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.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

No Country Left Behind: Will Ratifying the Charter Truly Empower France's Regional and Minority Languages?

by Dorian Sosa

Editors’ note: Following up on our previous blog entry by Farhan Patel, here is another angle on France’s long-standing battle for the ratification of The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.

European Union Flag
The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML) is now a prerequisite for the admittance of any country into the European Union (Barbière 2014). The fact that the Charter has become a requirement to join the EU is crucial, for it reflects Europe’s commitment towards its regional and minority languages.

Twenty-five of the 47 Council of Europe members have already ratified the ECRML, meaning that they have agreed to take on the responsibility of protecting and promoting the regional and minority language(s) in their individual states. Nations such as Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom – arguably three of the most powerful and influential nations in Europe – have already ratified the Charter, along with other notable countries like Hungary, Poland and Netherlands (Barbière 2014). France, however, one of the founding nations of the European Union, remains yet to have ratified it.

Seeing as France has always played a major role in European politics and has contributed so much to Antoine de Rivarol. It is obvious that the country is extremely proud of its language –it is argued to be one of the most prideful countries in the world – thus it is not surprising that the French Republic is against the promotion of minority languages. In fact its constitution prohibits it from ratifying the Charter.
the European Union makes it seem unconventional that the European state is against the ratification of the ERCML. Keep in mind that this is a country that claimed, “Ce qui n'est pas clair n'est pas français” –

The Constitution of France rules that there can only be “one people in the French Republic,” and as the Charter would recognize more than one people within the Republic, it has been deemed unconstitutional by the French Constitutional Council (Blackwood 2007). 

Nonetheless, all eyes are on France with the European Parliament pushing it more than ever to ratify the Charter (Barbière 2014).  The big question is no longer whether France will ratify the Charter, but when will France ratify it: sooner or later?

In 1999 France signed the Charter, meaning that it recognizes regional and minority languages within the Republic, but it does not have to take any measures whatsoever to protect the languages. In 2012 the ratification of the Charter was “one of the electoral promises made by the current French President François Hollande during his [2012] electoral campaign” (A Milestone 2014). And on 28 January 2014 the French Assembly passed a bill – 361 Assembly Members of the French parliament in favor compared to 149 against – to ratify the Charter (A Milestone 2014). Now, the bill must go through the Senate (Barbière 2014). France certainly seems to be on the verge of ratifying the ECRML.

However, with President Hollande’s Socialist party losing the municipal elections this past March  thus shifting power to the Front National, a conservative party (Willsher 2014) the Charter’s ratification may come later rather than sooner. The fact that “half of the [French] Senate chamber will be renewed in the September 2014 senatorial elections” (Argemi 2014), may also postpone its ratification. 

The ECRML may not be ratified as soon as anticipated, but based on France’s history in relation with it, it seems inevitable for the Republic to ratify the Charter in the not too distant future. This brings up another major question to be considered: “Will ratifying the Charter in France truly empower the minority languages in France?”

France has only signed 39 of the 98 measures outlined in the Charter. Unless France decides to agree to more of the terms of the text then the ECRML will not provide the same protection for regional and minority languages that it does in other countries – such as Spain – that have ratified a much greater amount of the possible provisions proposed by the Charter (Argemí 2014). Even closer to the point, the French Culture Minister, Aurélie Filippetti claims that ratifying the Charter “will change little [for regional and minority languages] since most of the 39 measures are already possible with current French laws” (Argemí 2014).

Will the ratification of the Charter simply act as a “superficial makeover” (A Milestone 2014)?

In an interview with Filippeti, the French Cuture Minister agrees that “la Charte a, pour l'essentiel, une valeur symbolique. Elle marque la volonté de la France de protéger son patrimoine culturel” [The Charter in and of itself, has a symbolic meaning : it symbolizes France’s willingness to protect its cultural heritage] (Feltin-Palas 2014).

Nonetheless, as Filippeti says, “Ce n'est pas rien” [It’s quite a move] (Feltin-Palas 2014). The ratification, alone, may not bring major changes to regional and minority languages in France, yet there is still hope. Paul Molac, president of the Cultural Council of Britain (Argouarch 2009), argues that if the Charter is ratified than the process will be a positive one. He believes that the ECRML “will allow the adoption of laws on language policies favoring those languages” (Argemí 2014). This would most surely be a positive step. Now the question is this: is France be ready to take that small symbolic step?

Le Tricolour
Bibliographical Sources
"A Milestone for France’s Regional Languages." NPLD. N.p., 28 Jan. 2014. Web. 31 Mar. 2014. 

Argemí, Aureli, ed. "French National Assembly on Long, Uncertain Road towards European Charter of Languages Ratification." Nationalia. CIEMEN, 29 Jan. 2014. Web. 25 Apr. 2014.

Argouarch, Philippe. "Paul Molac élu Président Du Nouveau Conseil Culturel De Bretagne." Agence Bretagne Press. N.p., 07 Apr. 2009. Web. 25 Apr. 2014.

Barbière, Cécile. "France One Step Closer to Ratifying Regional Languages Charter." Web log post. EurActiv. Fondation EurActiv PoliTech, 02 Mar. 2014. Web. 31 Mar. 2014. 

Blackwook, Robert J. "L'Exception Française? Post-war Language Policy on Corsica." Journal of Multilingual & Multicultural Development 28.1 (2007): 18-33. Print.

"Civil Society Language Associations Gather to Demand Ratification of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages by France." NPLD. N.p., 21 May 2013. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.

Feltin-Palas, Michel. "Le Plan Du Gouvernement En Faveur Des Langues Régionales En Savoir plus Sur Http://www.lexpress.fr/region/aurelie-filippetti-les-langues-regionales-nous-enrichissent_1317942.html#o5DWIr7wuDEl6vWJ.99." L'Express. Groupe Express-Roularta, 28 Jan. 2014. Web. 25 Apr. 2014.

Willsher, Kim. "French Elections: François Hollande under Pressure after Crushing Losses." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited, 31 Mar. 2014. Web. 25 Apr. 2014.

Dorian Sosa was a senior in Architecture with a major in French at the University of Illinois when he wrote this text in the “Language and Minorities in Europe”. Dorian is coming back to the U of I for graduate school and is interested in traveling over the summer.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Last Labor of Hercules: Will Francois Hollande Get to Ratify the ECRML?

by Farhan Patel

States that have signed and ratified the ECRML in dark green,
states that have signed but not ratified the ECRML in light green,
states who have neither signed/ratified the ECRML in white,
and non-Council of Europe member states in gray.
Image Source
According to PEN International, the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages (referred to now as ECRML) is a treaty originally signed by 12 European countries on November 5, 1992 – swearing to protect and promote European historical, regional and minority languages. The Council of Europe, which currently consists of 47 European states, heavily encourages all European states to sign and ratify the document. Since 1992, 21 members of the Council of Europe have signed onto the ECRML, for a total of 33 signatories. Out of the 33 signatories, only 25 countries have advanced to ratify the ECRML, meaning they have made the charter officially binding on their state, rather than simply expressing the intention to comply with the treaty. The ECRML can be ratified by a state according to its respective national procedures. For instance, in order for the Netherlands to ratify a national treaty, their national parliament must have a majority approval either for against the ratification of the agreement.

Image Source
The Nationalia website mentions how France is a founding member of the Council of Europe and has been in the organization since May 5, 1949. Surprisingly however, France was not one of the 12 original signatories of the treaty, as French President Lionel Jospin signed the ECRML on May 7, 1999, seven years after the introduction of the document. However, since 1999, the French government has refused to ratify the ECRML, providing the excuse that the charter contradicts its national constitution and threatens French unity. Article II of the French Constitution states that the “language of the Republic is French” and the French government interprets this to leave no room for recognition of regional or minority languages. The only route France can take to ratify the ECRML is to amend its own constitution, which the French government has delayed upon even seriously considering until the 2012 election of President Francois Hollande.

Image Source
The Nationalia and Euractive websites combined explain how French President Francois Hollande collected many votes from the Breton, Occitan, and Basque speaking areas of France, promising his trusting voters the ratification of the ECRML in return. Two years after his taking of the President position, Francois Hollande has continued to postpone the ratification of the charter. Granted only two years of his five-year presidential term has passed, does it remain acceptable for Hollande to leave stranded the minority French residents he garnered votes from with unfulfilled promises?

France is always ready to proclaim itself the founder and defender of human rights, but cannot unite itself to defend the minority and regional languages internally impacting its own state, both socially and politically. The French government has repeatedly asserted the absurd argument that regional and minority languages – languages that are considered internationally endangered – threaten the widespread use of French in France and harms French unity. Granting collective rights to speakers of regional and minority languages does not mean the use of regional and minority languages will overtake the use of French in the vast majority of public spheres. France providing its citizens with a specific form of collective rights, polyethnic rights - those that recognize and respect aspects of the linguistic heritage of ethnic groups, would not devastate, but instead strengthen French unity. Public nationalism levels and support for the French government would only increase as a result of the French government legislating fair and favored laws. France is afraid the French language would be placed into harm’s way with the ratification of the ECRML, and isolated French regions such as Corsica, where many speak a shared regional minority language, may then be inclined to ask for self-government rights, or territorial political autonomy, similar to how Catalonia is an autonomous community in Spain.

In order to most effectively institute productive linguistic reform, French President Francois Hollande should pursue a path similar to that of his neighb
or, Spain. Spain ratified the ECRML on April 9, 2001, but clearly informs its citizens that though regional and minority languages such as Catalan and Basque are now protected languages by the federal government, all Spanish citizens possess the duty to know Spanish and have the right to use it. France can institute a similar law where French citizens are allowed to freely use their respective regional or minority languages in the private and public spheres, but are simultaneously obligated to know French. French President Francois Hollande chanted, “Le Changement C’est Maintenant” (Time for Change is Now) during his 2012 presidential campaign and he must now fulfill the promises he made to his voters. If France does ratify the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages, the state will demonstrate its honest commitment to the protection of cultural and linguistic diversity to its own citizens and the international community.

Online Sources

The author of this blog entry is Farhan Patel, a sophomore in in Political Science and Arabic Studies at the University of Illinois. Farhan is planning on teaching in China this summer and is interested in going to law school after graduation. He wrote this text in the seminar LING 418, Language and Minorities in Europe.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

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

by Skye Maclean

English, Spanish, French, Vietnamese, Cantonese, German, Mandarin, Russian, Korean, Portuguese, and…. you name it! Just ask and we’ll find a way to bring languages services and information to you, too! And that’s because these are just some of the readily available languages at ECIRMAC, short for East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center.

In Champaign/Urbana Illinois, the community is blessed with the East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center; it is a unique cultural gem in an already diverse area, and the need for places like ECIRMAC grows every day. The mission of ECIRMAC, as mentioned on their website is to provide services essential to refugee and immigrant resettlement in East-Central Illinois and to aid in the exchange and preservation of their respective cultures. It serves as a firm and stable plug in the hole left by current language planning and policies in regards to information, assistance, paperwork and applications – all are made available in languages not generally provided by government sources.

Many people may not be aware of places in their communities where help can be provided for any number of things in any number of languages, or sometimes places like ECIRMAC simply don’t exist. This list of services that ECIRMAC offers is a great example as to why places like it are necessary, and exemplifies just how much of a gap has been left by language planning policy:

  • Translation of documents and interpretation in community settings 
  • Advocate and liaison in clients' places of employment, schools, hospitals, courts, with landlords, etc.
  • Aid in completing paperwork for citizenship, asylum, residency, family reunification, etc.
  • Assistance with applying for government benefits for which an individual is eligible
  • Case management and counseling Referrals to community resources
  • Tutoring and intercultural socialization for school aged children
As a volunteer there and their Social Media Manager, I can say that their services extend far beyond what is listed above – it’s truly an amazing place to work and experience. Do you have a place like ECIRMAC in your town? Have you checked? It’s worth a look.

The ladies of ECIRMAC: Deb, Ha and Guadalupe
So, how does the community interact with ECIRMAC? Well, for starters, ECIRMAC is community built, community run and community frequented. It’s a great example of grassroots language activism. It was started in the 1980’s by Vietnamese Refugees in order to help others like them adjust to life in the USA. Support for ECIRMAC comes from businesses and donors in the area. Clients are anyone in all of East Central Illinois who need help with anything. Because its so community based, the languages and services at ECIRMAC fluctuate with current trends. At its inception, ECIRMAC was heavily Vietnamese but now the majority of clients are Spanish speakers. In order to accommodate growing diversity ECIRMAC has added other European and non-European languages, such as English, Spanish, French, Vietnamese, Cantonese, German, Mandarin and Russian to the list of languages services and information are readily available in, and many other languages such as Korean, Portuguese and others can be arranged. As you can see, ECIRMAC is functioning at full speed in order to make up for lack of government resources in these languages.

How is ECIRMAC language in action? Well, because language is the main focus. Translation is probably about 90% of daily work. At any given point, it is possible to hear multiple languages cramming the air space of the tiny office. Each desk is ripe with papers, brochures, pamphlets and more all spanning a variety of languages. Volunteers field calls in English and Spanish, and battle their way through French an others in order to get the clients their answers. The language types at ECIRMAC are also broad. Legal work, applications and documents are written, read and translated in formal and professional styles and registers while in-office conversations are held in more casual or colloquial ones. As is often the case with Guatemalan clients who speak an indigenous language and not Spanish, both client and volunteer/case worker piece together broken Spanish and English until the mission is accomplished. Cultural ideas, practices and boundaries are respected and explained in an attempt to marry the best of the client’s existing culture and the new American culture they need to assimilate to. 

In short, ECIRMAC is a pretty amazing place and a unique life-experience. They offer so much and ask for so little, providing opportunities for community members and volunteers alike. Interested? Find a refugee center in your area. There isn’t one? Start one!

"East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center." East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Mar 2014. <http://ecirmac.weebly.com>

The author of this blog entry is Skye Maclean, a senior at the University of Illinois. She is majoring in an Individual Plan of Study for Techno-Cultural Studies. Skye is planning on running social media for crosscultural organizations and non-profits in the future. She has studied Spanish, French and Russian at length and is an avid traveler. She wrote this text in the seminar LING 418, Language and Minorities in Europe.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Who Are Rusyns?

by Lucy Pakhnyuk

Many people probably wouldn’t be able to answer this question, and the people who have tried to answer it haven’t really come to a consensus. If you ask a Ukrainian this question, they’ll simply say that Rusyns are a sub-group of Ukrainians, and their language is nothing more than a Ukrainian dialect. But don’t call a Rusyn Ukrainian unless you’re looking for a fight. Rusyns consider themselves to be a distinct ethnic group, and they believe that their language is a distinct language, not a Ukrainian dialect. The question of Rusyn identity is fairly complicated, to say the least.

Rusyns, also known as Ruthenians or Carpatho-Rusyns, are a Slavic ethnic group that lives mostly around the Carpathian Mountains. Their language, Rusyn or Ruthene, is an East Slavic language that’s closely related to Ukrainian and Russian and uses the Cyrillic script (although Rusyns in Slovakia use the Latin script). There are about 623,940 Rusyns in the world, 560,000 of which live in Ukraine. Since Rusyns don’t have a country of their own, they’re spread out in Eastern and Central Europe, in countries like Slovakia, Serbia, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.

Even though the Rusyns have been around for centuries, they’ve never really had their own country. Their ancestral homeland of Carpathian Rus’ has changed hands several times; at one point it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and later it became a part of the Soviet Union. Although Rusyns have never had political independence, they were usually recognized as a distinct ethnic group with a distinct language. Under Soviet rule, however, Rusyns lost many of their rights. They were reclassified as Ukrainians and were forced to speak Ukrainian instead of Rusyn, since their own language was banned and deemed “counter-revolutionary.”

While communist rule had a mostly negative effect on Rusyn culture, the Rusyn people of Yugoslavia enjoyed a small amount of freedom. The Yugoslav government recognized Rusyns as a distinct nationality, and supported Rusyn schools, publications, and radio and television programs. In 1974, the autonomous region of Vojvodina even declared Rusyn an official language.

Languages in Vojvodina
After the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, Rusyns launched a revival of their culture and language. Since 1989, Rusyn language books have been published and new Rusyn newspapers have sprouted up in Poland, Slova
kia, Ukraine, and elsewhere. Since 1990, there has even a professional Rusyn language theatre in Slovakia. In November of 1992, a group of scholars organized a seminar, with the help of Rusyn cultural organizations, launching an effort to standardize literary Rusyn, which had been virtually nonexistent.

Rusyns have certainly made a great deal of progress since 1989. Today, they are recognized as a minority in Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Serbia. Although Rusyn is only recognized as an official language in Vojvodina, Serbia, efforts to secure language rights are ongoing elsewhere, particularly in Ukraine.

Rusyns face their greatest obstacles in Ukraine, where most of their population resides. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the establishment of an independent Ukrainian state, Rusyns sought their own self-determination. In 1991, during the referendum on Ukrainian independence, the Society of Carpatho-Rusyns demanded that the issue of Transcarpathian autonomy be resolved as well. The question of Transcarpathian autonomy was included in the referendum, although it was called “self-rule” instead of autonomy. An overwhelming majority of Rusyns voted in favor of “self-rule;” however, the results were largely inconclusive. It wasn’t clear if Rusyns wanted autonomy within Ukraine or if they wanted to be entirely independent of Ukraine. The question of Rusyn autonomy has yet to be resolved. To this very day, the Ukrainian government refuses to recognize Rusyns as a distinct nation, and they still claim that the Rusyn language is a dialect of Ukrainian. Unfortunately, this is a widespread view in Ukraine, and it has had a negative impact on Rusyn rights. Many Ukrainians believe that identifying as Rusyn is inherently “anti-Ukrainian,” which perhaps harkens back to the Soviet mentality that Rusyn identity was “counter-revolutionary.”

Despite having problems in Ukraine, the Rusyn people continue to assert their national self-identity and maintain their culture and language. Perhaps with time and sufficient international pressure, the Ukrainian government will concede to Rusyn demands. Who knows, maybe we might even see a Republic of Rusyn sometime in the future.

Lucy Pakhnyuk is a junior in Russian, East European, Eurasian Studies and Political Science at the University of Illinois. Lucy is planning on pursuing a PhD in Political Science after graduation and is interested to/in  doing NGO work in the post-Soviet space to promote democratization, development, and human rights. She wrote this text in FR/LING/PS 418, Language and Minorities in Europe.

Works Cited
Magocsi, Paul Robert, and Joshua A. Fishman. "Small Languages And Small Language Communities." International Journal Of The Sociology Of Language 1993.104 (1993): 119-125. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.

Magocsi, Paul Robert. "The Birth of a New Nation, or the Return of an Old Problem? The Rusyns of East Central Europe." JSTOR. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Apr. 2014. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/40870573 .>.




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