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An immigrant language in South America: The status of Welsh in Argentina as an RML compared with European immigrant languages Dr Ian Johnson

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Presentation on theme: "An immigrant language in South America: The status of Welsh in Argentina as an RML compared with European immigrant languages Dr Ian Johnson"— Presentation transcript:

1 An immigrant language in South America: The status of Welsh in Argentina as an RML compared with European immigrant languages Dr Ian Johnson

2 Welsh in Argentina Introduction Regional or Minority Languages Context Reasons for language and community maintenance Discussion

3 Regional or Minority Languages An RML is a language: “traditionally used within a given territory of a State by nationals of that State who form a group numerically smaller than the rest of the State's population; and different from the official language(s) of that State” (ECRML, 1992)

4 Regional or Minority Languages A hierarchy of languages – state, indigenous, immigrant (Biltoo, 2009) RML legitimised through longevity of use within specified area Comparison between Welsh as immigrant language in Argentina and immigrant languages in Europe

5 Welsh in Argentina Patagonia colony founded in 1865 in unsettled region near Chubut River, around 3-4,000 settlers during fifty year period Integrated into Argentinian, Spanish- speaking country over period of time But still significant Welsh speakers and strong sense of ethnic identity

6 Welsh in Argentina


8 Welsh community in Argentina Reasons for emigration: - for some, to maintain linguistic and cultural norms considered under threat in Wales - for others, economic motivation Heritage narrative promotes linguistic maintenance so ‘hard-wired’ into community

9 Welsh community in Argentina Current motivations for language maintenance - getting in touch with family origins - speaking to people from the old country - economic reasons through heritage tourism

10 Welsh community in Argentina Ethnolinguistic vitality - small demography of Welsh speakers, especially compared to Spanish - strong institutional support for Welsh through cultural organisations - historicity legitimises Welsh maintenance

11 Welsh community in Argentina Diaspora and Transnationality - Welsh not a traditional diaspora as no return to homeland, therefore settled in Argentina - Language and cultural support, financial and otherwise, comes from Wales, including from Welsh Assembly Government and Cymdeithas Cymru- Ariannin

12 Welsh community in Argentina Education - Language teaching scheme provides formal education - Taught as third language of education in Gaiman at almost all stages - New bilingual school in Trelew, strongly supported by local government - Language taught to all age groups

13 Discussion Why is Welsh an RML in Argentina? Immigrant language with strong historic links to a specific location (north of Chubut Province) History of Argentina makes this similar to an indigenous language (cf French in Canada), although actual indigenous language Mapuche gets far less support and lower profile

14 Discussion Factors which can be compared with immigrant languages in Europe - language maintenance motivations - transnationality - ethnolinguistic vitality - education

15 Discussion What does RML status mean? - Only provided or enacted to communities strong enough to argue for status, therefore more of an end product than a starting place Who decides what in a state is an RML? usually ‘bestowed’ from above rather than taken by community

16 Discussion Concerns about integrationist policies that work against status and future of ethnic minority language and culture Majority culture concerns about immigration and loyalty to state from minority language communities

17 Discussion Welsh in Argentina, through acceptance of Argentine civic identity and bilinguality, are not a ‘threat’ Able to leverage support from group’s political power locally and transnational links Political and economic power then central to linguistic support in Welsh case

18 Discussion Immigrant language communities in Europe must therefore agree on objectives and how they should be reached Importance of local demography and institutional support Need to gain access to levels of power to make decisions for community benefit

19 References Aitchison, J. and H. Carter (2004) Spreading the word: The Welsh language 2001. Talybont: Lolfa Biltoo, A. (2009) ‘Unequal linguistic relationships in the ‘New Europe’’. Presentation at Multilingualism, Regionalism & Minority Languages: Paradigms for Languages of the Wider World conference. London, April Brooks, W. (2005) 1965 – A Welsh-Patagonian milestone. The celebrations of the centenary of the Welsh landing in the Chubut. Presentation at Language and Global Communication Conference. Cardiff, July Cohen (2007) Global Diasporas: An Introduction. London: UCL Press Dirección General de Estadística y Censos, Chubut (accessed 05/08/2009) European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (1992) (accessed 05/08/2009) Fishman, J. (1991) Reversing Language Shift. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters Giles, H., Bourhis R. and D. Taylor (1977) Towards a theory of language in ethnic group relations. In H. Giles (ed) Language, Ethnicity and Intergroup Relations (pp.307-348). London: Academic Press Johnson, I. (2006) Constructing Welsh-Argentinean Identities in the Chubut Province, Argentina. Presentation at Constructing Identities conference. Cardiff, June. Johnson, I. (2007) Subjective ethnolinguistic vitality of Welsh in the Chubut Province, Argentina. Unpublished thesis. Cardiff Johnson, I. (2009) ‘How Green is their Valley? Subjective Vitality of Welsh in the Chubut Province, Argentina’. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 195, 141-171 Williams, G. (1991) Welsh in Patagonia: the State and Ethnic Community. Cardiff: University of Wales Press

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