 Mar. 2016.  <http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/02/10/the-death-of-the-most-generous-nation-on-earth-sweden-syria-refugee-europe/>.

9. Crouch, David. "Sweden Slams Shut Its Open-door Policy towards Refugees." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 24 Nov. 2015. Web. 4 Apr. 2016. <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/24/sweden-asylum-seekers-refugees-policy-reversal>.