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, December 12, 2016

Scottish Gaelic with an English Twist

By Victoria Dakajos

Victoria Dakajos recently graduated with a major in Agriculture and Consumer Economics and a concentration in Public Policy and Law. She completed a double minor in Communication and Political Science and is planning on attending law school. She wrote this piece while enrolled in PS 418 ‘Language and Minorities in Europe’ during the spring of 2016.

Scottish Gaelic with an English Twist

Scottish Gaelic, which is one of many minority languages in the European Union (EU), is undergoing revitalization and becoming a more commonly spoken language in Scotland. According to the 2011 Census (Nance, 2015, p.555), there are approximately 58,000 people that speak Scottish Gaelic, which corresponds to only 1% of the Scottish population. Most speakers are traditionally from the rural highlands and the Islands of Scotland.

Source: Wikipedia
As it increasingly becomes part of the daily vernacular, the younger generation is beginning to speak Scottish Gaelic more but with a bit of a twist. The younger generation is growing up with English as their first language, and the Scottish Gaelic that they are learning to speak is changing and different compared to how the older generation used to speak it. The change is mostly due to the new immersion schools also known as Gaelic-medium education.

Research has shown that when a person becomes bilingual, one-language’s features, mainly the native language, transfer to the second language that the person is learning. As Claire Nance says in her paper, “The structure of the community-dominant language may influence the direction of change in a minority language” (Nance, 2014, p. 15). This explains why many of the younger people feel that they do not have a Gaelic speaking accent because they did not grow up learning the traditional way to speak the language (Nance, 2015, p. 556-557). What they mean by accent is that they do not use the proper Gaelic lateral phonetics and use more of the English phonetic variation.

The older generations of Gaelic speakers are limited in their literacy skills because they spoke the language in their homes, at work, and on the playground. In school, however, they were only able to speak English. Unlike the younger generation, the older Gaelic speakers “learned English via immersion when they first attended school” giving them less practice to learn how to read and write the language (Nance, 2015, p. 3). The younger generations of Gaelic speakers learn half of their lessons in Gaelic, while the rest of their lessons are taught in English because of a shortage of Gaelic-speaking teachers.

One can noticeably see the difference in the language change by studying the pitch accents and how the generational accents compare. In her paper, Nance discusses that languages are divided into three broad categories: languages that make use of lexical tones such as Scottish Gaelic, languages that do not use lexical tones such as English, and languages that partially use lexical tones like Japanese (Nance, 2015, p. 4). Lexical pitch refers to the tone patterns in Scottish Gaelic.

Source: Wikipedia
It has been suggested across Indo-European languages that lexical pitch accent systems are very rare and may eventually be lost, which is why we can see this language change between the generations. Researchers think there can be many potential explanations, but one of the most common explanations for the lack of tones in the young generations’ Gaelic is because of the English language and how it does not have a lexical pitch accent prosodic system (Nance, 2015, p. 11). The younger speakers instead collapse Gaelic lateral categories so that it is more similar to the English system, and “Some young speakers produce laterals which are phonetically more similar to those reported to their dialect of English, than those of the older speaker groups who grew up in Gaelic-dominant environments” (Nance, 2014, p. 15). Another reason that we are seeing the change in Scottish Gaelic is that the younger generation is learning their Gaelic through immersion schools. Although most of the teachers are of the older generation and most use the dialect with the lexical pitch accent, it is possible that they received a more dialectally mixed input in their learning. Pronunciation was very rarely taught in immersion-type schools, which would explain why the lexical pitch accent would not be taught in the younger generations’ courses.

In the end, we can see from the facts presented here that the increased use of English among the younger generation speakers has contributed to the loss of lexical pitch among the younger speakers compared to the older generation. As explained above, most bilingual people use the features of one language and transfer it to the second. This is where we see a language change because younger Gaelic speakers use English features and especially lexicon, when speaking Gaelic. It is as if we see code-switching (CS) or language-mixing (LM) which means the “alternation of the two languages is locally meaningful within the conversation” (Smith-Christmas, 2016, p. 64-65). This describes why we are seeing such a language shift from the “new speakers” because they are mixing their two spoken languages together. We do see some differences when looking at people who come from parents with a Gaelic-speaking background and those who do not; we are still seeing this language change/shift even in the highlands where most Gaelic speakers live. In the future, we will start to notice the lexical pitch accent that older Gaelic speakers use will not really be needed anymore to be able to communicate.

Work Cited

Nance, C. (2015). Intonational variation and change in Scottish Gaelic. Lingua, 160 1-19. doi:10.1016/j.lingua.2015.03.008

Nance, C. (2015). ‘New’ Scottish Gaelic speakers in Glasgow: A phonetic study of language revitalisation. Language In Society, 44(4), 553-579. doi:10.1017/S0047404515000408

Nance, C. (2014). Phonetic variation in Scottish Gaelic laterals. Journal Of Phonetics, 471-17. doi:10.1016/j.wocn.2014.07.005

Smith-Christmas, C. (2016). Regression on the fused lect continuum? Discourse markers in Scottish Gaelic–English speech. Journal Of Pragmatics, 9464-75. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2016.01.007

Wikipedia. (2015, October). Gaelic speakers in Scotland (1755-2011) [Table]. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scottish_Gaelic

Wikipedia. (2015, October). Distribution in Scotland [map]. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scottish_Gaelic#/media/File:Scots_Gaelic_speakers_in_the_2011_census.png


Monday, December 5, 2016

Revitalizing the Inari Saami Language in Finland

Saami flag (7)
By Emily Cheng

Emily Cheng is an undergraduate student in linguistics. She is also very interested in film production and pursuing a Masters in Leadership for Creative Enterprises. She wrote this text as a senior enrolled in 418 ‘Language and Minorities in Europe’.

Inari Saami, also known as Aanaar Saami, is one of the three Saami languages spoken in Finland. All nine of the current Saami languages are considered endangered; with about 350 speakers, Inari Saami is considered seriously endangered (6). Inari Saami (IS) is spoken by the Inari Saami people, who reside in the municipality of Inari; most speakers are middle-aged or older. IS is the only Saami language spoken exclusively in Finland (1).

Location of Inari in Finland (8)
Problems with Inari Saami in Finland

The Saami people in Northern Europe suffer discrimination against their people, language, and culture. The clothing is considered strange, they often are not wealthy and therefore are considered to have a lower social status and to be inferior to modern cultures (5). The Saami language is viewed as an obstacle in a competitive environment and has a number of proponents who are fighting to keep the language out of schools in Finland. Often times, Saami parents decide to speak the official language with their children at home, to avoid humiliation and to give their children better opportunities (4). Inari Saami is a “minority of a minority”, complete with a small body of speakers; it too suffers diminished usage at home like the other Saami languages.

The Saami Language Act, passed in Finland in 1992 made a valiant effort to bring Saami up to the status of Finnish. However, it only extended to designated Saami areas. Smaller communities, such as the Inari Saami, did not experience the benefits of the act (5).

The path to success

The method of using language nests for the revitalization of Inari Saami perhaps has single-handedly began the relatively efficient and quick success of IS revitalization. A language nest is an early immersion of preschool-age children, taught completely in the local minority/indigenous language from Day 1 by linguistically and culturally proficient elders. Not only do children learn the language they don’t have access to at home, the preschool teachers and parents often develop proficiency in IS along the way (4).

The use of language nests has made IS more visible in the community, upgraded the status and prestige of the language, and is producing a generation of young bilinguals. More media and literature is also being produced in response to a shift in children’s culture.

The “Lost Generation”

After 2000, Inari Saami became the main language for school instruction with the “language nest generation”. However, with the rapid revitalization, there comes a lack of speakers aging 20-50 years old (2). Without adults, there is no force to produce teaching materials, provide financial backing, nor to occupy related jobs to the revitalization of IS.

The Giellagas Institute of the Oulu University had a solution. From August 2009 to August 2010, the CASLE (Complementary Aanaar Saami Language Education) program began (1, 3). Seventeen adult students, ranging in occupation from teachers, daycare personnel, a priest, and a radio journalist, participated in an intensive language course. Not only did courses produce language skills for these professionals critical for language transmission, they also covered Inari Saami culture and arranged internships in IS speaking workplaces (2). These seventeen individuals went on to revolutionize the Inari Saami revitalization.

Future endeavors

Even with the success of revitalizing Inari Saami, it still has a long way to go. There are still very few IS-speaking environments outside of the learning nests and schools. The lack of language rights for all Saami languages, as well as its diminished social status and lack of political power of the Saami people, still threatens the endangerment of the languages.

What do you think the future holds for the Saami languages?

If this topic interested you, check out this 10 minute documentary about the Inari Saami revitalization in the northeast of Finnish Lapland.


Works Cited

1. Pasanen, A. (2010) Revitalization of Inari Saami: reversal language shift in changing speech community [PPT document]. Retrieved from SlideShowes Web site: http://slideshowes.com/doc/351323/revitalization-of-inari-saami--reversal-language-shift-in

2. Pasanen, A. Solving the problem of the lost generation: Inari Saami language education for adults. Arkisto. Retrieved from http://www.arkisto.org/envision/images/Dokumentarkiv/Ph%20Annika%20Pasanen.pdf

3. Reyhner, J. (2013) Revitalizing the Aanaar Saami Language in Finland. Nabe Perspectives. Retrieved from North Arizona University. Web site: http://www2.nau.edu/~jar/NABE/Saami.pdf

4. Magga, O. H. & Skutnabb-Kangas, T. (2001) The Saami Languages: the present and the future. Endangered Languages, Endangered Lives. Retrieved from Cultural Survival. Web site: https://www.culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultural-survival-quarterly/saami-languages-present-and-future

5. Ricco, E. The Sámi Language Crisis. Sami Culture. Retrieved from Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services of the University of Texas. Web site: http://www.laits.utexas.edu/sami/dieda/ling/languagecrisis.htm

6. Sarivaara, E, et al. (2012) How to Revitalize an Indigenous Language? Adults’ Experiences of the Revitalization of the Sámi Language. Cross-Cultural Communication. Retrieved from CSCanada. Web site: http://www.cscanada.net/index.php/ccc/article/viewFile/j.ccc.1923670020130901.2121/3591

7. anjči. “Saami National Day 6 February.” Photograph. Wikimedia Commons. 6 Feb 2011. Web. 16 Apr 2016. Web site: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Saami_flag,_Troms%C3%B8_Norway.jpg

8. Joonasl. “Location of Inari in Finland.” Photograph. Wikimedia Commons. 5 Dec 2005. Web. 16 Apr 2016. Web site: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Inari_Suomen_maakuntakartalla.png

9. IET. “REBORN (with English subtitles)”. Online video clip. Youtube. Youtube, 9 July 2012. Web. 16 Apr 2016.


Cookie Settings