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, June 13, 2016

Effective Educational Evolution: Spain’s Application of Article 8 of the ECRML

by Cathy Swanson

Cathy Swanson is a Masters student in Accounting with a Minor in Spanish. She is planning on working full-time at Ernst & Young’s Financial Services in Chicago and is interested in traveling in the near future. She wrote this text as a student enrolled in 418 ‘Language and Minorities in Europe’ in the spring of 2015.

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It is impossible to summarize the progress made by Catalan, one of the regional minority languages of Spain, in the areas of culture, officialdom, and formal uses (Pons and Vila 2005). In fact, in many respects, Catalan might no longer considered a minority language in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands, as it has become the predominant language of education from kindergarten to university and the local government in the autonomous region of Catalonia (Vila i Moreno 2008). The criteria used by the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages to define regional or minority languages include historicity, territoriality, linguistic difference, and numerical inferiority in a State, but the wording also suggests that effective minority status “justifying the adoption of the various protective and promotional measures” also plays a role. In the case of Catalan, it can be argued that thanks to thoughtful acquisition planning and the 1978 Constitution that designated Castilian and Catalan co-official languages of Spain, Catalan might be considered less of a minority language today than three decades ago.

This progress is due in large part to the implementation of the Charter.

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So what is this document, exactly? The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML) is a European treaty adopted in 1992 by the Council of Europe. Its primary objective is to protect and promote historical regional and minority languages in Europe. Spain, a country hosting a variety of minority languages such as Aragonese, Basque, Catalan, Valencian, and Galician, to name a few, ratified the Charter on April 1, 2001. Following the ratification, Spain issued a series of periodic reports documenting its progress in support of the Charter. The Committee of Experts acts as a monitoring mechanism to evaluate each State’s application of the Charter by publishing periodic evaluation reports. The Committee is comprised of one member from each State Party with an emphasis on independence.

Spain submitted its periodic reports in 2002, 2007, 2010, and 2014 in accordance with the Committee of Experts’ 1st – 4th monitoring cycles, respectively. In response, the Committee of Experts published its evaluation reports in 2005, 2008, and 2011 (the 4th cycle evaluation report has not yet been adopted). Within these reports, the Committee of Experts evaluated Spain’s fulfillment of specific criteria of the Charter, focusing on each regional or minority language spoken in Spain. Part III of the Charter discusses measures to promote the use of regional or minority languages in public life, with Article 8 specifically focusing on education.

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According to the longitudinal evaluations of the Committee of Experts, Spain has shown continued progress in applying Part III Article 8 of the Charter. In the 2005 evaluation report, the Committee of Experts concludes that Spain has effectively fulfilled its undertakings; however, “not all the aspects of the educational system in use in Catalonia are entirely clear, especially as far as pre-school education is concerned” (Committee of Experts evaluation report 2005). Despite this lack of clarity, the Committee of Experts applauds Spain in its “impressive reversal” of the trend following Francisco Franco’s thirty-year dictatorship. Subsequent to this period of maximum submission for the Catalan language, Catalan has become the default language in the educational system in its territory and the language of instruction for the larger part of the last generation of young people who have been educated in Catalonia (Committee of Experts evaluation report 2005).

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The Committee of Expert’s 2008 evaluation report discusses Spain’s progress during the 2nd monitoring cycle. According to the report, Spain provides additional clarity by describing the bilingual or “linguistic conjunction” system, and the Committee of Experts understands that this is the system prevailing at all levels of education, including pre-school (Committee of Experts evaluation report 2008). Spain has described “linguistic conjunction” as an educational system that ensures teaching of the language, provides children with basic opportunities for socializing in Catalan and facilitates the integration of pupils outside Catalonia (2007 Spain Periodic Report). This model has proved to be critical for Catalan teaching and the social integration of increasing numbers of foreign pupils. The new transformation of the educational system includes aules d’acollida (welcoming classes) and plans d’entorn (environmental plans) that integrate immigrant children in their local environment and raise awareness in the community of the need to help newcomers to learn the local language (Vila i Moreno 2008).

Overall, Spain is making tremendous strides in applying Article 8 of the Charter within its borders, especially in the autonomous region of Catalonia. The application of the Charter across Europe will inevitably continue to evolve over time. That being said, it is the responsibility of Spain, as well as the other ratifying countries, to monitor and evaluate the programs and legislation currently in place in order to ensure the continuous promotion of protection of their regional or minority languages.


http://www.coe.int/t/dg4/education/minlang/Report/default_en.asp#SpainSpain’s Periodic Reports & Committee of Experts’ Evaluation Reports

Pons, Eva and F. Xavier Vila i Moreno. 2005. Informe Sobre la Situaci6 de la Llengua Catalana (2003-2004). Barcelona: Observatori de la Llengua. http://www.observatoridelallengua.org/arxius_documents/informe6_ ok.pdf

Vila i Moreno, F. Xavier. 2008. “Catalan in Spain.” in Multilingual Europe: Facts and Policies edited by G. Extra and D. Gorter. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, p. 157-183.


Monday, June 6, 2016

Fest-noz and Breton: Why Dance to Preserve the Language?

by Alexis March

Alexis March is a Junior in French and Anthropology. After graduation, Alexis is planning on continuing her graduate education in French and International Law. She wrote this blog post as a student in 418 ‘Language and Minorities in Europe’ in the spring of 2015.

At first glance, it may not seem that traditional Breton dance has much to do with Breton language revitalization. After all, how can dancing possibly help a moribund language? For starters, understanding Breton as a “range of social practices” and as an activity reveals the potential of community centered language initiatives, such as traditional dances, in language revitalization (Le Nevez).

Fest-noz serves an important function in the transmission of Breton culture and language. It is “a festive gathering based on the collective practice of traditional Breton dances, accompanied by singing or instrumental music” (UNESCO). Regional dance, music, language, and gastronomy all play a part in making fest-noz important for cultural and linguistic revitalization. Fest-noz gatherings are held across Bretagne and bring people of all ages and backgrounds together. At these gatherings, you are likely to see children, teenagers, parents, and grandparents all dancing together in dances such as the petits doigts (pictured just below), in which dancers intertwine little fingers and form a large circle (Dołowy-Rybińska). Many dances date back to Breton rural traditions during the Middle Ages, but today’s fest-noz is a relatively modern tradition that traces its origins to the mid-twentieth century. Music at fest-noz is traditionally Celtic and draws on the rich tradition of Irish Gaelic music. One is also sure to find crêpes and a plentiful supply of cidre Breton. Communes, cities, and villages across Bretagne have local cultural associations that organize fest-noz. According to Brittany’s official tourism website, “around a thousand fest-noz are organized in Brittany every year.” That means there is an average of two to three fest-noz gatherings in Brittany every day!

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These regular gatherings emphasize the cultural aspect of the Breton language that is not necessarily transmitted to students in Diwan schools. These bilingual schools in which children learn Breton alongside French have been instrumental to reviving the language. Diwan schools have introduced Breton to the educational setting in order to combat the reality that parents and grandparents aren’t passing the language down at home. This has been important for increasing the number of Breton speakers. However, the Breton taught in schools is a standardized written version of a primarily spoken language with significant variation and regional diversity. The standard Breton of the Diwan schools is not a variety that has been traditionally spoken in family and community contexts. The dissonance between traditionally spoken Breton and the new standard Breton has created anxieties about where the language is headed. Cultural initiatives like fest-noz promote community among Bretons, which can help stem anxieties about the future of the language and connect younger speakers to an older generation of speakers who can expose them to the richness and diversity of the language.

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When Diwan schools were founded in the 1970s, fest-noz became a way to raise money for these schools that were not supported or subsidized by the French government (Dołowy-Rybińska). Fest-noz serves the dual purpose of promoting the Breton language and culture by creating a community of practice and financially contributing to the language revitalization efforts of Diwan schools. These gatherings provide an opportunity for a generation of adults who did not grow up speaking Breton to reconnect with their identity. Attitudes about minority languages are crucial to revitalization efforts. The creation of cultural identity among Bretons who do not speak the language is important in the formation of positive attitudes about Breton. This can precipitate a desire to see the language kept alive and spoken by future generations. Breton’s Celtic counterpart across the channel, Welsh, has benefited from an increased perception of the language’s status. Hopefully, the popularity of fest-noz among Bretons of all generations will increase the perceived status of the language.

In 2012, fest-noz was added to UNESCO’s “Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.” Breton language revitalization comprises one part, and at that a significant one, in the overall revitalization of Breton culture and regional identity. Unlike Corsica, Bretagne has relatively little regional autonomy. Breton music and dance have become ways to assert a cultural identity that is not French. Many Bretons proudly identify themselves as Breton before French. Thus, a broad promotion of forms of Breton identity is central to language revitalization efforts.


Brittany Tourism: http://www.brittanytourism.com/things-to-do/events/latest-news-and-events/brittany-s-fest-noz-officially-designated-part-of-humanity-s-cultural-heritage

Dołowy-Rybińska,  Nicole. “The Fest-noz: A Way to Live Breton Culture.” www.academia.edu/5776836/The_Fest-noz_A_Way_to_Live_Breton_Culture

“Fest-Noz, festive gathering based on the collective practice of traditional dances of Brittany.” http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/RL/00707

Le Nevez, Adam. “The social practice of Breton: an epistemological challenge.”International Journal Of The Sociology Of Language, 2013(223), 87-102. doi:10.1515/ijsl-2013-0046


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