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Language Policy, Diglossia, and Linguistic Register: What happens when L-variety languages try to modernize? Keynote Speech for Workshop on Language Planning.

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Presentation on theme: "Language Policy, Diglossia, and Linguistic Register: What happens when L-variety languages try to modernize? Keynote Speech for Workshop on Language Planning."— Presentation transcript:

1 Language Policy, Diglossia, and Linguistic Register: What happens when L-variety languages try to modernize? Keynote Speech for Workshop on Language Planning as a Political Process: Views on South and Central Asia

2 University of Pennsylvania
Harold F. Schiffman University of Pennsylvania Stockholm, September 2006

3 Abstract: When certain languages lack registers for scientific and technical domains, and therefore attempt to create them, problems arise. Users educated in an H-variety such as English, French, German, Russian (or another language) are loath to give these up and adopt vocabulary from another source, even if it is their ‘mother tongue,’ since the vocabulary created for this in the mother tongue may be as strange as that of a ‘foreign’ language.[1] These speakers may be said to have a ‘vested interest’ in maintaining the status quo, and may engage in various sorts of resistance to the implementation of change, especially for the purposes of modernization. They have this vested interest because the language they already know represents for them ‘cultural capital’ (Bourdieu 1982 ) whereas the one that the planners wish to replace it with does not.

4 Some definitions: What do we mean by ‘diglossia’?
What do we mean by linguistic ‘register’? What is meant by linguistic ‘modernization’? What is meant by a ‘LOWC’?

5 Diglossia: Ferguson 1959: Diglossic Languages have one variety that is used for ‘high’ (formal, literacy) purposes: the H-variety, has the most prestige This constrasts with the L-variety which is different phonologically, grammatically, lexically, and syntactically L-variety is used for informal, mostly spoken purposes; lacks prestige, may be seen as ‘vulgar’ or ‘ungrammatical’; spoken ‘only by children, lesser beings, uneducated people’

6 Examples: Arabic, with its Koranic form established in the 7th Century, vs. modern spoken dialects German as spoken in Switzerland: Schrift-deutsch (Hochdeutsch) vs. dialects Creole languages of various sorts Tamil and many other South Asian languages

7 Notion of ‘domain’ H-variety dominates certain domains: literacy, religion, public speaking, ‘high’ usages L-variety dominates in ‘lower’ domains: jokes, intimacy, street use, is the first language learned Domains may shift, get taken over by a non- traditional variety, but only slowly Domain shift may be an index of change of register, or change of formality

8 Fishman’s extension Ferguson’s diglossia applied to languages where H and L are related; L is usually a linguistic descendent of H (or thought to be) Fishman (1967) extended diglossia to apply to situations where historically unrelated languages were used together, a prestige language for H, a colloquial one for L

9 Examples: Hebrew and Yiddish in eastern Europe
English and Spanish in the US English and South Asian languages in South Asia Russian and other languages in the USSR German and other languages in the Austro- Hungarian Empire French and other languages in Francophone Africa Swedish and other languages in Sweden

10 Mutual intelligibility:
May be lacking mutual intelligibility between the H-variety and the L-variety or varieties, especially with the Fishman kind of diglossia! People who know only H can’t understand L; people who know one L-variety can’t understand others, e.g. Arabic dialects from the Maghreb to Yemen or Dubai H-variety and L-varieties are said to control ‘domains’

11 Domain shift: a kind of code-switching
Public speaking in Tamil: begins in H-variety, with formal greetings and exhortations Shifts to L-variety for solidarity, connection with ‘the people’ (shows that the politician is ‘one of the people’) Shifts back at the end, with a formal ‘wrap-up’

12 Keeping things straight:
Usually H dominates the ‘high’ registers (education, religion) or domains of the language, while L is relegated to informal, familial, uneducated, humor, trades… But people switch from one to another, depending on the ‘formality’ of the occasion People who don’t control H, remain silent, or risk looking/sounding foolish

13 Brown and Gilman’s ‘Pronouns of Power and Solidarity’
T/V distinction in pronouns: V (vous, Sie, ni, you) expresses Power T (tu, du, thou) represents inferiority Non-reciprocal use of V pronoun makes for a power domination Reciprocal use of V = ‘social distance’ Reciprocal use of T = solidarity

14 Parallel with Diglossia:
H-variety used for representing power L-variety expresses lower status Code-switching to L from H indicates ‘solidarity shift’ Example: When we switched to Du from Sie, my German cousin began to speak dialect only. When I protested, he said “Ich muss mit Dir dialekt sprechen: Du bist von uns!”

15 Switch to English, e.g. in South Asia
Represents even more power! Those who don’t control English, don’t have power Many small groups now demanding English medium, in order to get more power! State educational systems that try to impose use of state language are trying to deny power to minority groups

16 What does this mean in Central Asia?
Russian previously dominated the H domains of science and technology Uzbek etc. will have trouble replacing the terminology and developing new registers Russian will continue to represent power and freedom, even as it did during Soviet period Change will be very slow…

17 To compete, Central Asian languages will have to:
Be willing to borrow and loan-translate terminology Be willing to use acronyms, blends, and abbreviations Let the scientists and users develop the registers, rather than have an Academy provide it Be flexible

18 Russian may yield to English:
If Russian is to be displaced, it may be English or another LOWC that will take its place, not an indigenous Central Asian language If various CA languages take different paths, they will diverge and divide-and-conquer may occur. In the past, Persian occupied the H-domains; is there a chance it could return? What about Turkish of Turkey?

19 Let’s define ‘Register’.
Trudgill 1983: Linguistic varieties that are linked ... to occupations, professions or topics have been termed registers. The register of law, for example, is different from the register of medicine, which in turn is different from the language of engineering--and so on. Registers are usually characterized solely by vocabulary differences; either by the use of particular words, or by the use of words in a particular sense. Registers are simply a rather special case of a particular kind of language being produced by the social situation.

20 Need to expand this: Improve on Trudgill's definition by expanding the definition of register to include, in many cases, a preference (or even a dispreference) for particular syntactic patterns or rhetorical devices. A close examination of many different kinds of registers shows that they tend to prefer, or eschew:

21 (dis)preferences: The passive voice; the American Psychological Association recommends using active voice: “As a general rule, use the active voice rather than the passive voice. For example, use ‘We predicted that ...’ rather than ‘It was predicted that ...’ Metaphors ( APA warns against them!) Imperative verbs; Sexist or racist language; Short sentences

22 Other preferences: Word-formation:
There may also be a preference for certain lexical devices such as acronyms or blends Greco-Latin vocabulary (western European languages) Other classical languages, e.g. Sanskrit, Chinese, Persian Pragmatic devices: A register therefore may have its own pragmatic devices, i.e. how the vocabulary is used is important. Passive voice may convey ‘objectivity’ for some disciplines, but not for others. In some languages, the passive may convey something else, e.g. in Indonesian, the passive voice is used for politeness

23 You think I overemphasize this acronym stuff?
Go to: A dictionary of over 200,000 medical, pharmaceutical, biomedical & healthcare acronyms and abbreviations. DNA: can stand for Deoxyribonucleic Acids, Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid, or Desoxynucleic Acid SNP: can stand for Single nucleotide polymorphisms, Sodium Nitroprusside or Système Nerveux Périphérique

24 And just for fun, the title of an article:
Possible role for avPGC-1alpha in the control of expression of fiber type, along with avUCP and avANT mRNAs in the skeletal muscles of cold-exposed chickens. Iublished in FEBS Lett Jan 3;579 (1):11-7

25 Another problem: scientific registers have derivational systems, to form adjectives from nouns, etc.: sulphur: the chemical element of atomic number 16, a combustible non-metal which typically occurs as yellow crystals sulphide: a binary compound of sulphur sulphate: a salt or ester of sulphuric acid anhydrite: a white mineral consisting of anhydrous calcium sulphate anhydrous adj.: (Chem.) containing no water

26 So who decides on the register?
Users must decide—people who develop the science also develop the register If language academies are allowed to develop the register, we get chaos. Scherer and Giles (1979:51-3) devote two pages to a description of both differences in lexicon and the `complex, unusual semantic relations amongst perfectly ‘commonplace words' found in certain registers

27 Example of quench, a ‘commonplace’ English verb
High-energy physics: ‘quench’ means ‘rapidly decrease the temperature of a hot gas’ In older uses in English, ‘quench’ simply means ‘put out a fire’, or ‘alleviate thirst.’ An old, quaint, and almost archaic term has taken on a ‘new life’

28 Modify the definition of Register:
A set of specialized vocabulary and preferred (or dispreferred) syntactic and rhetorical devices and structures, used by particular socio-professional groups for special purposes. A register may have a set of derivational devices! A register is a property or characteristic of a language, and not of an individual or a class of speakers. Speakers may or may not actively (or passively) control a register; if they do, it can be thought of as part of their linguistic repertoire.

29 Some languages lack certain registers…
Western industrial societies they may lack Ethno-scientific registers (folk taxonomies for classifying plants, animals or natural phenomena), Specialized poetic registers, Specialized politeness systems (Javanese), Registers for speaking in a trance. (Toda)

30 Trance Language? Todas (Nilgiri Hills, S. India): Shaman went into a trance and began speaking in a special way, which even to me sounded different. When I asked him to repeat some of the words, he said that he couldn't say those words unless he was in a trance. Toda also has a register for songs that is so different phonologically from spoken Toda as to be unrecognizable to someone who only knows spoken Toda

31 Pre-industrial societies:
Languages lack legal, technical, scientific, and medical registers and subvarieties of these: the register that airline pilots use to communicate with air traffic controllers). Such languages function without such registers This relegates them to a marginal status within a larger multilingual society, Or the members of such linguistic cultures acquire proficiency in these registers in other languages. The registers they acquire proficiency in are registers of English or another ex-colonial language.

32 Registers may be diglossic or triglossic:
H-variety domains: Certain registers such as religion, literature, ethno-history L-variety domains: conversation, jokes/stories, intimacy, courtship, auto-mechanical, building, construction trades, folk taxonomies, etc. Certain registers (high-tech, higher-education) may be in the domain of a totally different language, e.g. English or another LOWC

33 Registers for scientific terminology may be mixed:
Greco-Roman vocabulary for written and formal oral presentation: Transmissible spongiform encephalopathy Abbreviations, blends, acronyms for informal oral use, and lay use (journalism etc.) TSE Prion (from proteinaceous infectious particle) Mad Cow disease CJD: named after the discoverer(s)? Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, a.k.a. ‘kuru’.

34 Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD)
“The leading scientific theory at this time maintains that CJD is caused by a type of protein called a prion. ... Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is the best-known of the human TSEs.” “Other human TSEs include kuru, fatal familial insomnia (FFI), and Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker disease (GSS).” “Research suggests that vCJD may have resulted from human consumption of beef from cattle with a TSE disease called bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as "mad cow disease." More at:

35 Developing new registers: Why so difficult?
Users of old registers have a vested interest in keeping it—easier to use Could also be viewed as a monopoly… New indigenous vocabulary may be strange and ‘folksy’ sounding (‘non-scientific’) Global discourse: LOWC registers allow scientists to all be in the same loop. People outside this language/register are ignored, kept in the dark

36 Problem of the Institut Pasteur
In 1989, editors of the journals of the Institut Pasteur decided to publish only in English! French government was incensed! But the IP pointed out that by then only 5% of articles submitted to them were in French If they continued using French, nobody would read those articles. They therefore joined the ‘global discourse’

37 Problem of ‘self-respect’
Pre-modern languages wanting to modernize feel that their language is just as good as any other Developing scientific/technological vocabulary allows their language to ‘stand tall’ and be equal to others But the amount of effort required may be overwhelming and impossible to accomplish

38 Late modernizers: Have to develop huge vocabularies
Will need to allow wide range of word-formation devices: Borrowing (from LOWC’s or classical languages) Loan-Translation (based on above sources) Acronyms, Abbreviations, Blends Need to allow the users to do the development

39 But will they allow this freedom?
Example of Tamil: Purists take over and insist on: ‘Pure’ Tamil roots and loan translation only No abbreviations! No acronyms or blends! No borrowings! Result: stultification, no buy-in by users, no progress. English remains language of science.

40 Example from ‘Mad Cow’ disease
Medical researchers who studied the disease developed the register, using: Greco-Roman vocabulary for “high” formal use (Bovine) Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy Abbreviation: TSE Acronym ‘prion’ based on pro + in <‘proteinaceous infectious particle’ Lay terminology ‘mad cow’ for informal, oral use, lay use (journalism etc.)

41 What do other languages do? Translate the Greco-Roman vocabulary into:
French, German, Spanish: French: l'encéphalopathie spongiforme bovine German: Bovine Spongiforme Encephalopathie Spanish: Encefalopiatia Espongiforme Bovina But then they all ‘borrow’ the terms TSE and Prion from English! But all retain a folk version of ‘mad cow:’ Vaca loca, vache folle, Rinderwahnsinn

42 What would the Tamil for this be?
‘maaTTu paittiyam’ (similar to German ‘Rinder-Wahnsinn’) is easy to come up with As for the rest?... Would have to loan-translate transmissible spongiform encephalopathy into ‘pure’ Tamil Would not allow abbreviations or blends Would get nowhere with this English therefore remains the language of science, medicine, technology in India

43 In other words… Having excessively strict conditions on word-formation is counter-productive It leads to failure of the users to accept the terminology Failure then leads to a blame-game Blame colonialism! Blame English! Blame inadequate language loyalty of scientists! Blame everybody but the purists…

44 India’s IT development:
Would not have happened if there weren’t education in English in the Indian IIT’s Diglossia of the Fishman ‘extended’ kind is the net result: L-variety Tamil (etc.) for home, informal domains H-variety Tamil for religion, belles-lettres, music Triglossia, with H-variety English for technical domains

45 How to represent multilingualism and its domains in India:

46 Multilingualism as a set of ‘nested’ domains:
At the center: the home language, L-variety Learned by all; does not easily get displaced H-variety of mother tongue acquired in school; English acquired later, but now not much later: some states offering it in 1st standard! Domains tend to segment in the outer circles: some domains may be only PASSIVE, e.g. for knowledge of Hindi in Tamilnadu

47 Higher education in India continues to be almost exclusively conducted in English.
Indian doctors and technologists prefer to be ‘in the loop’ of international work in all these fields This also means that Indian doctors and engineers can obtain jobs in other countries, and Send home remittances which help sustain the economy of the subcontinent. They have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo ante. And other countries depend on there being a supply of India’s educated people!

48 Bangalore and the languages spoken there:
Kannada is the state language English is the language of the IT industry Tamil remains as a residue of British colonialism (British brought Tamils from Madras into the Princely State of Mysore) Tamils settled in the ‘cantonment’ next to Bangalore: now highly resented! Cantonment is now the locus of the IT industry

49 Diglossia and shifting domains:
Diglossias tend to remain stable in places like India But minor changes occur: domains may get ‘taken over’ by another language In new domains, L-variety may take over: TV Language shift may occur, domain by domain (but only very slowly) Tamil is not about to take over domains of English, But English may take over some domains of Tamil—especially domain of literacy in Tamil!

50 Local languages retain only spoken domains
More and more demand for English may mean less and less literacy in indigenous languages! IT industry and the lure of foreign job market results in more and more parents demanding English medium education, all over India Local languages retain only spoken domains Some states (e.g. Karnataka) are trying to fight back Other cities fight to attract IT spill-over from Karnataka: Madras, Hyderabad, others…

51 Conclusion: Register development for late modernizers is very difficult LOWCs dominate the sci-tech fields, are not easy to displace Scientists have a vested interest in keeping the previous H-varieties H-varieties represent more ‘cultural capital’ and can provide better jobs and better lives

52 Epilogue: Am I being too cynical and pessimistic?
Am I dismissing efforts in some places to modernize, with some success? Is it easier to displace Russian than English? (Dutch was replaced by Indonesian under Japanese occupation) Is there no hope? See the French example…

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