LINGUIST List 2.195

Sunday, 5 May 1991

Disc: Banned Languages

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. , Re: Banned Languages
  2. , Re: Banned Languages
  3. bert peeters, Languages in Belgium

Message 1: Re: Banned Languages

Date: Thu, 2 May 91 12:42:52 PDT
From: <>
Subject: Re: Banned Languages
Itziar Laka writes:
>...There are many more aspects of the banning of Basque, also
>in the area of the Basque Country in the French state, that I will not go 
>into. But from this case at least, one conclusion can be drawn: Banning is an 
>extremely efficient way of weakening and eventually wiping out a linguistic 
>community. It is fast, exhaustive and quiet, unless the subjects engage in
>active opposition, which is not that common.

Political banning is a factor in language death, but I think that it is quite
a bit less important than economic factors. Eric Hamp will give you a nice
lecture on how the decline of Scotts Gaelic was related to deforestation. In
the case of Brittany, the economic devastation of the region led to mass
exodus of the best and the brightest Bretons.

I visited the French and Spanish Basque regions shortly after the death of
Franco. I was impressed by the difference between those areas and Brittany.
The nationalist sentiment and pride of culture was far stronger in the Basque
country. In Hendaye, we were kept awake in our hotel by people loudly singing
Basque songs down in the bar. In the Pyrenees, we were awakened in the 
morning by the townspeople marching up and down the street banging on drums and
setting off firecrackers in honor of a Basque holiday. (We didn't get much
sleep in the Basque country :-) In that village, we were told that Basque was
very much in ascendancy among the children. Grandparents encouraged their
children to speak the language. In Brittany, the old people were often puzzled
by the desire of younger people to learn the language, and the youth movement
seemed almost in rebellion against the apathy of the older generation. I 
suspect that the apathy is not in reaction to the political oppression, which
has been constant over the past several hundred years, but to the rapid 
decline in the Breton economy in this century. I may be wrong, but I
don't think that the Basque region has experienced a similar economic decline.

 Rick Wojcik (
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Message 2: Re: Banned Languages

Date: Thu, 2 May 91 18:26 MST
From: <>
Subject: Re: Banned Languages
Uh, oh, I've been reading all these interesting discussions about French and English in Quebec, and knew that sooner or later comparisons with the Flemings and
the Walloons in Belgium would come up. And here it came in the discussion by 
Stavros makrakis. Of course, as in the Canadian situation we are not talking
about really banned languages, but rather about language laws, limiting the
influence of certain official languages. As a Fleming, I want to comment on
Macrakis' notes. I agree with most of it, except that it is not correct to
say that all Flemings speak Flemish dialects (most of which, by the way 
are not mutually intelligible with the standard Dutch of The Hague), and it
is somewhat unfair to say that it is politically correct to speak of Nederlands.The situation is that because of their longer history of education in standard
French, the standard French of most Walloons is pretty good, even though far
from identical to Parisian; Flemings, with a few weird exceptions, have always
considered their standard language to be Dutch, and this is where the terminological mess starts; there is a good cover-term for Holland Dutch and Flanders
Flemish in French (Neerlandais), in German (Niederlandisch), and in Dutch
(Nederlands), but not in English (maybe Netherlandic, on the model of Icelandic
will be accepted some day). So English speakers are inclined to think as
that Dutch and Flemish are two closely related languages. Thia has never been
the case, and no self-respecting Dutchman or Flemish linguist or literary 
person sees it that way (you can ask me for refs.). So the official 
language of Flanders and the Netherlands is one and the same, call it whatever
you like, there is less difference in grammar, spelling, and pronunciation
tolerated, between Belgian Dutch and Netherlands Dutch, than there is between
American English and British English; we use the same reference dictionaries
and grammars. This said, because of the fact that higher and highschool
education was in French for about a hundred years after Belgium's independence
the Flemish are really behind compared to the French=speakers as far as their
control of the standard goes; a minority does not know standard Dutch at all,
the large majority is bidialectal in a Flemish dialect, and an imperfect
dialect-influenced standard, and a growing minority speaks the standard quite
well, which makes the Dutch from Holland say: Wow, you really speak nice Dutch!
which never ceases to irritate us Flemings. The bottom line of this note is:
There are Dutch and Flemish dialects, but the standard and official language
of non-French (and non-German) spaeking Belgium, and the Netherlands, is one and the same and we all want it that way. Most Flemish intellectuals have fairly
negative attitudes against Flemish dialects; they don't think they are neat and
would nlove to see them dead. This is understandable because the very strong
position of regional dialects in Flanders has allowed the French speakers to
make fun of (boors without a standard language), and it has left the Dutch
speakers from Holland rather unsympathetic to Flemish cultural demands (why
don't they all learn French (such a beautiful language after all), instead of
trying to learn our Dutch, which they can't seem to manage anyway. We'll
manage, thank you.)
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Message 3: Languages in Belgium

Date: Fri, 3 May 91 12:14:33 +1000
From: bert peeters <>
Subject: Languages in Belgium
In response to Nils Monaghan call for clarification, here is an attempt. I've
been living in Australia for the last four years or so, which means I may
get some details wrong. However, there must be some non-exiled compatriots
out there that read LINGUIST???
The case Nils refers to concerns the village of Voeren (Fourons is its French
name) in the Flemish-speaking province of Limburg. Voeren is at the extreme
south of the province, close to the Walloon province of Liege (Luik in Flemish;
by the way Limburg in French is Limbourg), and has (or had) a majority of
French speaking inhabitants (I hope this info is accurate). The lord mayor
referred to is the now famous and infamous Jose Happart (I used to refer to
him privately as a case apart, in French "un cas a part" :-) ), who was
elected several times yet often refused to speak Dutch when he was supposed to
(at council meetings for instance). He was elected locally by the French
speaking majority, but given his (faked?) incompetence in Dutch (he did under-
stand it pretty well, and managed to be understood by others when answering
in Dutch - he did do it a couple of times), his nomination was several times
overruled by the government (the Flemish government or the national one, I
can't remember). I believe it was the New York Herald that once in an
editorial referred to the linguistic situation in Voeren, saying that it was
unbelievable so much trouble could be made in a village in the middle of
nowhere where there lived more cattle than people... So, in a way, you might
say that there were attempts to suppress the use of Flemish in a truly Flemish
township, and the number of so-called "marches" (it sounds better in Dutch:
wandelingen = walks) by Flemish and Walloon people alike ending in fierce
trouble and fights proves that the situation was (and still is?) quite 
Another case of discrimination I remember was the infamous affair of the
counters (?) in Schaarbeek/Schaerbeek, the so-called "affaire des guichets".
There were a number of counters at the town hall available for the French
speaking inhabitants, yet all the Dutch speaking inhabitants had to queue up
at just one counter, where one staff was in charge of all their queries and
problems. I can't remember who was lord mayor at the time.
Finally, there was the Komen/Comines case. If I am not wrong it was a Flemish
enclave in Walloon territory, quite close even to the French border. I know
for sure there used to be trouble there around the primary school, but I have
forgotten the details.
Once again, I call upon my compatriotes who are still in Belgium. I'm sure
they could provide many more details than I have provided here (and correct
some of my allegations - I'm getting a little bit rusty on this).
Bert Peeters <>

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