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Language and the Internet Unesco Project 2002-2005 The research project in this presentation is part of a larger project sponsored by UNESCO and developed.

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Presentation on theme: "Language and the Internet Unesco Project 2002-2005 The research project in this presentation is part of a larger project sponsored by UNESCO and developed."— Presentation transcript:

1 Language and the Internet Unesco Project 2002-2005 The research project in this presentation is part of a larger project sponsored by UNESCO and developed in cooperation with Initiative B@bel.

2 How is the Internet encouraging or discouraging certain language practices? The hypotheses at the start of the project were that the Internet is a significant factor in the spread of English as a lingua franca, because non native speakers use it to access information; permits publishing and dissemination in lesser used languages and contributes to their maintenance and revitalisation.

3 Phase 1 - 2002-2003 3,000 undergraduates in universities in 10 non-English speaking countries, who had English in their linguistic repertoire and who were in a position to use it as a medium of research, logged their actual practice over a period of ten sessions on the Internet. The amount of English use reported was much less than had been expected.

4 The report of the first phase of the project can be found in the International Journal on Multicultural Societies Volume 6, Number 1, February 2004 Special Issue : Multilingualism on the Internet http ://

5 Second Phase 2004-2005 What is the current use of the Internet among speakers of lesser used languages? Report for a number of such languages: the state of Internet publication on the WWW initiatives to promote literacy on the WWW How far does the medium aid the revitalisation and/or contribute to the vitality of lesser used languages?

6 . Fishman (1991 and 2001) developed a typology of how, where and why some lesser used languages maintain their position in the public space. Among the key variables he identified: literacy in the language the possibility of using the written form of the language for the dissemination of information within the group and the publication of literature.

7 Publication and the spread of language Printed book and newspaper The need for a large market for profit. Printers contribute to language standardisation and convergence. (Anderson 1983) Internet publishing No need for a large market. Web publishers allow for diversity and divergence

8 The language groups surveyed Europe and Asia Minor Occitan Piedmontese Sardinian Ladin Arbresh Catalan Sorb Frisian Turkey Laz Kurdish China, South Africa and North America Mongolian Huang Oroqen Zulu Xhosa Ndebele, Venda Swati Sesotho Sepedi Tsonga Tswana Native American languages

9 Occitan The term Occitan is a scholarly term which designates a dialect continuum rather than a single unified language with an agreed norm. Within the continuum the main language varieties are Auvergnat (auvernhat), Gascon, Limousin (lemosin), Languedocian (lengadocian), Provençal and Alpine Provençal (franco-provençal)


11 Identifying Occitan websites Established Occitan networks helped us assemble an address book of key sites The networks were the Association of Teachers of Occitan the Félibrige the Centre for Documentation and Information in Occitan (CIRDOC) the Association of European Communes

12 (1) Networks Contact (questionnaire and interview) with the networks produced a list of 78 websites which members of the Occitan group thought worth signalling to the research team The following charts refer to these 78 sites

13 Language of websites (78)

14 Proportion of sites in Occitan

15 Purpose of sites (78)

16 Authors of sites (78)

17 (2) Boolean search using key grammar words in the language/dialects: Occitan Lo/lei or lou/li Que/be/e Moé/mai/é 356 sites analysed

18 Language of sites (356)

19 Proportion of sites in Occitan

20 Purpose of sites (356)

21 Authors of site (356)

22 Preliminary findings and analysis (1) French minority language speakers often claim that they are only interested in cultural maintenance. The evidence from this survey bears this out. CIRDOC have noted a growing interest in cultural maintenance but only in a limited way. They have termed it ‘the phenomenon of Oc-lite’.

23 Preliminary findings and analysis (2) Individuals and commerce are more likely to use Occitan in a symbolic way than associations. These symbolic sites make set phrases from Occitan familiar which are then used in a formulaic way among semi- speakers.

24 Preliminary findings and analysis (3) Websites which are completely in Occitan are more likely to be found among the 78 identified by the official associations of Occitan. Individuals and commerce are more likely to mix Occitan with other languages such as French, English, Catalan, Italian. Websites set up by individuals are also the most likely to display characteristics of more than one dialect variety. Where there are discussion lists and forums this is even more marked.

25 Conclusion The impression is one of remarkable vitality among a small population. Occitan is present and evident on the Internet in a way that it is not in many spheres of French public space. Occitan is a language that one reads and writes in the virtual community but which one does not always speak in the home or locality. This virtual community does not have a common standard, but is not always fractured.

26 Continuing enquiry Does the Internet contribute to convergence or divergence among the Occitan speaking community? Does the Internet aid revitalisation by building a new Occitan using community? Is the fact that it is a community linked by the written word a new phenomenon?

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