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, November 30, 2015

The Political Alphabet: The Cyrillic Alphabet in Non-Slavic Languages

by Bethany Wages

Bethany Wages is graduate student in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies (R.E.E.S) at the University of Illinois. When she wrote this blog post in 418 ‘Language and Minorities in Europe’ in the spring of 2015, she was planning on getting her M.A. in R.E.E.S and her MS in Library and Information Science. She is interested in Slavic reference librarianship and pre-Revolutionary Russian history.

The Cyrillic alphabet is most commonly associated with the Slavic languages of Russia and Eastern Europe. According to the online encyclopedia of writing systems and languages, Omniglot.com:
The Cyrillic script is named after Saint Cyril, a missionary from Byzantium who, along with his brother, Saint Methodius, created the Glagolitic script. Modern Cyrillic alphabets developed from the Early Cyrillic script, which was developed during the 9th century in the First Bulgarian Empire (AD 681-1018) by a decree of Boris I of Bulgaria (Борис I). It is thought that St. Kliment of Ohrid, a disciple of Cyril and Methodius, was responsible for the script.
But what does an alphabet born in the Byzantine Empire have to do with languages whose origins are Turkic, Arabic, Caucasian, Urgic or even Chinese? This blog post will briefly attempt to address the historical reasons for Cyrillic script in non-slavic languages, which languages still use the Cyrillic alphabet, and the political controversy of the use of the Cyrillic alphabet after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The following image, taken from the language website Omniglot.com, is an example of the current Russian Cyrillic alphabet with phonetic representations of each letter.

Image Source

The above alphabet was implemented in the newly formed Soviet Union in 1918 as to be more efficient, in the eyes of the Soviet government, than Old Orthodox Church Cyrillic.

The adoption of the Cyrillic alphabet into non-slavic languages stems from the Russification projects Stalin implemented during his Great Purges in 1939. During this time all languages within the USSR which previously used Latin alphabets were switched to Cyrillic alphabets which were modelled after the Russian alphabet. Under Stalin's rule, some languages in the Caucasian area were switched to Georgian script, but after he died they too were switched to Cyrillic. Cyrillicization continued throughout the USSR from the 1950s onward.

The complete list of languages which use Cyrillic alphabets is as follows: Russian, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Rusyn, Bulgarian, Serbian, Macedonian, Montenegrin, Bosnian, Karelian, Kildin Sami, Komi-Permyak, Mari alphabets, Kurdish, Ossetian, Tajik, Khalkha, Buryat, Kalmyk, Abkhaz, Avar, Lezgian, Azerbaijani, Bashkir, Chuvash, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Tatar, Turkmen, Uzbek, Dungan, Tungusic languages, Chukotko-Kamchatkan languages, Eskimo-Aleut languages, and many other languages ("Cyrillic Alphabet," Omniglot). During Soviet rule this list was much longer, but “the end of the Soviet Union brought about another re-evaluation of the Cyrillic scripts and a fresh set of changes. As the Soviet era drew to a close, the component parts of the USSR began to assert their independence. As early as 1989, Moldova changed officially from Cyrillic to Latin script, making the written Moldovan identical with written Romanian. Even before this, moves towards latinisation had begun among the Turkic-speaking peoples of Central Asia" (Sebba).

So why is this important? Recently, Putin reinstated the idea that no alphabet, other than Cyrillic, will be acceptable in countries who reside within or receive stimulus from the Russian Federation. An example of this situation is the Kyrgyz language switch to the Cyrillic alphabet in 2002. What sparked the imposing of Cyrillic for a second time in the Eurasian region was the attempt of Tatarstan to romanize its language. In an article titled “Ideology and alphabets in the former USSR,” professor of Lancaster University Mark Sebba states that “In 2002 the Russian parliament passed a law requiring all official languages within the Russian Federation to use the Cyrillic alphabet. The legislation caused great controversy and anger in some quarters, especially in Tatarstan, the Russian republic whose attempt to romanise the script for the Tatar language provoked the new law” (Sebba).

Another example of this power move by the Russian Federation can be found in an article titled “Linguistic Policy in Kyrgyzstan,” professor of Humanities Nelly Portnova states that “[t]he main stimulus for changing the alphabet is that Cyrillic is associated with Russia and a geopolitical impasse, while the Latin alphabet is associated with western-type prosperity, in particular, with the alternative of a non-orthodox Muslim state, i.e. with Turkey" (Portnova).

In an extreme case, the country of Azerbaijan's Azeri speaking peoples have endured four script changes within the last century.  “In the twentieth century, Azerbaijan’s ‘‘scriptal environment,’’ to use Trix’s (1997: 1) apt term, has been dominated by three scripts, each promoted by a powerful adjacent neighbor emphasizing particular shared links: Arabic promoted by Iran, Cyrillic promoted by Russia, and Latin promoted by Turkey. After the Soviet Union incorporated Azerbaijan as a republic in 1920, the Soviets initiated a script shift from Arabic to Latin to divide the nation from Iran and its Muslim roots. A decade later, the Soviets forced another shift from the Latin to the Cyrillic script to alienate Azerbaijan and the Turkic republics from Turkey and from each other. Today, after independence in 1991, the pendulum has swung back in favor of the Latin script" (Hatcher).

The above picture, taken from Farida Sadikhova and Marjan Abadi's article “Where's the Azeri?”,  represents how confusing Azerbaijan's society has become. Here we see Cyrillyc and Latin scripts, along with English translation, and yet the actual Azeri script (which is an Arabic script) is nowhere to be seen. While some may consider language policy a soft political maneuver when compared to things like economic policy, language policies, such as the Cyrillic policy, infringe upon the culture and identity of non-slavic ethnicities and countries, such as Kyrgyzstan whose language origins are not Slavic. Political power can clearly be imposed through linguistic policy.


“Cyrillic alphabet.” http://www.omniglot.com/writing/langalph.htm#cyrillic (accessed March29, 2015).

“Cyrillic script.” http://www.omniglot.com/writing/cyrillic.htm (accessed March 28, 2015).

Hatcher, Lynley. "Script Change in Azerbaijan: Acts of Identity."International Journal OfThe Sociology Of Language 192, (2008): 105-116 (accessed March 28, 2015).

Portnova, Nelly. “Linguistic Policy in Kyrgyzstan.”  CA&CC Press. 2002. http://www.ca-    c.org/journal/2002/journal_eng/cac-06/11.porteng.shtml. (accessed March 29, 2015).

Sadikhova, Farida and Marjan Abadi. “Where's the Azeri?” Azerbaijan International. Spring, 2000, no     8.1: http://www.azeri.org/Azeri/az_english/81_folder/81_articles/81_storenames.html (accessed     April 18, 2015).

Sebba, Mark. 2006. "Ideology and alphabets in the former USSR.” Language Problems &Language Planning 30, no. 2: 99-125 (accessed March 28, 2015).

Silver, Brian. “The Impact of Urbanization and Geographical Dispersion on the Linguistic     Russification of Soviet Nationalities.” Demography. Vol. 11, No. 1 (Feb., 1974), pp.89-103. (accessed March 28, 2015).


Monday, November 16, 2015

Les langues sont belles : Codeswitchons!

by Katherine Stegman-Frey

Katherine Stegman-Frey is a graduate student in Hispanic Linguistics at the University of Illinois. She is planning on teaching English and Spanish as a second language and is interested in language and culture and how humans use them. She wrote this blog entry as a student in 418 ‘Language and Minorities in Europe.'

En 2015, du 14 au 22 mars, on a fêté la 20e semaine de la langue française et de la Francophonie.  Comme contribution, le CSA (le Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel) a affiché un clip sur Youtube où il s’agit du code-switching et de l’emprunt lexical de l’anglais au français.

Il va sans dire que le sujet de l’utilisation des mots anglais, des anglicismes, dans les interactions françaises est vraiment vivant et toujours disputé.  En même temps, l’emprunt des mots n’est pas un nouveau phénomène pour les deux côtés de la Manche.  Il existe depuis longtemps et il y a beaucoup d’exemples dans l’histoire.  On trouve quelques néologismes établis comme tennisman et redingote et quelques uns plus récents comme le weekend et on y go.

Historiquement, on pourrait considérer l’invasion et la conquête normande de l’île britannique en 1066 comme une sorte de hyper-exemple de l’échange du vocabulaire.  Un grand pourcentage du lexique anglais d’aujourd’hui peut être tracé au français anglo-normand.  A travers l’histoire, par moyen des interactions économiques, militaires, intellectuelles, etc. entre les royaumes, les langues étaient transformées.

L’emprunt lexical n’est qu’un cas entre l’anglais et le français.  Il faut simplement considérer la Renaissance qui a fomenté l’emprunt des mots italiens au français.  Des poètes de la Pléiade, comme Ronsard, tout en développant des mots des racines grecques et latines, ont emprunté des mots italiens au français.

En 1635, le cardinal Richelieu a créé l’Académie française pour maintenir la pureté du français, établir un système d’orthographe et pour purger le français des néologismes excessifs de la Renaissance.  L’Académie française continue à protéger le français aujourd’hui.

Le clip du CSA, intitulé « Stop aux anglicismes.  La campagne vidéo : ‘Notre langue est belle, utilisons-la.’ », offre une des perspectives dans le débat d’aujourd’hui.  Il est bref et on n’a aucun doute sur ce qui constitue le message du clip.  Dans un café-bar, un homme parle à une belle femme de sa journée.  Pendant l’échange, l’homme emploie beaucoup de mots anglais.  La quantité d’anglicismes entrave la compréhension de la conversation de la part de la femme et du publique.  La femme perd patience et elle lui parle en anglais en demandant qu’il choisisse une des deux langues.  Elle découvre que l’homme ne comprend pas l’anglais et elle part.  L’homme est découragé et il se dit, « single again ».  Le clip finit avec un slogan à faveur de l’utilisation du français pur et pour l’arrêt de l’emploi des anglicismes.

Dans l’ensemble, le clip ne dure que trente-six secondes, mais la durée est suffisante pour choquer l’audience.  Sans considérer tous les détails, on n’a aucun problème à comprendre le thème central.  Une analyse du clip donne une perspective avec plus de détails.  Premièrement, il faut considérer le contexte de l’interaction ; il est évident qu’il s’agit d’un homme qui essaie de draguer la femme.  La raison pour laquelle il ne réussit pas est qu’il ne parle  pas un niveau de français assez élevé.  Donc la leçon du clip est qu’il faut bien parler pour être charmant et, ensuite, pour avoir du succès dans les projets amoureux.

Deuxièmement, le discours de l’homme exagère les anglicismes.  Il y a une cinquantaine de mots et onze parmi eux qui sont des anglicismes.  La quantité d’anglicismes donne un air prétentieux et peu naturel à la conversation.  Le clip ridiculise l’expression des gens qui utilisent des anglicismes.

Il n’est pas étonnant de trouver des diverses réactions.  L’organisation franco-états-unienne de l’université de Texas, Français interactif, a réagi d’une manière négative.  Cette organisation travaille pour faciliter l’enseignement de la langue et de la civilisation françaises.  Sur leur site Facebook ils ont mis une publication contre le clip.

Une postulation réaliste des résultats de ce clip est la provocation comme celle de Français interactif.  L‘état et la protection du français a une place principale dans la société  française.  On voit son importance dans la législation, comme le manque de ratification de la Charte européenne des langues régionales ou minoritaires.

Mais, pourquoi est-ce que cette publicité ne critique que des anglicismes ?  Une explication tentative est l’augmentation de l’anglais comme lingua franca en Europe et dans le monde entier.  L’adoption de l’anglais dans les domaines français.  Cette invasion a précipité des réactions et critiques qu’on voit dans les media comme celle du CSA.

C’est vrai que la langue française est belle et qu’elle mérite l’utilisation fréquente, mais mérite-t-elle de se moquer des possibilités offertes par le code-switching et l’emprunt ?   Qu’est-ce que vous en pensez ?


Ici on parle français. Web. Mars 28 2015. < http://ttfrench.weebly.com/uploads/1/3/4/7/13476618/689270_orig.jpg>

Keep calm and parle à ma main. Web. 26 Mars 2015. <http://sd.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/i/keep-calm-and-parle-a-ma-main.png>

Stop aux anglicismes La campagne vidéo: «  Notre langue est belle, utilisons-la». LeCafé du FLE Web. 26 Mars 2015. <http://www.lecafedufle.fr/2015/03/stop-aux-anglicismes-campagne-video-notre-langue-belle-utilisons/>.


Monday, November 2, 2015

What’s in a language name? Asturian, Leonese, and Mirandese as “Astur-Leonés”?

by María Elena Guitiérrez

María Elena Guitiérrez is a graduate student in Spanish Linguistics at the University of Illinois. She is completing her Masters degree and is interested in bilingualism and second-language acquisition research. She wrote this blog entry as a student in 418 ‘Language and Minorities in Europe.'

The name of a language is never neutral. There are many social and political implications involved when naming a language, according to Smitherman who examines language and ideology surrounding African American English in her 1991 paper. A language name represents important social information about the group of people who speak that language, especially where minority languages are concerned.

Sometimes in language naming practices, language activists create a single name for several different language varieties that historically and politically have several different names. For instance, in the case of “Serbo-Croatian,” it can either be said that it consists of one, two, three, or four languages; it all depends on the political and social perspectives of whom you ask, suggest Bugarski (2004) and Leglise (2006).

When we look at minority languages, the situation can become even more complicated. For example, in his publication El dialecto leonés, the linguist Ramón Menéndez Pidal (1906) grouped together all the spoken varieties that were used in the former Kingdom of León under one unifying language name: Leonés. This unifying term grouped the language varieties spoken in Asturian, Leonese, and Mirandese regions.

When a unifying term, such as Leonés, is created for several different minority languages, what does this mean for the smaller language varieties that are stripped of their language names by the larger unifying term? Do speakers want to identify with the unifying language name, or do they feel compelled to hold onto the local name of their dialect?

Image Source
When a language is standardized, the language naming process has social implications. This can be seen in the example of the standardization efforts of the minority languages in this region of the Iberian Peninsula.

According to García Gil (2008), one will likely hear Astur-Leonés, as opposed to Leonés as the unifying term today. Astur-Leonés is described as an unofficial regional language and is used in Spain’s periodic reports for the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Nevertheless, the region of Asturias has a standardized written form of their language variety, which they call Asturiano or Bable, and they even use it in their education system. On the other hand, the region of León hasn’t created a standardized, written form of Leonés.

Why is it important whether or not Asturiano has a standardized written form and Leonés does not? Well, since Asturias has made stronger efforts than León to revitalize their local language in the past few decades, the younger generations living in León actually say that they speak Astur-Leonés or Bable, not Leonés. This was shown by González Riaño & García Arias in 2006 when they studied the region of León and noticed that the people there did not consider Leonés their local language but rather as a reference of their identity. As a result, Leonés is not used as a language name anymore, even though it was once used as a broad language name for all the varying dialects of the region.

When language activists create a unifying term, like Astur-Leonés, there can be consequences for the names of the minority language varieties. Leonés is now considered to be a reference of identity, not a language name, and this name is only used in conjunction with Asturiano, in the unifying term Astur-Leonés. In the efforts to save a minority language group, it seems that it is also possible to lose sight of other smaller, non-standardized minority language varieties.

While individuals of a minority group may continue to identify with a particular language name, it doesn’t mean that it is accepted as a name for another minority language spoken in the region. As the Leonese people hold onto their cultural identity, the identity of their language is quickly shifting towards the more standardized and recognized variety – Asturiano.


Bugarski, Ranko (2004). What’s in a name: The case of Serbo-Croatian. Revue des études Slaves 75: 11-20.

Conceyu Abiertu Pola Oficialida. Na Reforma Del Estatu, Doi La Cara Pola Oficialida. Digital image. https://www.flickr.com/potos/doilacara/. 11 Aug. 2010. Web.

García Arias Xosé Lluis & Xosé Antón González Riaño (2006). Estudio sociollingüísticu de Lleón. Identidá, conciencia d’usu y actitúes lingüísticas en las fasteres que llenden con Astueries. Uviéu: Academia de la Llingua Asturiana.

García Gil, Héctor (2007). Al otru llau del cordal: Narrativa llionesa na nuesa llingua (1980-2006) La emancipación de la lliteratura asuriana. Crónica y balance de la narrativa contemporánea. 133-148.

Léglise, Isabelle (2006). Language-naming practices, ideologies, and linguistic practices: Toward a comprehensive description of language varieties. Language in Society 35: 313-39.

Menéndez Pidal, Ramón (1906). El dialecto Leonés (ed. Facsímil 2006). León: Ediciones El Búho Viajero.

Smitherman, Geneva (1991). ‘What is Africa to me?’ Language, ideology, and African American American Speech 66:115-32.

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