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, February 20, 2017

Belarusian on the Road to Revival

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia
Belarusian on the Road to Revival

by Alyssa Lowery

Alyssa Lowery graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in May 2016 with a B.A. in Linguistics and Spanish. She wrote this blog post as a student in SPAN 418 ‘Language and Minorities in Europe’ in Spring 2016.

Many people assume that the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 marks the revival of Belarusian in Belarus; others believe the Ukraine Crisis has prompted the Belarusian people to begin reviving their language and culture; however, with a 2015 article on The Guardian stating that “no more than 10% of Belarusians say they communicate in Belarusian in their day-to-day lives,” it’s easy to question whether this is actually the case (Barushka, 2015). The question now is: is the Belarusian language being revived at all?

During and immediately following the collapse of the USSR, there was certainly an increase in Belarusian language policies, such as the new Language Law, which “expected that Belarusian would become the language of science, culture and the media within three years; the language of congresses, conferences and state decrees within three to five years; of business within five years; and legal matters within a decade,” along with more minor laws following, including the Law on Culture, Law on Education and Law on Languages. (Bekus, 2014: 31) Given that only 10% of Belarusians use the language in their everyday lives, it is safe to say that the Language Law did not meet its expectations.

Twenty-five years after the fall of the Soviet Union, signs of revival should be seen by now. Despite the bleak statistic offered by The Guardian, they are – even if the increase isn’t as drastic as officials predicted it would be after the new Language Law. According to Belteleradiocompany, each year on the first Sunday of every September, the Belarusian people come together to celebrate the literature of their language on Belarusian Written Language Day. This demonstrates 1) a strong pride for their language and 2) the preservation and use of their language through literature. Belteleradiocompany also states that as of 2015, the Belarusian Writers’ Union included 590 writers. Another positive sign for the Belarusian language is the free group language courses such as Mova ci Kava (Language or Coffee), Mova Nanova (Language in a New Way) and Movaveda popping up and continuing to grow in popularity (Astapenia, 2014). Additionally, the language has been put into the education system. Classes in the Belarusian language as well as literature are taken between grades 1-9 according to the World Data on Education (7th Edition). So why are there so few people speaking Belarusian?

A major inhibitor of the revival of Belarusian is (or based on information presented in the following paragraph, it might be more accurate to say “was”) an internal factor: the Belarusian government. Alexander Lukashenko, president of Belarus, declared in 1994 that "people who speak the Belarusian language cannot do anything else apart from speak the Belarusian language, because it's impossible to express anything great in Belarusian.” A major factor in the learning and survival of any language is the mindset of the people toward the language. For Belarusian to be dismissed by the president, who should be fighting to keep the language alive, negatively portrays the language to the people. A statement this bold and degrading to a language not only discourages Belarusian speakers and learners, but it also means nonchalant regulation of the protections already in place for Belarusian.

With that being said, Lukashenko made a completely reversed statement on January 29, 2015, demonstrating a new era and mindset toward Belarusian. Lukashenko passionately stated, “it [Belarusian] makes us different from the Russians. The native language is a distinctive feature of the nation. We must not forget the Belarusian language. We must know it as well as the Russian language. It is will be the biggest pride for the any Belarusian. I do not want this legacy to be lost.” Lukashenko’s positive statement toward Belarusian, after two decades of promoting Russian and dismissing the nation’s language, changes the mindset for the country and also portrays optimism to his people that he will not only create policies for the language but also accurately enforce them. One very important person can make a big difference.

Taking into account where the Belarusian language started before the collapse of the Soviet Union and analyzing where it is now, to answer the question posed above, yes, there is a spark in the revival of the Belarusian language. The new positivity and passion surrounding Belarusian cannot be missed. UNESCO’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger still classifies the language as vulnerable, but with a recently changed mentality toward the language among government officials, Belarusian seems to be on the road to revival.

Works Cited

Astapenia, Ryhor. "Is Lukashenka Trying to Emancipate Belarus from Russian Culture?" Belarus Digest. 03 Oct. 2014. Web. .

Barushka, Katerina. "After Decades of Russian Dominance, Belarus Reclaims Its Language." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 28 Jan. 2015. Web. .

Bekus, Nelly. "“Hybrid” Linguistic Identity of Post-Soviet Belarus." Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe 13.4 (2014): 26-51. Web. .

"Belarusian Written Language Day Celebrated Annually on First Sunday of September." Belteleradiocompany. 27 Aug. 2015. Web. .

"Lukashenko: Belarusian Language Issue Has Been Resolved Once and for All." Belarus News: Belarusian Telegraph Agency. 29 Jan. 2015. Web. .

UNESCO-IBE, comp. "Belarus." World Data on Education 7th Edition (2011). Web. .


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Monday, February 6, 2017

Italy’s Apathy Towards Neapolitano’s Imminent Death

Image Link

Italy’s Apathy Towards Napolitano’s Imminent Death

By Moisés G. Contreras

Moisés G. Contreras is a Junior at the University of Illinois majoring in Psychology and Italian, with a minor in Latina/Latino Studies. After completion of his degrees, he hopes to spend a year teaching English abroad. Naples is one of his favorite Italian cities, and very probably the site of his studying and teaching abroad plans.

The relationship between the majority and the minority can be detrimental, especially when it is overlooked and equity is not at the forefront. It is then interesting to apply this idea in a linguistic realm, where minority languages are mainly esteemed poorly and as not worthy of acknowledgement. In the situation of Italy and the question of regional and minority languages, the main issue is the vigorous and inconsiderate spread of Standard Italian across the state. There is legislation in Italy to protect certain minority languages, (Law 482/1999), but this law is not enough for the protection and cultivation of Italy’s regional languages. What is the particular reason that Neapolitan, for example, is not protected by a similar legislation, or even recognized in general for that matter?

The Neapolitan language is spoken in the southern part of Italy in regions like Abruzzo, Calabria, Campania, Lazio, and others nearby. This is roughly the area once covered by the Kingdom of Naples, after which the language was named. With the conception of the Kingdom and the language begins the vast and rich history of Neapolitan culture in literature, music, theater, and more. In regards to the Neapolitan musical history, la canzone napoletana, or “Neapolitan song”—which refers to the music sung in the Neapolitan language— is considered lightly prominent globally. For this reason, many say that the Neapolitan language is therefore the most known and exported worldwide amongst the Italic languages. And while it is a great tool to disseminate the Neapolitan language, this does not necessarily mean it is a tool being used to instruct the language or ensure its vitality by any means.

Unfortunately, this prominence is satisfactory for many political actors, since “the languages that show a higher degree of vitality tend to be less promoted, in the sense that fewer associations and organizations exist to protect them and their presence is more limited in education (including adult education)” (Coluzzi, 2008, p. 223). This mindset is extremely harmful to any regional language and it highlights the neglect many of these languages receive. With the propagation of Standard Italian thanks to, (or perhaps blamed to), mass media, institutional instruction, and other methods, this “ongoing process of Italianization… is slowly eroding these [regional and minority] languages from the inside” (Coluzzi, 2008, p. 219). For now, though, Standard Italian and Neapolitan are barely mutually intelligible, considering their distinct grammatical differences in lexicon and structure.

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Despite the steady decline in use of regional languages, made clear by ISTAT survey responses, there still is only a meager amount of laws and policies that make any type of effort to protect them. Sure, there is Law 482/1999, but it only offers protection to twelve minority languages in Italy. Even without much knowledge of this law, the map provided offers an idea of exactly which languages are protected, (mostly the languages of the minority communities in the nation). Although even with this protection, Friulian and Sardinian, sometimes regarded as varieties of Italian, “are usually considered to be a ‘poor’ or ‘impure’ image of the idealized language” (Iannàccaro & Dell’aquila, 2011. p. 38). The negative image that Italian ‘dialects’ are given alludes to the problem at hand: there is a severe lack of importance placed on protecting the languages of the many different cultures in Italy.

This “deliberate socio-political behavior” (Iannàccaro & Dell’aquila, 2011, p. 37) against the proper protection and preservation of these languages cannot be tolerated. It is as if political officials are willingly oblivious to the fact that, again referring to Neapolitan, there are many signals as to the decline of the language and its current eventual death. With UNESCO’s 9 factors, we can pinpoint a couple of these indicators in the Neapolitan language. In terms of intergenerational language transmission, probably the most important factor in ensuring a language’s vitality, Neapolitan has been graded as unsafe. This finding, coupled with the lack of Neapolitan instruction in educational institutions, paints a dreary picture for the future of the language as well. And mass media might as well be an accomplice to this attempted language murder, since it has very minimal response to new domains and media. It comes to no surprise to know that Neapolitan has no official status in any Italian region, despite its prominence.

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Neapolitan was merely the language in question in this post; however, it can be used as a representative of Italy’s regional languages and the injustice they are served. While the standardization of the Italian language is an exemplary method to unify the nation and build an identity that was missing up to recent times, it is disheartening to see what is consequently being neglected. Italy is a mosaic formed by the different cultures found within the regions in the peninsula. To be unbothered by the eventual loss of these regional languages would be ironic and counterproductive to cultivating and fundamentally understanding the true Italian culture and identity. May Italy and more importantly the Neapolitan people never forget, in the lyrics of a Neapolitan song, “comme si' bello, oje core napulitano”, (how beautiful you are, oh Neapolitan heart).

Works Cited.

Coluzzi, P. (2008). Language planning for Italian regional languages (“dialects”). Language Problems & Language Planning. 215-236.

Iannàccaro, G., Dell’aquila, V. (2011). Historical linguistic minorities: suggestions for classification and typology. Int’l. J. Soc. Lang. 29-45. 

https://easyglot.files.wordpress.com/2015/05/cropped-napoli.jpg

http://www.sportellolinguisticopinerolese.it/uploads/source/inquadramento.jpg

http://napoli.pinkitalia.it/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2015/04/I-napoletani-sanno-scrivere-in-napoletano.jpg

Core napulitano. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ik1R5pb5ki8


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