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.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Har de sitt eget språk? Do they have their own language?

By: Fengming Lu

Editor: Zsuzsanna Fagyal-Le Mentec (Associate Professor, French, UIUC)

Fengming Lu is a native of China and a fluent speaker of Swedish and other European languages. He was a graduating senior in Political Science in the spring of 2012 when he was enrolled in the European Union Center’s ‘Language and Minorities in Europe (418)’ course and composed this informative blog entry on languages in Sweden.

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Whenever I mention in the United States that I have studied Swedish as a foreign language, I am often asked the following questions: “Really? Do they have their own language? Do they speak English as their official language, too? Do they speak three languages, French, German, and Italian?” I bet those who ask last question are confusing Sweden with Switzerland.

These questions may sound strange but they reflect the fact that people know very little about languages in Sweden. So, here are some general facts. The official state language of Sweden is Swedish. Swedish is a North Germanic language that Norwegians (from Norway) and Danes (from Denmark) can also understand relatively well, which means that Swedish is partially mutually intelligible with other Scandinavian languages. The total population of Sweden is 9,038,000 people across the country. 8,311,739 of these are native speakers of Swedish that has several dialects.
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According to the 4th cycle report submitted by Sweden to European Council, there are five officially recognized historical minority languages in Sweden; Finnish, Yiddish, Meänkieli, Romani Chib, and Sami. Finnish is spoken mainly by ethnic Finns in Sweden. Many of them live on the Swedish borderland with Finland or are descendants of labor migrants from Finland. Since the 13th century, Finnish has been a provincial language in Sweden and there is a long history of interaction between Swedes and Finns. Finnish is a Finno-Ugric language which is distant from Indo-European languages. Meänkieli (literally “our language”) is a dialect of Finnish mainly spoken by people living around the valley of the Torne River in the northernmost province of Lapland. According to the Ethnologue report on Sweden, there are 109,000 people in total speaking varieties of Finnish in Sweden.

Sami is also a Finno-Ugric language, but far from being mutually intelligible with Finnish. There are at least 40,000 ethnic Sami people speaking one of the many dialects of the Sami language in Sweden (yellow area on this map), although most of them speak Northern Sami.

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Historical minority languages are taught in several high schools and universities in Sweden, but according to the recommendations given by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, it is still imperative to strengthen bilingual education in Finnish and Sami.
Romani and Yiddish are not very prominent. They only have about 9,500 and 4,000 speakers, respectively, but they are considered historical minorities in recognition of their importance for Swedish culture: both Roma and (Ashkenazi) Jewish people have lived in Sweden for centuries. This picture is from the first issue of a Yiddish newspaper published in Stockholm in 1917!

Besides historical minority languages spoken in communities with certain autonomous rights, there are also a number of immigrant languages in Sweden. Let’s start with one of neighbors. There are roughly 30,000 Danish speakers in Sweden, which is not surprising given the proximity and long history of close interactions between Sweden and Denmark. Spanish as a first language is also represented by around 30,000 speakers. The open immigration policy of Sweden has brought several new immigrant minority languages into the country, among them Serbo-Croatian (120,000 speakers), Farsi/Persian (35,000), Greek (50,000), Turoyo (20,000) and Kurdish (20,000). Other less prominent immigrant languages include various dialects of Chinese, Estonian, Iraq, Eritrea, and North Africa (facts from Ethnologue)

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Some of these languages seem to have collectively exerted influence on Swedish. Take, for instance, Rinkebysvenska (Rinkeby Swedish). This is a variety of Swedish associated with ways of speaking the language in Rinkeby, a suburb of Stockholm, where large apartment complexes (see picture below) built during the high age of the welfare state are nowadays hosting a large concentration of recent immigrants and their descendants from outside Europe. (Check out this website on recent news on Rinkeby: http://www.thelocal.se/tag/rinkeby.)

It has been proposed that Rinkebysvenska is a ‘multiethnolect’, a variety of Swedish with words and pronunciation features associated with non-European languages that are spoken on a daily basis by immigrants and their descendants in this suburb. Many question the mere existence of such varieites of languages, and the ideological debate is quite interesting. Click here to read more about this.
And finally, in response to the initial question I often get: yes, the Swedes have their own national language, but they also recognize many other languages at home.

Monday, January 7, 2013

¿Hablas español y otra lengua? ¡Lee esto! (Do you speak Spanish and another language? Read this!)

A review of El bilingüismo en el mundo hispanohablante (Bilingualism in the Spanish-speaking world) by Silvina Montrul.

by Itxaso Rodríguez-Ordóñez

Itxaso Rodríguez-Ordóñez is a Ph.D student in the Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese at the University of Illinois where she is conducting her research in Basque-Spanish bilingualism.
The author of this book, Professor Silvina Andrea Montrul, is a Professor in the Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese and the Department of Linguistics at the University of Illinois. She is the director of the Second Language Acquisition and Bilingualism Lab (SLAB) and the founder and director of the University Language Academy for Children.

Editor: Jessica Nicholas (PhD Candidate in French)
Source: United World College Maastricht Geography wiki
What is common between a Catalan, a Basque, and a Galician from Spain? Try this: all three speak a local language at home and so-called Spanish (Castilian) in school and at work. True? Not that simple. There is a push for languages like Catalan and Basque to be heard in EU institutions (click here to find out more), one can go to school in Basque, and Galician is a literary language celebrated by a special public holiday, called “Días das letras Galegas” every 17th of May!

What is true, though, is that Catalans, Basques and Galicians tend to be bilinguals; that is, they are people who speak two languages in their daily life.
Source: Wiley.com
If you want to know more about all this, here is one accessible reading I can recommend: El bilingüismo en el mundo hispanohablante (Bilingualism in the Spanish-speaking world) by Wiley-Blackwell, 2012. Click here for the publisher’s information about the book. This is the first book written on bilingualism in Spanish around the world that combines insights from three different fields of study of bilingualism: psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics and education. The author, Professor Silvina Montrul from the University of Illinois, demonstrates that these three subfields are pretty intertwined. For instance, she talks about the prestige that Spanish enjoys in contact with other local languages in Latin American and Spain and the minority status it holds in the United States despite the rapid increase of the number of Spanish speakers in North America. Why is it that Spanish occupies the third position among the most spoken languages in the world and yet it is still subject to a stigma, or social shame, in some contexts? What are the factors that contribute to the successful acquisition of Spanish as a minority language under various sociopolitical pressures? What are the diverse roles that education occupies in the three territories?

Source: LearnSpanish4Life.co.uk
I like that every chapter is written in direct and elegant style and accessible language. Even the most difficult technical terms are clearly explained, which make them understandable not only to the academic reader but to anybody interested in the study of multiple languages in the brain and in society. There is a synthesis after each chapter followed by comprehension questions. Through these exercises, the reader is invited to reflect on a lot of different bilingual situations and to take a step further in individual analysis. The many sources it draws on to present a global transatlantic perspective on Spanish bilingualism make the book an informative and enjoyable reading.

Give it a read, think of the stories and generalizations, and you might never look at a Spanish bilingual in Europe and elsewhere in the same way again.

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