Welcome to Linguis Europae, the EUC's language blog!

Linguis Europae is dedicated to a range of topics involving official state, regional, and minority languages in the EU. Posts are written in five languages by UI students and faculty! Check back regularly for updates!

Bridging the Gap: Language and Community in Action in East Central Illinois

Skye Mclean discusses the East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center (ECRIMAC), which provides services essential to refugee and immigrant resettlement in East-Central Illinois and aids in the exchange and preservation of their respective cultures.

Place and Space: Another Perspective on Crimea

Senior Andrey Starosin offers his perspective on the current events taking place in Crimea.

French Professor Revamps Course on "Language and Minorities in Europe"

Linguis Europae's own Zsuzsanna Fagyal and her course "Languages and Minorities in Europe" were featured in a recent issue of the School of Literatures, Cultures, and Linguistics.

Un'Ode al "Dialàtt Bulgnaiś": An Ode to the Bolgnese Dialect

Kaitlyn Russell muses on her fondness for the Italian dialect, Bolognese.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Do you speak Sassenach? Gaelic-medium education and Outlander

by Camille Méritan

Outlander TV Show
Recently, an increasing number of novels and TV series such as Outlander use Gàidhlig phrases and other aspects of Highland culture, which has helped popularize Scottish history. The Outlander novels, written by American author Diana Gabaldon, are science-fiction novels taking place in the late 18th century in the Highlands of Scotland. The books give a highly authentic picture of what it was like to live in mid-18th century Scotland. To be as historically accurate as possible, the books and TV episodes are filled with Gaelic phrases and dialogues. TV producer, Ronald D. Moore, even hired a Gaelic coach, Adhamh O Broin, to teach actors the correct Gaelic pronunciation. And since the beginning of the diffusion of the show in 2014, locals and foreigners have become more and more interested in Scottish Gaelic folklore. The Gaelic expert, Adhamh O Broin, has also created short videos (see below) for fans to learn basic words in Scottish Gaelic. He hopes that more people will start learning Gaelic and become sensitive to the need for greater revitalization of the language.

Over the past decades, there has been a push towards the revitalization of Gaelic. The creation of the Gaelic Medium Education (GME), in 1985, was the first legislative support for the language. Gaelic Medium Education, promotes the learning of Gaelic from pre-school education to higher education, with an increasing number of schools teaching Gaelic, and offering immersion. Edinburgh’s first Gaelic school opened its doors in 2013, along with the first Gaelic medium primary school department. This acquisition planning has also given opportunities to independent companies and has seen the creation of online schools such as the Atlantic Gaelic Academy, which offers online Gaelic language learning courses (Smith, 2000).
Outlander Book Cover (Wikipedia)

In a spectacular move, the Scottish government passed the Gaelic Language Act of 2005 so that Gaelic would become one of the official languages of Scotland, and to help increase the number of people speaking, using and learning Scottish Gaelic. Bòrd na Gàidhlig, an executive language planning body, was then created to supervise the promotion of the Gaelic language. The Board also gives the language equal status with English. It wants to encourage the use of Scottish Gaelic, and facilitate access to Gaelic language and culture (Bechhofer & McCrone, 2014).

There are also new resources to promote Scottish Gaelic (Nance, 2015). The Digital Archive of Scottish Gaelic was founded in 2014. It provides digitized texts and lexical resources for the language. A new online dictionary of Gaelic is also on its way. This is a new collaborative research project that “aims to provide a new online directory of Gaelic recordings, particularly those pertaining to the folklore and ethnology of Gaelic communities in Scotland, Ireland and elsewhere” (Digital Archive of Scottish Gaelic (DASG). University of Glasgow [accessed 02 April 2017]).

Add to this a renewed interest in Scots Gàidhlig culture and it can be seen how language is fundamental to the revitalization of Gaelic. The rise of Gaelic media, such as radio, internet, and television, definitely helped (Moriarty, 2009), not to mention the Gaelic Television Fund set up by The Broadcasting Act back in the 1990s. Annually, there are 300 hours of programming broadcasted on television to help with the spread of revitalization of the language. The creation of BBC Alba in 2008 was also a major step. The BBC Alba is an all-Gaelic television channel aimed at “reflecting and strengthening Gaelic cultural heritage and promoting awareness of it across the UK” (BBC Trust 2016).

Of course, Gaelic revival is also an asset to tourism and the hospitality industry. The hope is that exposing millions of people to the Gaelic language through any media at all will help awareness and mobilize people. Time will tell if focus on folklore can help advance the cause of Scottish Gaelic. At the point where we are now, it definitely promises to widen the base of committed future language learners who certainly do not wish for the tale of Scottish Gaelic to end as has happened for many other minority languages across the British Isles; English became the pervasive language throughout the country and, thus, minority languages began to die out.

In recent years, there has been a decline in the number of Scottish Gaelic speakers from 1.2% in 2001 to 1.1% in 2011, according to the 2011 Census in Scotland on Ethnicity, Identity, Language and Religion. However, there is also some good news in the numbers: compared to the 11% drop in overall speakers recorded in the previous census, there was a 0.1% increase in Gaelic speakers under 20 years old. Overall, in 2011, 1.7% of the population could say to have some knowledge of Scottish Gaelic, which is not too bad for a minority language that is on the UNESCO’s endangered languages list (see figure from the Atlas posted below). To conclude, based on what precedes, there is good reason to believe that the story of Scottish Gaelic is not yet over.

Image Source James Morrison

Works Cited



2011 Census in Scotland on Ethnicity, Identity, Language and Religion

BBC Trust 2016 BBC Alba Service license April 2016 http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/our_work/services/television/service_licences/bbc_alba.html accessed on April 3rd 2017 

Bechhofer, F. & McCrone, D. (2014) What makes a Gael? Identity, Language and Ancestry in the Scottish Gáidhealtachd. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power 21(2), 113-133.

Digital Archive of Scottish Gaelic (DASG). University of Glasgow <http://dasg.ac.uk> [accessed 
02 April 2017]

Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005 2005 Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/asp/2005/7 accessed April 3rd 2017.

Moriarty, M. (2009). Normalising language through television: the case of Irish language television channel, TG4. Journal of Multicultural Discourse, 2(4), 137-149.

Nance, C. (2015). ‘New’ Scottish Gaelic speakers in Glasgow: a phonetic study of language revitalization. Language in Society, 44, 553-579.

Smith, R. (2000). Preserving linguistic heritage; a study of Scots Gaelic. International Journal on Minority and Group Rights, 7, 173-187.



Monday, April 17, 2017

Is the Instruction of Crimean Tatar Language Benefiting Under Russian Occupation?

Victory Day Parade. Sevastopol, Crimea
Is the Instruction of Crimean Tatar Language Benefiting Under Russian Occupation?

By Nicholas Higgins

Nicholas Higgins is a M.A. student with the Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian Center, looking to finish his degree by the summer of 2017. He is interested in the study of new ways of understanding the development of identity during Glasnost’ and Perestroika, and after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He wrote this text during his time in 418 “Languages and Minorities in Europe”.

At the time of the return of the Crimean people to the Crimean peninsula, the only people who still knew the Crimean Tatar language were those who had known it before the exile. Demographic data shows that the Crimean Tatars who knew the language were the older generations, as the people born in exile were taught only Russian (Emirova, 2007).

According to Professor Adile Emirova, an avid researcher of her native language, Crimean Tatar, there are four types of competency:

  • symmetric bilinguals, who fluently speak both Russian and mother tongue in all social spheres;
  • asymmetric bilinguals, using mother tongue only in family and Russian in all other spheres of life, including family;
  • asymmetric bilinguals, using the Crimean Tatar language (in the form of local dialect) in family and having limited usage of Russian;
  • monolinguals, having the command of only Russian or only Crimean Tatar. (Emirova, 2007).

With these levels of competency, the Crimean people have worked to try and resurrect their language. As of 2007, there were fifteen schools in Crimea that offered adequate instruction of Crimean Tatar, offering instruction to 5,000 students out of 40,000.

Now jump to March 2014. At the tail end of the Euromaidan, a highly controversial referendum was held that ended with the Crimean Peninsula joining the Russian Federation. With the Crimean Tatars now back under the rule of the Kremlin, the situation regarding the spread of the Crimean Tatar language has come under a possible threat. The operative word here is “possible”.

Protester at May 18th Commemoration of the Crimean Tatar Deportations.
Maidan Square, Kiev, Ukraine
It is undeniable that the Crimean Tatars are currently facing repressions under Russian rule, as the Mejlis, the highest legislative body of Crimean Tatars, has recently, as of the 27th of April, been banned from the Crimean Peninsula under the pretext of being an Islamic extremist organization (Al Jazeera, 2016). In addition, a number of Crimean Tatar media sources have been shut down, including ATR, a Crimean TV channel that was vocally critical of Russian rule.

The Russians claimed to be providing Crimean Tatar schools with language textbooks to allow for the teaching of Crimean Tatar, as textbooks for language instruction became a needed commodity for Crimean Tatar schools. The Russian publishing company, Prosveshchenie, has reportedly produced over 600,000 textbooks to the region in 2014, included in those are supposedly Crimean Tatar language textbooks. A total of at least 3,000,000 textbooks were sent to the region between at least six different publishing companies (Дон ТР). With these textbooks, the Russians had planned to help improve the instruction and availability of the language for education. However, this may not be the case, as a Turkish human rights delegation, led by Professor Zafer Uskul, observed (Goble, 2015).

The delegation claimed that the language rights of the Crimean Tatars only existed “on paper”. The evidence provided shows that only fifteen schools teach Crimean Tatar. Given that we already know that there were only fifteen schools that had Crimean Tatar as the language of instruction as early as 2007, it shows zero percent growth in terms of number of institutions provided. According to various reports, the academic years after the Russian occupation began contain no schools that are strictly instructed in Crimean Tatar, all the schools are now dual-language with Russian. Russian has dominated, as 96% of students are learning Russian instead of Crimean Tatar, and Crimean Tatar children are taught in Russian in schools where Crimean Tatar is the main language ((Coynash, 2015) (112 UA, 2016) (Goble, 2015)).

What about the textbooks, then? Are the numbers and claims of the Russians accurate to what the Crimean Tatars are experiencing? The textbooks that were promised did not arrive when they were supposed to, and the number of textbooks provided for Crimean Tatar instruction are woefully lacking in population (Goble, 2015).

In addition, the hours of instruction and the importance of Crimean Tatar language instruction have fallen since the Russian occupation began in 2014. Crimean Tatar has lost necessity in instruction in some schools, including the Crimean New School for Kids and Youths, where Crimean Tatar is only used outside formal lessons (Network of Schools). Only three hours a week of instruction of the language is in place currently amongst schools that offer the language (RISA, 2014).

The answer to the question of the status of Crimean Tatar instruction under Russian occupation is clear: the status has experienced little to no growth. With the promise of textbooks for the Crimean schools, the Russians have failed to deliver while lowering the hours of instruction and elevating the instruction of the Russian language while suppressing Crimean Tatar. Perhaps most damning of all, the Kremlin and Putin have stated that the push for Crimea was for the protection of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers (Coynash, 2015). As long as the Crimean Tatars are being suppressed by their Russian occupiers, the instruction of the Crimean Tatar language will continue to suffer.


"Russia Continues to Oppress Crimea's Tatars." - Al Jazeera English. March 19, 2016. Accessed April 15, 2016. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/03/russia-continues-oppress-crimea-tatars-160308054208716.html.

"Russian Court Bans Crimean Tatar Governing Body." Al Jazeera English. April 27, 2016. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/04/russian-court-bans-crimean-tatar-governing-body-160426191324707.html.

Coynash, Halya. "Ukrainian & Crimean Tatar Pushed out of Schools in Russian-occupied Crimea." Ukraine Law Blog (blog), September 6, 2015. http://ukrainianlaw.blogspot.com/2015/09/ukrainian-crimean-tatar-pushed-out-of.html.

"News:." Crimean Tatar in Ukraine. Accessed April 15, 2016. http://www.networkofschools.eu/schools/crimean-tatar-in-ukraine/#c2619.

Emirova, Adile. "On the Revival of the Crimean Tatar Language: An Interview with Professor Adile Emirova." Interview by Inci Bowman. International Committee for Crimea. 2007. http://www.iccrimea.org/reports/emirovainterview.html.

"Crimea's Forgotten Children Fight Back." Foreign Policy Crimeas Forgotten Children Fight Back Comments. March 11, 2016. http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/03/11/crimeas-forgotten-children-fight-back-tatars-ukraine-russia/.

Goble, Paul A. "Russian Occupiers Cut Classes and Schools in Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian -- EUROMAIDAN PRESS." Euromaidan Press. September 9, 2015. Accessed April 15, 2016. http://euromaidanpress.com/2015/09/06/russian-occupiers-cut-classes-and-schools-in-crimean-tatar-and-ukrainian/.

Goble, Paul A. "Under Russian Occupation, Crimean Tatar Language Rights Exist 'only on Paper,' Turkish Rights Activists Say -." Euromaidan Press. June 17, 2015. Accessed April 15, 2016. http://euromaidanpress.com/2015/06/17/under-russian-occupation-crimean-tatar-language-rights-exist-only-on-paper-turkish-rights-activists-say/.

"Moscow Changes School Curricula of Crimean Tatar Language on the Peninsula." Moscow Changes School Curricula of Crimean Tatar Language on the Peninsula. February 5, 2016. Accessed April 15, 2016. http://112.international/politics/moscow-changes-school-curricula-of-crimean-tatar-language-on-the-peninsula-2456.html.

"Crimean Schools Shortened Crimean Tatar Language Classes." Religious Information Service of Ukraine. September 16, 2014. Accessed April 15, 2016. http://risu.org.ua/en/index/all_news/other_confessions/islam/57665/.

"Russian-appointed 'Prosecutor' Poklonskaya Suspends Crimean Tatar Mejlis." Uatoday.tv. April 13, 2016. Accessed April 15, 2016. http://uatoday.tv/politics/russian-appointed-prosecutor-poklonskaya-suspends-crimean-tatar-mejlis-630326.html.

"Сражение за Крым." Издательство «Просвещение» изо всех сил стремится заполучить контракт на оснащение школ полуострова: Общество: Россия: Lenta.ru. October 6, 2014. Accessed April 15, 2016. https://lenta.ru/articles/2014/10/06/krim/.

"Дон ТР." От российского издательства ‘Просвещение’ Крым получит почти 600 тысяч школьных учебников. August 7, 2014. Accessed April 15, 2016. http://dontr.ru/vesti/obshchestvo/3723269-ot-rossijskogo-izdatelstva-prosveshchenie-krym-poluchit-pochti-600-tysyach-shkolnykh-uchebnikov/


Monday, April 3, 2017

Hypocrisie: La Nouvelle Belle Langue?

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Hypocrisie: La Nouvelle Belle Langue?

By Kevin O’Keefe

Kevin O’Keefe is a senior at the University of Illinois majoring in French Studies, with a double minor in Political Science and Global Studies. He took French 418 in the spring of his junior year in 2016, after returning home from a semester abroad in Paris, France in the Fall of 2015, where he studies French politics and the European Union at Sciences Po.

For centuries, people across the globe have spent years of dedication working to master of the French language and reach its “refined nature”. To these people, there is a simple je ne sais quoi that makes French seemingly drip with culture and sophistication. The efforts of the French to maintain this level of linguistic refinement have been unparalleled through the ages, as French became the single and only official language of the French state through numerous processes and pushes for monlinugality and purification of the French language. (Radford, 1).

However, in recent times, the beauty and grace of the French language has begun to be described in quite a different way- hypocritical. As France’s language policies modernize and seek to embrace the teaching of prominent foreign languages, many have begun to ask how the French nation can condone this behavior while at the same time continuing to undermine and suppress regional minority languages within its own borders.

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France’s national linguistic policy rests on one specific goal meant to safeguard against the domination of foreign languages over French ways of living, which states the importance of the notion of "one country, one language" (Melvin, 2). In order to maintain this ideology, which has roots dating all the way back to the French Revolution when leaders hoped to unify the broken French state under a shared linguistic structure, France has taken incredibly bold steps to downplay the influence of minority languages not only in France’s Parisian capital, but in territories and regions throughout the nation and the Francophonie. For example, France has refused to ratify the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, and thus little can be done to help spread, maintain, or fortify the presence of minority languages throughout the nation (Radford, 1). Languages such as Breton, Basque, Corsican, and Occitan have become relegated to strictly cultural use with limited regional sponsorship and infrequent educational usage, while also being listed as only unofficial languages of the state (Costa and Lambert, 3). These languages all have extremely deep roots in French history, yet the French state has done everything in its power to eradicate these languages in accordance with its monolingual policy aims.

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It would seem that France’s monolingual goals of promoting French as the official language of the nation would also apply to limiting the influence of other major Western languages in the same way they have nearly stomped out regional minority languages. However, quite the opposite has occurred, particularly in the field of education. As times have changed and western nations like the United States have come to prominence, France has doubled its efforts to stress the importance of learning a foreign language in its educational framework. According to the French Diplomatie, “France promotes linguistic diversity by encouraging the teaching of a wide range of foreign languages, in both the national education system and through certified language centers,” (France Diplomatie, 1). The educational system has installed the teaching of English and other foreign languages at every level (elementary, secondary, and high school level) and has done so with the goal of being able to “reinforce the learning of foreign languages to ensure that every student leaving high school is proficient in at least two modern languages in order to succeed in the professional world,” (France Diplomatie, 1).

The increased presence of foreign language in French schools demonstrates the hypocritical dimensions of the language discourses in France: on one side the French’s own goal of achieving monolingual supremacy within their own borders, at the expense of what has already been done to the nation’s regional languages, but also an increasing desire to not be left behind the rest of Europe with regard to other powerful languages of the world, especially English. In pursuing education in foreign languages, the French are allowing the influence of French to be pushed aside and another language to be used and communicated with, thus undermining the work so many generations of French politicians and linguists have done in promoting the French language to superiority. The French face a serious challenge as English and other languages enter the classroom, as future generations will have multilingual skills from a young age, and their entry into the work force will potentially have massive effects on the idea of French supremacy in a world in which English, Spanish, and Chinese have already begun to take a more prominent role on the world stage.

Works Cited

Costa, James, and Patricia Lambert. "France and Language(s): Old Policies and New Challenges in Education. Towards a Renewed Framework?" France and Language(s): Old Policies and New Challenges in Education. Towards a Renewed Framework? N.p., n.d. Web. 9 May 2016. https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-00439199

France 24. "French Schools to Boost Foreign Language Learning." France 24. N.p., 11 Mar. 2015. Web. 13 Apr. 2016. http://www.france24.com/en/20150311-france-education-boost-foreign-language-learning-middle-schools-english

Melvin, Joshua. "Hypocrisy? France and Its Regional Languages." - The Local. N.p., 23 Jan. 2014. Web. 13 Apr. 2016. http://www.thelocal.fr/20140123/in-france-there-is-only-one-language

"Multilingualism in France." France Diplomatie. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 May 2016. http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/french-foreign-policy/francophony/promoting-multilingualism/article/multilingualism-in-france

Radford, Gavin. "French Language Law: The Attempted Ruination of France's Linguistic Diversity. | Trinity College Law Review (TCLR) | Trinity College Dublin." Trinity College Law Review TCLR Trinity College Dublin. N.p., 04 Mar. 2015. Web. 13 Apr. 2016. http://trinitycollegelawreview.org/french-language-law-the-attempted-ruination-of-frances-linguistic-diversity/


Monday, March 20, 2017

Language and Terrorism: The Case of ETA

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Language and Terrorism: The Case of ETA

By Melissa Wagner

Melissa Wagner is a senior studying Communication and Spanish. After graduating, she will pursue a career in Human Resources. She studied abroad in Bilbao, Spain in the Spring of 2015, where she was immersed in the Basque culture and was surrounded by the unique language. This blog entry is based on her experiences and research on the interface of political and linguistic issues regarding Basque.

For forty years, the terrorist group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) brought violence to the Spanish Basque Country (Bieter, 2013). Even five years after a permanent cease-fire was announced in 2011 (Bieter, 2013), graffiti in Euskera, the ancient Basque language that now holds co-official status in the region (Heidemann, 2004), supporting the ideals of ETA can be seen around the streets of Bilbao, Spain. Like elsewhere in Europe, nationalistic ideals among Basque people grew in the late 19th century, especially with the activity of Sabino Arana (Pereltsvaig, 2011). There was an industrial boom when iron deposits were found around Bilbao, and the industrialization of the area brought many migrant workers, causing what Arana and others believed to be a threat to the Basque people (Putnam-Pite, 2012). Arana started a Basque nationalist movement to “preserve Basques’ unique identity – their language, their rural, agricultural traditions, even their physical characteristics” (Bieter, 2013) as a solution to combat the effects of industrialization. The goal of ETA aligns with these ideals, working towards “an independent Basque Country that included the three provinces lost to France… using all means possible, including violence” (Bieter, 2013). The biggest difference between the ideals of Arana and ETA is that ETA shifted away from emphasizing race and ethnicity as the foundation of the Basque nation, and replaced it with the use of the Euskera (Putnam-Pite, 2012).

Additionally, the ETA terrorist group, listed as the fourth most active terrorist group in the world from 1970 to 2010 in the University of Maryland terrorism database (Bieter, 2013), has rightfully been criticized by many. One of those critics is journalist Stephen Mackey (2008, May) who argued that ETA was causing harm to the Basque language by turning it into an ideological choice instead of an open language. Their broad concept of nationalism tends to create a divide that excludes “others” or those who do not speak the language. This is the type of exclusion created the extreme unity that ETA emphasized in order to justify their cause. Euskera provided a source of togetherness that Basque people could rally behind since many would condone the extreme violence. Mackey (2008, May) also wrote about different instances where the younger generation had been taught to support ETA using the Basque language in the settings of privately-owned Basque language centers. In one center, students were given directions in Basque on how to create Molotov cocktails, while in another they wrote letters in Basque to prisoners who had been convicted for terrorist activities. Conducting extremist behavior in a minority language gives the impression that these young citizens are part of an exclusive club, and encourages the use of Euskera when supporting the agenda of ETA.

Continuing on, the ability for Basques to speak their language is a right that had been confiscated numerous times throughout history, most notably during the Franco regime of 1936 to 1975 (Putnam-Pite, 2012). One of Franco’s governors was first to enact the public use of Euskera. The reasoning behind this act was to prohibit the public use of Euskera, and hefty punishments were used to enforce this prohibition (Putnam-Pite, 2012). This lack of respect undoubtedly inspired a unified people, who were denied a piece of their freedom; ETA utilized the leftover unified populous to rally support for their agenda. Language in general makes up a significant part of a national identity; as such it was a smart decision by ETA to pick Euskera as a unifying factor for the Basque people who backed their ideological goals. For ETA, Euskera was their only sense of togetherness due to the fact that many of their other objectives were extreme; anyone who could speak Euskera became a Basque, and was included in their movement for an independent and unified Basque Country (Pereltsvaig, 2011). This inclusiveness and unity of a large group of unique people is almost admirable, if it were not for the violent ways they attempted to achieve their goals. These atrocious behaviors distracted the public from their unified vision; branding ETA as a terrorist organization rather than a group fighting for a national identity.

In this picture, the ETA symbol has been spray painted on a building. The symbol consists of an axe, which represents armed struggle, and a snake which represents either watchfulness or politics. The slogan “bietan jarrai” means “go forward both ways” which is sometimes interpreted as ETA will pursue both violent and political routes to get Basque independence (Tremlett, 2010).

Works Cited

Bieter, M. (2013, November). The rise and fall of ETA. https://thebluereview.org/rise-fall-eta/

Heidemann, K. (2004). Education and minority language revitalization: Stories of struggle and success from the basque country. Conference Papers – American Sociological Association, 1-30. doi:asa_proceeding_34313.PDF

Mackey, S. (2008, May). Basque language schools in ETA row. https://www.tes.com/article.aspx?storycode=75740

Pereltsvaig, A. (2011, December). Linguistic nationalism among the basques. http://www.languagesoftheworld.info/student-papers/linguistic-nationalism-among-the-basques.html

Putnam-Pite, C. (2012, July). Terrorism in the basque country: Violations and protections of human rights. http://prospectjournal.org/2012/07/09/terrorism-in-the-basque-country-violations-and-protections-of-human-rights/

Tremlett, G. (2010, September). ETA’s ceasefire statement decoded. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/sep/06/eta-ceasefire-statement

List of Links:








Monday, March 6, 2017

Is Yiddish on a path to extinction?

Is Yiddish on a Path to Extinction?

By Juliana Ramirez

Juliana Ramirez recently graduated with an Accounting degree and French minor from the University of Illinois. In the Spring of 2016, Juliana took French 418 to learn about the minority languages in Europe and finish her French minor. In the near future, she will start a summer internship at an Accounting firm in Chicago and come back to Champaign in the Fall of 2016 to pursue a Masters in Accounting.

One of the most predominant languages of the Jews up until a century ago is on a path to extinction. Yiddish, which originated as early as the 9th century, provided the nascent Ashkenazi community with an extensive Germanic based vernacular fused with elements taken from Hebrew and Aramaic, as well as from Slavic and Romance languages (Jewish Generation) of the particular linguistic environment. The language is primarily native to Central, Western, and Eastern Europe, Israel, and regions with high Jewish populations. As part of the Indo-European language family, Yiddish has roughly 2 million speakers worldwide, according to the Council of Europe (Zaagsma). However, because of its vulnerability to extinction, Yiddish is officially recognized as a minority language by the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Israel, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Sweden, and Ukraine.

Source: BBC News
The population of Yiddish speakers decreased tremendously during WWII due to the killing of native speakers by the Nazis and the assimilation of Jews into linguistic communities; nonetheless, the language itself had already been on a decline before the war. On the eve of WWII, there were 11 to 13 million Yiddish speakers; this number decreased by roughly 85 percent by the end of the war (Katz). The majority of Jews able to escape throughout the WWII period migrated to Israel or to the United States, where they found Yiddish to be an impractical language and thus learned English and other prevailing languages. For those unable to escape, like the Yiddish population in the Soviet Union, found their language outlawed by Stalin during and after the Holocaust (Shyovitz). As a result of the Holocaust and repressive measures in place by governments, Yiddish came to an almost immediate standstill and continued to do so for decades. However, there have been movements by Jewish organizations and cultural centers to revive Yiddish in modern day.

Source: Pew Research
In unstable, bilingual or multilingual speech communities, languages lose their last native speakers quickly and thus leading to language death. Sudden, radical, gradual, and bottom-to-top are all types of language death. In the case of Yiddish, it is not yet dead, but it is on the path to extinction. Yiddish experienced sudden, radical and gradual language declines during some years throughout its history. Sudden language decline occurred primarily during the Holocaust because of the significant and rapid loss in population. On the other hand, radical language decline, which occurs abruptly due to the threat of political or social persecution, transpired throughout the course of the Yiddish language’s history. Many Yiddish-speaking communities abandoned their culture, traditions, and way of life in order to avoid acts of violence or discrimination. Consequently, after WWII many found Yiddish to be the language of their ancestors and thus obsolete. During this time, Yiddish experienced gradual language decline, arising when minority languages are in contact with dominant languages, and the native speaking population gradually shifts to adopting a new language. Sometimes the use of a language is not considered advantageous, parents do not pass it on to their children, or its use is discouraged by society or by the government (Rozovsky).

Source: Wall Street Journal
As for Yiddish today, 76 percent of Yiddish speakers in the US live in the New York metro area, with another 6 percent in the Poughkeepsie metro area, 4 percent in the Miami metro area, and 2 percent in the Los Angeles metro area (Basu). This goes to show how the majority of Yiddish speakers live in just four metropolitan areas in the entire US, making it more difficult for the language to gain recognition and expand; however, there are efforts to improve the usage of the language. Likewise, the 2007 American Community Survey on Language Use counted just 158,991 people who spoke Yiddish at home in the United States, a drop of nearly 50 percent from 1980 to 2007 (Basu). Like in the US, Yiddish populations continue to reside in small communities throughout Europe and mainly Israel.

When languages die, entire cultures, communities and identities vanish as well. In the world today, there are 6,800 languages spoken. However, almost half are endangered, and nearly 90 percent of languages will disappear by the end of this century (Rozovsky). Throughout history, languages have been born, developed and discarded; yet, only Basque, Egyptian, Chinese, Greek, Hebrew, Latin, Persian, Sanskrit and Tamil have had lives of more than 2,000 years (Rozovsky). As economic and cultural globalization and development continue to push forward, growing numbers of languages will become endangered and eventually extinct. With increasing economic integration on national and regional scales, people find it easier to communicate and conduct business in the dominant lingua-francas of world commerce: English, Chinese, Spanish and French (Malone). Only time will tell if and when Yiddish will face extinction along with other languages.

Works Cited

Basu, Tanya. “Oy Vey: Yiddish Has a Problem.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 9 Sept. 2014. Web. 15 Apr. 2016. http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/09/yiddish-has-a-problem/379658/

Katz, Dovid. YIDDISH, the Historic Language of Ashkenazic (central and East European) Jewry, Is the Third Principal Literary Language in Jew (n.d.): n. pag. Web Archive. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.

Malone, Elizabeth. “Research Areas.” Language and Linguistics: Endangered Language. National Science Foundation, n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2016. http://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/linguistics/endangered.jsp

Rozovsky, Lorne. “Path to Extinction - The Declining Health of Jewish Languages.” Chabad. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2016.

Shyovitz, David. “Yiddish: History & Development of Yiddish.” History & Development of Yiddish. Jewish Virtual Library, n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2016. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/yiddish.html

“The Unity and Diversity of Human Language.” 29 Apr. 2009. Middlebury. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.  http://cr.middlebury.edu/public/usoltan/intd0111a-s09-html/content/lecture22_language_death.pdf

“YIDDISH DIALECTS.” Jewish Generation. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2016. http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/givennames/yiddial.htm

Zaagsma, Gerben. Public History beyond the State: Presenting the Yiddish past in Contemporary Europe. Public History beyond the State: Presenting the Yiddish past in Contemporary Europe. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.


Monday, February 20, 2017

Belarusian on the Road to Revival

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia
Belarusian on the Road to Revival

by Alyssa Lowery

Alyssa Lowery graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in May 2016 with a B.A. in Linguistics and Spanish. She wrote this blog post as a student in SPAN 418 ‘Language and Minorities in Europe’ in Spring 2016.

Many people assume that the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 marks the revival of Belarusian in Belarus; others believe the Ukraine Crisis has prompted the Belarusian people to begin reviving their language and culture; however, with a 2015 article on The Guardian stating that “no more than 10% of Belarusians say they communicate in Belarusian in their day-to-day lives,” it’s easy to question whether this is actually the case (Barushka, 2015). The question now is: is the Belarusian language being revived at all?

During and immediately following the collapse of the USSR, there was certainly an increase in Belarusian language policies, such as the new Language Law, which “expected that Belarusian would become the language of science, culture and the media within three years; the language of congresses, conferences and state decrees within three to five years; of business within five years; and legal matters within a decade,” along with more minor laws following, including the Law on Culture, Law on Education and Law on Languages. (Bekus, 2014: 31) Given that only 10% of Belarusians use the language in their everyday lives, it is safe to say that the Language Law did not meet its expectations.

Twenty-five years after the fall of the Soviet Union, signs of revival should be seen by now. Despite the bleak statistic offered by The Guardian, they are – even if the increase isn’t as drastic as officials predicted it would be after the new Language Law. According to Belteleradiocompany, each year on the first Sunday of every September, the Belarusian people come together to celebrate the literature of their language on Belarusian Written Language Day. This demonstrates 1) a strong pride for their language and 2) the preservation and use of their language through literature. Belteleradiocompany also states that as of 2015, the Belarusian Writers’ Union included 590 writers. Another positive sign for the Belarusian language is the free group language courses such as Mova ci Kava (Language or Coffee), Mova Nanova (Language in a New Way) and Movaveda popping up and continuing to grow in popularity (Astapenia, 2014). Additionally, the language has been put into the education system. Classes in the Belarusian language as well as literature are taken between grades 1-9 according to the World Data on Education (7th Edition). So why are there so few people speaking Belarusian?

A major inhibitor of the revival of Belarusian is (or based on information presented in the following paragraph, it might be more accurate to say “was”) an internal factor: the Belarusian government. Alexander Lukashenko, president of Belarus, declared in 1994 that "people who speak the Belarusian language cannot do anything else apart from speak the Belarusian language, because it's impossible to express anything great in Belarusian.” A major factor in the learning and survival of any language is the mindset of the people toward the language. For Belarusian to be dismissed by the president, who should be fighting to keep the language alive, negatively portrays the language to the people. A statement this bold and degrading to a language not only discourages Belarusian speakers and learners, but it also means nonchalant regulation of the protections already in place for Belarusian.

With that being said, Lukashenko made a completely reversed statement on January 29, 2015, demonstrating a new era and mindset toward Belarusian. Lukashenko passionately stated, “it [Belarusian] makes us different from the Russians. The native language is a distinctive feature of the nation. We must not forget the Belarusian language. We must know it as well as the Russian language. It is will be the biggest pride for the any Belarusian. I do not want this legacy to be lost.” Lukashenko’s positive statement toward Belarusian, after two decades of promoting Russian and dismissing the nation’s language, changes the mindset for the country and also portrays optimism to his people that he will not only create policies for the language but also accurately enforce them. One very important person can make a big difference.

Taking into account where the Belarusian language started before the collapse of the Soviet Union and analyzing where it is now, to answer the question posed above, yes, there is a spark in the revival of the Belarusian language. The new positivity and passion surrounding Belarusian cannot be missed. UNESCO’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger still classifies the language as vulnerable, but with a recently changed mentality toward the language among government officials, Belarusian seems to be on the road to revival.

Works Cited

Astapenia, Ryhor. "Is Lukashenka Trying to Emancipate Belarus from Russian Culture?" Belarus Digest. 03 Oct. 2014. Web. .

Barushka, Katerina. "After Decades of Russian Dominance, Belarus Reclaims Its Language." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 28 Jan. 2015. Web. .

Bekus, Nelly. "“Hybrid” Linguistic Identity of Post-Soviet Belarus." Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe 13.4 (2014): 26-51. Web. .

"Belarusian Written Language Day Celebrated Annually on First Sunday of September." Belteleradiocompany. 27 Aug. 2015. Web. .

"Lukashenko: Belarusian Language Issue Has Been Resolved Once and for All." Belarus News: Belarusian Telegraph Agency. 29 Jan. 2015. Web. .

UNESCO-IBE, comp. "Belarus." World Data on Education 7th Edition (2011). Web. .


Monday, February 6, 2017

Italy’s Apathy Towards Neapolitano’s Imminent Death

Image Link

Italy’s Apathy Towards Napolitano’s Imminent Death

By Moisés G. Contreras

Moisés G. Contreras is a Junior at the University of Illinois majoring in Psychology and Italian, with a minor in Latina/Latino Studies. After completion of his degrees, he hopes to spend a year teaching English abroad. Naples is one of his favorite Italian cities, and very probably the site of his studying and teaching abroad plans.

The relationship between the majority and the minority can be detrimental, especially when it is overlooked and equity is not at the forefront. It is then interesting to apply this idea in a linguistic realm, where minority languages are mainly esteemed poorly and as not worthy of acknowledgement. In the situation of Italy and the question of regional and minority languages, the main issue is the vigorous and inconsiderate spread of Standard Italian across the state. There is legislation in Italy to protect certain minority languages, (Law 482/1999), but this law is not enough for the protection and cultivation of Italy’s regional languages. What is the particular reason that Neapolitan, for example, is not protected by a similar legislation, or even recognized in general for that matter?

The Neapolitan language is spoken in the southern part of Italy in regions like Abruzzo, Calabria, Campania, Lazio, and others nearby. This is roughly the area once covered by the Kingdom of Naples, after which the language was named. With the conception of the Kingdom and the language begins the vast and rich history of Neapolitan culture in literature, music, theater, and more. In regards to the Neapolitan musical history, la canzone napoletana, or “Neapolitan song”—which refers to the music sung in the Neapolitan language— is considered lightly prominent globally. For this reason, many say that the Neapolitan language is therefore the most known and exported worldwide amongst the Italic languages. And while it is a great tool to disseminate the Neapolitan language, this does not necessarily mean it is a tool being used to instruct the language or ensure its vitality by any means.

Unfortunately, this prominence is satisfactory for many political actors, since “the languages that show a higher degree of vitality tend to be less promoted, in the sense that fewer associations and organizations exist to protect them and their presence is more limited in education (including adult education)” (Coluzzi, 2008, p. 223). This mindset is extremely harmful to any regional language and it highlights the neglect many of these languages receive. With the propagation of Standard Italian thanks to, (or perhaps blamed to), mass media, institutional instruction, and other methods, this “ongoing process of Italianization… is slowly eroding these [regional and minority] languages from the inside” (Coluzzi, 2008, p. 219). For now, though, Standard Italian and Neapolitan are barely mutually intelligible, considering their distinct grammatical differences in lexicon and structure.

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Despite the steady decline in use of regional languages, made clear by ISTAT survey responses, there still is only a meager amount of laws and policies that make any type of effort to protect them. Sure, there is Law 482/1999, but it only offers protection to twelve minority languages in Italy. Even without much knowledge of this law, the map provided offers an idea of exactly which languages are protected, (mostly the languages of the minority communities in the nation). Although even with this protection, Friulian and Sardinian, sometimes regarded as varieties of Italian, “are usually considered to be a ‘poor’ or ‘impure’ image of the idealized language” (Iannàccaro & Dell’aquila, 2011. p. 38). The negative image that Italian ‘dialects’ are given alludes to the problem at hand: there is a severe lack of importance placed on protecting the languages of the many different cultures in Italy.

This “deliberate socio-political behavior” (Iannàccaro & Dell’aquila, 2011, p. 37) against the proper protection and preservation of these languages cannot be tolerated. It is as if political officials are willingly oblivious to the fact that, again referring to Neapolitan, there are many signals as to the decline of the language and its current eventual death. With UNESCO’s 9 factors, we can pinpoint a couple of these indicators in the Neapolitan language. In terms of intergenerational language transmission, probably the most important factor in ensuring a language’s vitality, Neapolitan has been graded as unsafe. This finding, coupled with the lack of Neapolitan instruction in educational institutions, paints a dreary picture for the future of the language as well. And mass media might as well be an accomplice to this attempted language murder, since it has very minimal response to new domains and media. It comes to no surprise to know that Neapolitan has no official status in any Italian region, despite its prominence.

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Neapolitan was merely the language in question in this post; however, it can be used as a representative of Italy’s regional languages and the injustice they are served. While the standardization of the Italian language is an exemplary method to unify the nation and build an identity that was missing up to recent times, it is disheartening to see what is consequently being neglected. Italy is a mosaic formed by the different cultures found within the regions in the peninsula. To be unbothered by the eventual loss of these regional languages would be ironic and counterproductive to cultivating and fundamentally understanding the true Italian culture and identity. May Italy and more importantly the Neapolitan people never forget, in the lyrics of a Neapolitan song, “comme si' bello, oje core napulitano”, (how beautiful you are, oh Neapolitan heart).

Works Cited.

Coluzzi, P. (2008). Language planning for Italian regional languages (“dialects”). Language Problems & Language Planning. 215-236.

Iannàccaro, G., Dell’aquila, V. (2011). Historical linguistic minorities: suggestions for classification and typology. Int’l. J. Soc. Lang. 29-45. 




Core napulitano. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ik1R5pb5ki8