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Esperanto and Minority Languages
 

Esperanto and Minority Languages

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    Esperanto and Minority Languages Esperanto and Minority Languages Presentation Transcript

    • Esperanto and minority languages Challenges and opportunities Federico Gobbo University of Turin, Italy federico.gobbo@unito.it 1 of 26 $ BY: C CC University of Liverpool, UK October 17, 2013
    • What is a minority language?
    • European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages The definition: languages 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; they are different from the official language(s) of that state, and they include neither dialects of the official language(s) of the state nor the languages of migrants. (ECRML, Art. 1 – Definitions) Let us consider some consequences. 3 of 26
    • Only a matter of number of (native) speakers? Wikipedia, our repository of common-sense knowledge, states that “a minority language is a language spoken by a minority of the population of a territor”. This is a half-truth. The problem of the (false) equivalence ‘minority languages = lesser-used languages’: where is the border of lesser-usage? 100,000 native speakers? 10,000? 1,000? We need to re-engineer the concept of minority languages. 4 of 26
    • Italy, a multilingual nation-state (look only to colours!)
    • A taxonomy of minority languages Let’s take Italy as the reference territory for further analysis. Edwards [1] introduced a taxonomy of minority languages, where: local-only minority languages are for example German, French, Slovene (they are national language elsewhere); 6 of 26
    • A taxonomy of minority languages Let’s take Italy as the reference territory for further analysis. Edwards [1] introduced a taxonomy of minority languages, where: local-only minority languages are for example German, French, Slovene (they are national language elsewhere); unique minority languages are for example Piedmontese, Venetian (settled only in Italy only in a minority status); 6 of 26
    • A taxonomy of minority languages Let’s take Italy as the reference territory for further analysis. Edwards [1] introduced a taxonomy of minority languages, where: local-only minority languages are for example German, French, Slovene (they are national language elsewhere); unique minority languages are for example Piedmontese, Venetian (settled only in Italy only in a minority status); non-unique minority languages: an example is Catalan (present in more than one state but never at a national level); 6 of 26
    • The paradox of South Tyrol in Italy From a state perspective German is a minority language, from the provincial perspective it is not – paraphrasing Edwards [1].
    • Framing minority languages as a relational concept In the prototypical situation, a minority language is always defined in contrast to a majority language settled in the same Sprachraum (proper territory of the language): there is a bilingual community, where the minority language belongs to; 8 of 26
    • Framing minority languages as a relational concept In the prototypical situation, a minority language is always defined in contrast to a majority language settled in the same Sprachraum (proper territory of the language): there is a bilingual community, where the minority language belongs to; for historical and political reasons, a majority language superseded the minority one; 8 of 26
    • Framing minority languages as a relational concept In the prototypical situation, a minority language is always defined in contrast to a majority language settled in the same Sprachraum (proper territory of the language): there is a bilingual community, where the minority language belongs to; for historical and political reasons, a majority language superseded the minority one; the minority language is reserved for the informal and everyday functions (called ‘low variety’ or L); 8 of 26
    • Framing minority languages as a relational concept In the prototypical situation, a minority language is always defined in contrast to a majority language settled in the same Sprachraum (proper territory of the language): there is a bilingual community, where the minority language belongs to; for historical and political reasons, a majority language superseded the minority one; the minority language is reserved for the informal and everyday functions (called ‘low variety’ or L); the majority language, often perceived as an imposed second language (L2), is reserved for the formal functions holding prestige (‘high variety’ or H). 8 of 26
    • Is Esperanto a minority language?
    • A somehow strange question. . . Esperanto is proposed at an international level. However, there are some sociolinguistic analogies between the Esperanto community of practice and minority languages, put in evidence by Edwards [2], Romaine [8] and Kimura [6]. Analogies: both are lesser-used languages (minority in terms of numbers); 10 of 26
    • A somehow strange question. . . Esperanto is proposed at an international level. However, there are some sociolinguistic analogies between the Esperanto community of practice and minority languages, put in evidence by Edwards [2], Romaine [8] and Kimura [6]. Analogies: both are lesser-used languages (minority in terms of numbers); language activists are mostly volunteers – they do not earn a living in practicing the language; 10 of 26
    • A somehow strange question. . . Esperanto is proposed at an international level. However, there are some sociolinguistic analogies between the Esperanto community of practice and minority languages, put in evidence by Edwards [2], Romaine [8] and Kimura [6]. Analogies: both are lesser-used languages (minority in terms of numbers); language activists are mostly volunteers – they do not earn a living in practicing the language; speakers consider the language of high value, while non-speakers are indifferent or even hostile, often for biases; 10 of 26
    • A somehow strange question. . . Esperanto is proposed at an international level. However, there are some sociolinguistic analogies between the Esperanto community of practice and minority languages, put in evidence by Edwards [2], Romaine [8] and Kimura [6]. Analogies: both are lesser-used languages (minority in terms of numbers); language activists are mostly volunteers – they do not earn a living in practicing the language; speakers consider the language of high value, while non-speakers are indifferent or even hostile, often for biases; while Esperanto is clearly a non-ethnic language – rather an ethic language! – there is a recent tendency to relax the bond between ethnicity and minority languages (e.g., when learned as a L2). 10 of 26
    • . . . with a clear answer! However, adopting our definition of minority language as a relation, there is no individuable majority language in contrast to Esperanto, nor a territory with a bilingual community. For example, a Catalan can choose to be an Esperantist too, while it cannot choose to be Welsh – unless adopted identity for instance by marriage, but it is a completely different situation. Taking the perspective of postmodern linguistics, the rhetorics (in a technical, neutral sense) behind minority languages and Esperanto are vey different. That’s why Esperanto is not a minority language. 11 of 26
    • . . . with a clear answer! However, adopting our definition of minority language as a relation, there is no individuable majority language in contrast to Esperanto, nor a territory with a bilingual community. For example, a Catalan can choose to be an Esperantist too, while it cannot choose to be Welsh – unless adopted identity for instance by marriage, but it is a completely different situation. Taking the perspective of postmodern linguistics, the rhetorics (in a technical, neutral sense) behind minority languages and Esperanto are vey different. That’s why Esperanto is not a minority language. Two examples. 11 of 26
    • The typical discourse behind minority languages Language activists talk about ethnical, cultural and historical authenticity. An example from Menominee, an Algonquian language spoken in norther Wisconsin and Michingan, studied by Bloomfield, Sapir and Skinner. That’s why knowing our language is so important, because it teaches us who we are; it’s not just a set of words. It’s about our history, it’s about our heritage, it’s about our way of life that our ancestors have fought and died for. Karen Washinawatok, Director of Menominee Language and Culture commission 12 of 26
    • The typical discourse behind Esperanto Among others, Jordan [5] effectively resumes the idea that moved Zamenhof in planning Esperanto, an idea that is at the basis of the Esperanto movement: Zamenhof’s ideology treats languages as tools of communication, and communication as a tool for improving human welfare. These credos imply that a second-best language the world can agree to use is better than a “best” language on which the world cannot agree. They imply also that the peoples of the world have much in common, so international communication will contribute to friendship and peace, rather than animosity and war. 13 of 26
    • An interlinguistic view of minority languages
    • Esperanto as an ally of minority languages How can Esperanto be an ally of minority language activists? What are the common traits shared by these movements? Three domains: 1. Language as a value per se. Language activists learn, teach, promote their languages as they give a value to the language in itself – while outside the community the language is not considered important. 15 of 26
    • Esperanto as an ally of minority languages How can Esperanto be an ally of minority language activists? What are the common traits shared by these movements? Three domains: 1. Language as a value per se. Language activists learn, teach, promote their languages as they give a value to the language in itself – while outside the community the language is not considered important. 2. Ecological knowledge. As biodiversity is considered a value in our contemporary world, also the variety of languages in the world is a value. 15 of 26
    • Esperanto as an ally of minority languages How can Esperanto be an ally of minority language activists? What are the common traits shared by these movements? Three domains: 1. Language as a value per se. Language activists learn, teach, promote their languages as they give a value to the language in itself – while outside the community the language is not considered important. 2. Ecological knowledge. As biodiversity is considered a value in our contemporary world, also the variety of languages in the world is a value. 3. A right-based discourse. Our post-second world war society is founded upon human rights, where language rights are an important part. Two examples: the International Mother Language Day (21 feb) or the Girona Manifesto by the PEN International Club. 15 of 26
    • The Language Endangerment Framework In the last ten years, language planners and activists (both inside and outside academia) were coordinated by UNESCO forming a panel of experts assessing a Language Endangerment Framework, i.e., a practical methodology for what Spolsky [9] calls language management. Esperanto should find its way in every multilingual situation, being a factor of equilibrium and fairness in communication. 16 of 26
    • The UNESCO guideline Language Vitality and Endangerment (LVE) and Esperanto (1/2) LVE assignes a value from ‘0’ (direst situation) to ‘5’ (optimal situation) to nine domains of the minority language: 1. Intergenerational language transmission 2. Absolute number of speakers 3. Proportion of speakers within the total population 4. Shifts in domains of language use 5. Response to new domains and media 6. Availability of materials for language education and literacy 7. Governmental and institutional language attitudes and policies including official status and use 8. Community members’ attitudes toward their own language 9. Amount and quality of documentation 17 of 26
    • The UNESCO guideline Language Vitality and Endangerment (LVE) and Esperanto (2/2) In which domains Esperanto could be more helpful? 1. Intergenerational language transmission 2. Absolute number of speakers 3. Proportion of speakers within the total population 4. Shifts in domains of language use 5. Response to new domains and media 6. Availability of materials for language education and literacy 7. Governmental and institutional language attitudes and policies including official status and use 8. Community members’ attitudes toward their own language 9. Amount and quality of documentation 18 of 26
    • The Graded Intergenerational Disruption Scale (1/2) Fishman [4] defines the ‘minimum program’ of reversing language shift in preserving the intergenerational mother tongue transmission: Stage 8: Reconstruction and adult acquisition. Stage 7: Interaction in the language are driven by older generations, typically grandparents. Stage 6: The language is used only orally and within the community, e.g., families and neighbourhood, by three generations. Stage 5: The language is used also in written form, with classes out of school lessons, without any support outside the community. In these dramatic stages, pertaining endangered languages, Esperanto can play little role. 19 of 26
    • The Graded Intergenerational Disruption Scale (2/2) Stage 4b: The language is compulsory in lower education, under control of the minority group. Stage 4a: The language is compulsory in lower education, with a wider recognition, i.e., outside the minority group. Stage 3: The region or local area of the language considers it normal, so that also members outside the community use it as a L2. Stage 2: Public services by the government are provided in the language, as well as the media usage. Stage 1: The language is used also in contexts of higher prestige, including higher education, media and work, within the region and abroad. Language acquisition at school (stage 4) is a strategic area to promote the minority language: the propaedeutic effect of Esperanto could be tested appropriately. 20 of 26
    • Concluding remarks
    • Open problem: how to gather more support? Romaine [7] recently has pointed out that sustainability is a fuzzy concept: nowadays, mainstream takes care of what can be measured in economic terms. Perhaps language policy experts and language activists should turn to welfare theory or other areas of economics – economics of languages being an emergent research field. 22 of 26
    • An example of language policy as a (missing) variable The Sustainable Development Solutions Network is a global initiative for the UN. It publishes a report every year about ‘world happiness’. Facts worth a mention: the questionnaire is translated – something controversial in the literature, for the evaluation of the data; 23 of 26
    • An example of language policy as a (missing) variable The Sustainable Development Solutions Network is a global initiative for the UN. It publishes a report every year about ‘world happiness’. Facts worth a mention: the questionnaire is translated – something controversial in the literature, for the evaluation of the data; there is no explicit variable concerning the language(s) used in everyday life as factors of happiness (or not), even if it is clear that the repertoire strongly affects many variables taken into considerations, such as ‘freedom to make life choices’ or ‘household income’. 23 of 26
    • A final advice The link between biodiversity conservation, poverty reduction and language diversity preservation is worth more investigation, also for supporters and scholars dealing with minority languages and Esperanto alike. Joining forces could be a good win-win strategy. 24 of 26
    • References Edwards, J. 1992 , Sociopolitical aspects of language maintenance and loss: Towards a Typology of Minority Language Situations, John Benjamins, chapter 3. In Fase et al. (eds). Edwards, J. 2010 , Minority Languages and Group Identity, John Benjamins. Fase, W., Jaspaert, K., Kroon, S., eds 1992, Maintenance and Loss of Minority Languages, John Benjamins. Fishman, J. A. 1991 , Reversing Language Shift: Theoretical and Empirical Assistance to Threatened Languages, Multilingual Matters. Jordan, D. K. 1987, ‘Esperanto & esperantism: symbols and motivations in a movement for linguistic equality’, Language Problems & Language Planning 11(1), 104–125. Kimura, G. C. 2012, ‘Esperanto and minority languages: A sociolinguistic comparison’, Language Problems & Language Planning 36(2), 167–181. Romaine, S. 2013 , ‘Language and sustainable development: Integrating the economics of language policy with poverty reduction and biodiversity conservation’, Workshop on The Economics of Language Policy, Venice International University, San Servolo. Romaine, S. 2011, ‘Revitalized Languages as Invented Languages’, in Adams, M. eds From Elvish to Klingon, Oxford University Press. Spolsky, B. 2009, Language Management, Cambridge University Press. 25 of 26
    • Thanks for your attention! Questions? For proposals, ideas & comments: federico.gobbo@unito.it Download & share these slides here: http:/federicogobbo.name/en/2013.html $ BY: C CC 26 of 26 Federico Gobbo 2013