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 28, 2016

What is in store for Catalonia now that it has officially declared the beginning of its independence process?

By Erin LePoire

Erin LePoire graduated from University of Illinois in Spring 2016, with a degree in Human Development and Family Studies, and Spanish.

The people have spoken, or at least voted, and the regional parliament of Catalonia decided to begin the process of secession from Spain, with hopes of completing it by the year 2017 (Time.com). The likelihood of actually accomplishing secession remains to be seen, but the fact that the process has begun is a big step in and of itself. To look at how Catalonia got here, it is important to review Catalonia’s past.

Catalonia came to be a part of the Frankish Empire in the late 9th and 10th centuries, not becoming a part of the Spanish Empire until the 15th century with the marriage of Isabella and Ferdinand. The war of Spanish secession in the 18th century was a real blow to Catalonian independence, in that the Catalonian state was abolished and Spain became a ‘unified nation’ (cataloniavotes.eu). Fast forward to Franco’s dictatorship in the 1930’s and anything associated with Catalonia was repressed. People were exiled to France, and the Catalonian culture was suppressed. When Spain began to become a democracy again in the 70’s, a reemergence of Catalonian culture occurred. What really spurred this most recent push for independence however was Spain becoming an EU member state, and the 2009 collapse of the economy. With Barcelona being one of the biggest economic powerhouses in Spain, the economic downturn hit the region of Catalonia hard.

So what does this mean for Catalonia now that it has begun unilaterally the secession process? First and foremost, it means a lot of uncertainty. While Barcelona is the economic powerhouse of Spain, the region of Catalonia actually has a lot of debt (BBC). While yes, the debt was caused by the Spanish government taxing the Catalonian region in the first place; the process of secession really only exacerbates the issue. What’s more, is that Catalonia is not in control of its finances, an autonomy that has been granted to the other region in Spain that identifies as culturally different: the Basque Country. Not being financially autonomous means that Catalonia essentially doesn’t have the (recent) experience of financial stability or accountability, a pretty large component what it takes to successfully be an independent country. But stepping away from the economic negatives that successful Catalonian secession would have, what are the positives?

I think the major benefit of an independent Catalonia would be that the vibrant cultural identity of Catalonians would now have now an official and separate matching nation, and not just the constitutionally recognized “nationality”. The cultural aspects of Catalonia are quite different than the majority of Spain. This is most clearly seen in the views on bull fighting. Spaniards in general view it as a part of their culture, which Catalonians view it as cruel and inhumane towards animals (debatingeurope.eu). By beginning the process of secession from Spain, the Catalonian region begins to remove and distinctly distance itself from traditional ‘Spanish’ culture. This distinction of cultures can be beneficial, but can also have the negative effect of cultural monotony, which could lead to a very isolated Catalonia.

Lastly, and arguably the largest, impact that the beginning of the process of secession from Spain has had on Catalonia is the language. While around 11.5 million people in Spain speak Catalan, almost all of them are also fluent in Spanish (debatingeurope.eu). This leads to two possible scenarios, the first of which is that over generations, Catalan becomes the more dominant language. The second scenario is that people within and outside Catalonia need more than just Catalan to work, and so continue to use Spanish in addition to Catalan, leading to no drastic change in the status of the language. This second scenario leads to no real benefit to Catalan from Catalonian independence.

In conclusion, the beginning of the process of secession from Spain leaves many uncertainties for Catalonia. From the economic disadvantages to the Cultural gains and losses, what secession means for Catalonia remains to be seen. But it is still a long, uphill battle before independence is even remotely secured.

Works Cited


Monday, November 14, 2016

Swedish language policy in action: legal rights of migrant languages during the European refugee crisis

Poster for the anti-refugee Swedish Democrat party,
a growing political group (source).
By Sonja Brankovic

Sonja Brankovic is a senior studying mechanical engineering at U of Illinois. She took ITAL 418 this past spring as a part of her International Engineering Minor in Germanic Studies. Sonja says: “This class has been unlike any other in European history and culture in that it has opened my eyes to marginalized perspectives I have never encountered before (even in personal travel and studying abroad). The course gave me a foundation to analyze historical language topics—the evolution of Basque’s codification, the ongoing linguistic de-Russification in the Baltic countries—as well as the ability to assess how the current refugee crisis will have an impact on the European linguistic landscape. This assessment is the main theme of my blog entry, and will hopefully give an idea of why the influx of Middle Eastern languages to Sweden is such a complex issue, and will continue to be so over the next few generations.”

Swedish language policy in action: legal rights of migrant languages during the European refugee crisis

Figure 1: Total number of asylum applications in
2013, 2014, and 2016 [1] (source).
“The most generous country in Europe” has become a common boast about Sweden’s 2015 open-door policy for accepting Syrian and Somali war refugees. After Germany, Sweden is the destination of choice for many asylum-seekers—and as Figure 1 shows, the number of asylum applications is only increasing. But what are Sweden’s refugee policies once the initial welcome is complete? Where do refugees settle, and what are their daily activities? How do their children integrate into the Swedish educational system?

These questions reveal a complex web of answers that can only be found in Swedish policies for refugee settlement, employment, and schooling. After accepting tens of thousands of migrants in 2014 and 2015, the country has been filled nearly to its breaking point. The Swedish Migration Agency has become reliant on available housing in more urban areas and the attitudes of those recipient communities, which has resulted in large clusters of refugees living near larger cities. Södertälje, a town just outside of Stockholm, has a population that is 50% Syrian, Somali, and Afghan refugees [2]. The children living in such areas are being slowly introduced to Swedish schools; what languages will they learn there? Swedish, of course—but what of their mother-tongues and the history and traditions of their families and culture?

There are a few factors that distinguish Sweden’s reception of these war refugees:
  • Sweden is actively trying to provide a permanent home for these refugees, rather than just a temporary residence for the duration of the Syrian Civil War. Assistance is provided to procure housing, find jobs, and send refugee children to Swedish schools. This is a stark contrast to other European countries’ attitudes: Spain, the Netherlands, and now nearby Denmark have tightened border security and are not eager to accept more refugees [3], [4].
  • The populations of Syrian, Somali, and Afghan migrants in Sweden already outnumber the older, now-established migrant populations (many of which still speak their mother-tongue) [5]. This more than anything implies that refugee rights (including language rights) will become a point of educational contention in the future.
  • Sweden has liberal language policies for migrant/refugee tongues; Swedish schools are required to provide mother-tongue language classes if more than five students request the instruction and teaching materials/resources can be found [6]. This policy is much more generous than the ECRML (European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, which Sweden ratified in 2000), which has no provisions for migrant languages or any language that cannot establish historical roots in the country [7].

All of these factors suggest that Swedish government is going above and beyond the minimum duty of EU countries to welcome and settle these refugees (at least linguistically). But these liberal policies are not easily translated into the classrooms—or even into the minds of Swedish natives, who have grown increasingly wary of accepting refugees as readily as they did during 2015, when 1000–3000 asylum application were granted per month [8].

In November 2015, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven announced that Sweden was reversing its open-door policy; after that point, any arriving migrants would no longer receive automatic permanent asylum and the associated benefits. Later in December, the country backtracked even further and announced that Sweden would from then on only accept the EU-negotiated refugee minimum.

These cautious decisions are the product of increasing pressure on Swedish schools and a highly competitive job market, as well as social pressure from growing anti-refugee political parties. The burgeoning group of Swedish Democrats, which boasts 20% popular support by recent polls, has seized on recent sexual assaults and violence at refugee centers as reasons to stem the flow of migrants; a related point is that most refugees do not socialize with native Swedes (as seen in Södertälje) and the welcoming atmosphere perpetuated by the Swedish government belies the fact that most refugees live in their own communities; these communities are now being treated with suspicion and distaste by many Swedes (especially those associated with the SD, who claim that refugees have “muddied” the waters of a homogeneous Sweden) [9].

Moreover, and ignoring all of these social and political forebodings, these language instruction guarantees for refugee/migrant languages are clearly negative rights; while the government’s policies do not prevent refugees from staying connected with their cultures, there are virtually no government-sponsored televised programming in Arabic, and none of the refugee/migrant languages have been given the same formal municipal power as the traditional minority languages (which in the ECRML include rights within the judiciary, local administration, and cultural programming).

Figure 2: Mother-tongue instruction statistics
in Swedish schools [7] (source).
The question out of all of this becomes: will refugees in Sweden, despite its accommodating language policies, be able to take advantage of these opportunities to learn their mother-tongue? (“Do they even want to?”—as Figure 2 shows, migrant language instruction accounts for a large portion of mother-tongue education in Sweden). Is there legal recourse for refugees if they are denied this right? As of now, the answer falls within a murky territory of available school resources and community attitudes toward migrants. Despite the social and political blowback in the last few months, the refugees currently settled in Sweden will acculturate (not necessarily assimilate) to the country’s culture in the upcoming years; they will still retain their own religion and language, and the latter will have to account for a measurable rise in Arabic and Somali instruction in Swedish schools. Now is the time that refugees will have to establish their right to mother-tongue instruction if they hope to preserve (at least through their children) this major bridge to their past lives.

Works Cited

1. "Statistics." Swedish Migration Agency. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2016. <http://www.migrationsverket.se/English/About-the-Migration-Agency/Facts-and-statistics-/Statistics.html.

2. Harress, Christopher. "Syrian And Iraqi Refugees Are Half The Population Of This Swedish City." International Business Times. N.p., 03 July 2014. Web. 28 Mar. 2016. 


3. Pabst, Sabrina. "How EU Countries Handle the Refugee Crisis | Europe | DW.COM | 12.08.2015." DW.COM. N.p., 12 Aug. 2015. Web. 4 Apr. 2016. <http://www.dw.com/en/how-eu-countries-handle-the-refugee-crisis/a-18646316>.

4. "Protection and Asylum in Sweden." Swedish Migration Agency. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Apr. 2016.  1. <http://www.migrationsverket.se/English/Private-individuals/Protection-and-asylum-in-Sweden.html>.

5. "Statistical Database." Statistical Database. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2016. <http://www.statistikdatabasen.scb.se/pxweb/en/ssd/?rxid=f27ec97e-43e0-4a1c-9092-f7a2289ac255>.

6. Segerhammar, Amor, and Ann-Charlotte Karnermo. "Language Policy for Migrant Children in Sweden." Language Policy for Migrant Children in Sweden. Language Center Gothenburg, Sweden, 10 Nov. 2015. Web. 5 Apr. 2016. <http://www.slideshare.net/Rutufoundation/language-policy-for-migrant-children-in-sweden>.

7. "European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages." Treaty Office. The Council of Europe, n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2016. <http://www.coe.int/en/web/conventions/full-list/-/conventions/treaty/148>.

8. Traub, James. "The Death of the Most Generous Nation on Earth." Foreign Policy The Death of the Most Generous Nation on Earth Comments. N.p., 10 Feb. 2016. Web. 30 Mar. 2016.  <http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/02/10/the-death-of-the-most-generous-nation-on-earth-sweden-syria-refugee-europe/>.

9. Crouch, David. "Sweden Slams Shut Its Open-door Policy towards Refugees." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 24 Nov. 2015. Web. 4 Apr. 2016. <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/24/sweden-asylum-seekers-refugees-policy-reversal>.


Monday, November 7, 2016

When and Why Did Greek Become Irrelevant?

By Constantine L. Davros

Constantine Loucas Davros graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Spring 2016 with two degrees, one in Physics and the other in Italian. He is a Greek American from Chicago. Constantine studied abroad in Verona, Italy in the spring of 2015, and is back there this year to teach in a high school in Crema. In this essay, Constantine examines the differences in prestige and use of ancient and Modern Greek in today’s Europe, referring to scholarly analyses and also to his own experiences as a Greek American.

When and Why Did Greek Become Irrelevant?

As a young Greek American I often wonder why more people do not learn to speak Greek, as frequently as were the circumstances in days past. The contention could be made that due to its infrequent use, the Greek language has slowly faded into obscurity. How could this be though? At one point in history the Greek civilization was regarded as the zenith of academia, as well as the cultural gold standard. Granted, that point may reside deep within the annals of history, but nonetheless the Greek language’s infrequent use deserves explanation.

Knowing Greek isn’t something to be frowned upon, nor is it useless. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. From personal experience I can corroborate the benefits of having knowledge of the language, but for more concrete evidence it’s important to know that, “over 70% of all English words are derived from Greek and Latin. Knowing Latin and Greek prefixes, roots and suffixes will not only help one remember word definitions but will also make it easier to determine the meaning of a new word” (Ruccolo). However, unlike Latin, Greek is an official language of the European Union, as well as a recognized minority language in other member states such as Hungary, Italy, and Romania. With that in mind, it would seem that knowing Greek would serve as an invaluable tool for Europeans trying to learn English.

Moreover, it has become standard practice for the European Union “to conduct its official business in English, French, and German” with English being the “most widely spoken and used language in the administrative domain” (Kachru & Smith). Thus, the latter two language’s roles in both the financial and political domains are diminishing. Couple that with the fact that one of the main objectives of the EU is that “every European citizen should master two other languages in addition to their mother tongue” (EU Parliament), it would seem that there is a perfect storm to learn Greek as the second secondary language; assuming English would be the first secondary language.

However, statistics show that both in Europe and in the United States, there is no real interest in learning Greek as a foreign language. According to Eurostat, the most studied foreign languages in Europe at the upper secondary level of education are as follows: English 94%, French 23%, Spanish and German 19%, Italian 3%, and Russian 3%. It is clearly visible that there is no space for Greek to fit into the European landscape. In the United States, enrollments in Ancient Greek language classes are on a steep decline. According to the MLA from 2006 to 2009 enrollment dropped by 12.2 % and from 2009 to 2013 enrollment dropped an even further 35.5% (Flaherty).

A graph of the decline in language enrollments for major languages (Source)

A painting by Theodoros Vryzakis of
Bishop Germanos blessing the Greek flag
at the beginning of the Greek Revolution on
March 25, 1821. (source)
Thus, we’re still left with the unanswered question, why isn’t Greek getting learned? The answer isn’t a simple one. We could quickly shift blame back through the centuries to the fall of the Byzantine Empire followed by the capture of Constantinople, by the Ottoman Empire in 1453. Later, Athens fell in 1458, subsequently followed by an occupation that lasted until the Greek War of Independence, which began on March 25, 1821, and which lasted until 1832 ending with the Treaty of Constantinople. However, it would be easy to attribute all blame on the Ottoman occupation. The Greek language has been plagued by a diglossic debate, between Demotic Greek, spoken by the public, and Katharevousa, considered to be pure Greek (Frangoudaki), for centuries. At the same time, the Greek government, throughout its various political regimes, has made multiple miscues when it comes to policy making. Such issues persisted through the 19th century after Independence was achieved, into the 20th century. “Linked to the national ideology, it was a recurrent debate in the history of contemporary Greece, with many steps forward and backward, always interrelated with the political power in government, until 1976 when, after the fall of the junda, popular Greek was voted as the official language” (Dendrinos, 2).

The combination of both external and internal forces seems to have seriously damaged the use and prestige of the Greek language over the centuries. However, under current circumstances it doesn’t seem as though Greek will become the trending language to learn. As David Crystal contends in a video for Macmillan Education ELT, “A language becomes a global language because of the power of the people who speak it. It’s nothing to do with the structure of the language…It’s all to do with power, but power means different things at different times…And then in the 19th century economic power; money talks always” (Macmillan Education ELT). In the 19th century Greece wasn’t an economic powerhouse, and today it is quite the opposite. The Greek Debt Crisis that began in 2010 coincides almost perfectly to the MLA’s reported drops in enrollment. Perhaps a coincidence, but the statistics reflect on the nation as a whole. Nonetheless, the true power and resurgence of the Greek language is inextricably tied to Greece fixing its economy. As we know though, the Greek language is still useful; it just needs to be made relevant once more. Perhaps after the financial crisis in Greece is resolved, efforts can be made to restore the prestige of the Greek language, but only time will tell.

Works Cited

Macmillan Education ELT. “Global English with David Crystal.” YouTube. YouTube, 01 Nov. 2009. Web. 15 May 2016.

Dendrinos, Bessie. “Language Issues And Language Policies In Greece.” (2012): 1-17. Web.

European Parliament


Flaherty, Colleen. “MLA Report Shows Declines in Enrollment in Most Foreign Languages.” Inside Higher Ed. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 May 2016.

Frangoudaki, Anna. “Diglossia And The Present Language Situation In Greece: A Sociological Approach To The Interpretation Of Diglossia And Some Hypotheses On Today’s Linguistic Reality.” Language In Society 21.3 (1992): 365-81. ERIC. Web. 15 May 2016.


Kachru & Smith


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