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Language Majorities and Minorities © FAM
1 Definitions Different types of minorities Language minorities lesser-used languages
© FAM 2 Features of minority / lesser-used languages widespread bilingualism language shift towards dominant language lack of competence in lesser-used language influences from language contact political/legal discourse education scientific discourse and technology world of work print media/electronic media arts music, sports religious discourse interpersonal relationships/family loss/lack of domains language considered poor and inadequate attempts at marginalisation/ eradication from within or outside lack of a generally accepted (written) standard loss/lack of status geographic displacement decline in the number of speakers loss or lack of linguistic hinterland loss or lack of urban centre loss/lack of territorial base ElementsFactors
© FAM 3 Assessing Language Communities: Ethnolinguistic Vitality EV focuses on relationships between language groups in interaction: that which makes a group likely to behave as a distinctive and active entity in intergroup situations (Giles 1977: 308). Three factors: Status: economic, social, socio-historical and language status in and outside language community Demography: –distribution: national territory concentration and proportion of language community in society –numbers: absolute numbers, birth rate, mixed (exogamous) marriages, immigration/emigration Institutional support: mass media, education, government services, industry, religion, culture, politics
© FAM 4 Languages in Competition: Language Vigour 4.1 Types of languages in a state or society local languages –either proficiency desirable / never questioned, vital for economic survival and social mobility –or important for political, cultural or social reasons, not (necessarily) socio-economically languages needed for wider communication (tourism, globalised economy) languages spoken by powerless minority (migrants, refugees, indigenous people)
© FAM 4.2 Factors determining Language Vigour currency how widely a language is used or usable territory where the language is used
© FAM The notion of Currency Linguistic exchange … is also an economic exchange which establishes within a particular symbolic relation of power between a producer, endowed with a certain linguistic capital, and a consumer (or a market), and which is capable of procuring certain material or symbolic profit. … [t]he relation between linguistic competences … helps to determine the law of price formation that obtains in a particular exchange. (Bourdieu 1991: 66-67, emphasis added) Price formation determines the value of codes in a communicative exchange
© FAM ( ) Analysing the metaphor of currency: an aside lesser-used languages (not convertible outside their limited market places) Migrant languages many Third World national currencies, but locals prefer more convertible currency Swiss German, Finnish, Danish Icelandic etc. in some former Eastern Block countries, only legitimate currency is local English (also French and German as main EU language) US dollar anywhere in the world
© FAM ( ) Factors making up currency recognition language is recognised in the setting even by non-native speakers response interlocutors respond in the language when addressed desirability proficiency in the language is seen as a good thing
© FAM (4.2.1) Five typical situations 1.Language A is local language... 2.Language B is recognised by non-native interlocutors, most respond or attempt to respond in it; it is perceived as important 3.Language C recognised by non-native interlocutors, some can respond; more might like to 4.Language D recognised by most non-native interlocutors, who cant respond; few would like to 5.Language E not recognised, no response; minute interest in being able to
© FAM ( ) High level of currency of a language means: It is spoken and understood by most if not all members of a given societal setting. Proficiency is obviously important for socio- economic status and mobility. It is used in many / all domains. A substantial body of written texts exists in many / all genres
© FAM The notion of Territory Definition: A language community is indigenous to a region or has inhabited it for a long time / historically considers itself resident in a hereditary homeland Simple but fraught: Problems over territory claims Palestine and Israel Former Yugoslavia territorial boundaries drawn by –colonialists or –a majority (or powerful elite) to suit their interest
© FAM ( ) Issue of territory for less vigorous languages: Ireland Irish language was a marker of Irish (Nationalist) identity in the form of the Gaelic League, but not for long: The work of the Gaelic League... is done …: the beginning of the Irish Revolution. Let our generation now not shirk its deed, which is to accomplish the revolution. (Pearse, leader of Easter Rising in 1916, in 1913, quoted in Mansergh, 1965: 247)
© FAM (4.2.2) Issue of territory for less vigorous languages: Ireland b) loss of domains erosion of traditional territories non-contiguous language islands fewer contacts between speakers / more need to communicate in English more bilinguals with problematic language attitudes increased trend towards more vigorous language
© FAM ( ) Attrition of Romansh territory since 1860 Rumansh as main language 1860 Rumansh as main language in family, school and/or profession 2000 (Source: Lia Rumantscha)
© FAM ( ) Problematic aspects of territory definition of language borders stability of the borders homogeneity of the speech community in its territory problem of territory typical for non- sedentary ethnic groups (Rom) or semi- sedentary peoples (Native Americans, Sami, etc.)
© FAM ( ) Issues pertaining to territory How large is the language territory? Are the borders stable? Is the territory contiguous or is it a series than isolated pockets? Is there a demographic focal point: urban centre? Do in-migrants adopt the language or not?
© FAM 4.3 Relative language vigour +- Type B superposed, lingua franca, language of wider communication Type D migrant language, indigenous language - Type A secure regional / official language Type C regional, lesser-used language, dialect, sociolect + currency territory
© FAM Type A: language with territory and currency Icelandic approx speakers. Swiss-German million speakers French as majority language in Quebec; Romandie Italian in Ticino Belgium: 3 Type A, each with a guaranteed territory.
© FAM Type B: language without territory, but currency English, Spanish, Arabic, etc. languages for wider communication, lingua franca French in German-speaking Switzerland (?) English, French, Dutch, etc. in continued use in ex-colonies Some domains in Type A language areas
© FAM Type C: language with territory, but without currency Lesser-used languages –Welsh, Gaelic, Irish (?) –French minority languages (Alsation, Breton, Provençal, Occitane, etc.) Language minorites –Kurdish –Hungarian in Slovakia Problems for such language groups: lack of transmission language death support from (middle-class) activists in the community, diaspora and well-meaning outsiders
© FAM Type D: language without territory or currency Migrant languages –South-Slavonic languages, Portuguese, (Spanish?) Tamil, etc. in Switzerland –Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi, Chinese in US, UK, Canada Aboriginal languages –Koorie languages in Australia, –Maori in NZ, –Native American languages in US –First Nation languages in Canada –Sami in Finnland, Sweden and Norway Languages of non-sedentary ethnicities –Rom, Jenisch Belgium: 3 Type A, each with a guaranteed territory.
© FAM Consequences for C and D Types Loss of domains Stigmatisation of language Lack of transmission Loss, erosion or absence of territory Communicative exchanges increasingly in dominant language Attrition of subordinate language (grammar, vocabulary) Loss of speakers Language Death (or Language Suicide)
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