LINGUIST List 2.201

Monday, 6 May 1991

Disc: Linguistic Communities and their Rights

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Hurch, banned languages
  2. Koenraad De Smedt, standard Dutch
  3. "Hartmut Haberland, Roskilde University", RE: What rights do language communities have?
  4. , Re: What rights do language communities have?
  5. Sarah Thomason, Native American languages taught
  6. John Goldsmith, languages without orthographies

Message 1: banned languages

Date: 6 May 91 22:52 +0800
From: Hurch <hurch%mvax2.urz.uni-wuppertal.dbp.demunnari.oz>
Subject: banned languages
I have been following the ongoing discussion just for the last few days. Let
me add one remark and one more example.
To Rick Wojcik's comment on Itziar Laka: The economic situation of the
Basque country, especially the provinces in Spain, is of extreme importance
for the language. There was a strong Basque speaking nationalist bourgeoisie
in the last century who enourmously contributed to the industrialization of
the Basque provinces and who enormously contributed to the cultural status
of Basque, to its standardization, the foundation of the Basque Academy, etc.
The Euskal Herria is, together with Catalunya, the richest part of Spain.
All this (among, no doubt, reasons of political opposition) has to be taken
into account when analyzing the Basque situation.
Another example:
German was a "banned language" in South Tyrol from about 1940 to the end of
World War II (at least till the breakdown of Italian fascism). The history
is a bit more intricate. South Tyrol formely was part of the K.u.K. monarchy.
It came to Italy as a consequence of World War I, and the reperssion of
German started immediatly after 1919 and got stronger after 1922 (beginning
of fascism). It was progressivly banned from all domains of public life.
This, obviously, led to absurd tensions between Hitler and Mussolini. The 
result was a referendum in which the German speaking population voted for
being transferred to "other German speaking parts" of the Reich, they
(between 30 and 40% of the German speaking population) left South Tyrol for
being settled in Poland, receiving houses, businesses etc. which formerly
were owned by jews.
Aftern the war about 80% of those "emmigrants" came back. The struggle for
the rights of the German speaking minority in South Tyrol was heavily backed
by the Austrian and the German (esp. Bavarian) governments. The "pacchetto"
(bundle of laws regulating the autonomy of South Tyrol within the Italian
Republic) nowadays produces a neat superiority for the German speaking 
population. Every inhabitant of the autonomous privince has to declare
his/her ethnic affiliation and Italians tend to affiliate themselves among
the German speakers. According to the affiliation,e.g., the jobs in the
public domains are distributed. In a district like Bressanone/Brixen, where
the distribution of the ethnic groups is about equal, the public jobs have
to be distributed according to the percentage of the affiliations. But
the German speaking population does not need these jobs, as they traditionally 
own the whole economy of the country. The result is that the rate of 
unemployed people among Italians is very high, but they can't take the
jobs which are reserved for the German speaking population. These jobs
remain vacant. The mail, which already works badly in Italy is nearly
collapsing in South Tyrol. There are many (true) anecdotes like that.
The German speaking regional government opposes to the plans of the 
Italian government to build a new university in Bolzano/Bozen, as they
prefer to send their children to Austria/Germany, etc. The historical
situation is quite reversed, in the sense that the German speaking
minority simply dominates the Italians. And sociologists speak about
a new apartheid in Europe.
Thus, one of the main points which has to be taken into account with
such situations is the linguistic/economic/cultural background of the
minority language. South Tyrol has never been forgotten by Austrian/
German chrstian-democrates/industry etc.
Bernhard Hurch
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 2: standard Dutch

Date: Mon, 6 May 91 11:56 MET
From: Koenraad De Smedt <DESMEDT%NICI.KUN.NL%pucc.PRINCETON.EDUmunnari.oz>
Subject: standard Dutch
In a recent posting, W De Reuse ( writes,
among other things:

%% 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 is basically true, but it should not be concluded from this that
there is no standard 'Flemish'. As a Fleming living in the Netherlands,
I dare say that there is a language variant which is accepted as
standard in all of Flanders, but which is subtly different from the
standard in the Netherlands. There may be 'less difference in grammar,
spelling and pronunciation', but there are differences in the lexicon
and intonation patterns. The standard language spoken on Flemish radio
and TV exhibits these differences, yet will never be characterized as
dialectal or regional by Flemings. Until they cross the border, Flemings
will often think some kind of phrase is standard Dutch because it is
understood in all Flanders. When they use that phrase in the
Netherlands, they are actually surprised the alleged 'standard' is not
understood. This happened to me quite often.

Koenraad De Smedt
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 3: RE: What rights do language communities have?

Date: Mon, 6 May 91 09:37 +0200
From: "Hartmut Haberland, Roskilde University" <>
Subject: RE: What rights do language communities have?
Perhaps the following publication is of interest for the ongoing discussion:
Tove Skutnabb-Kangas and Robert Phillipson, Wanted! Linguistic Human Rights.
ROLIG paper 44 (1989), Roskilde University (Denmark)
Orders by e-mail to
Orders by FAX: +45 4675 4410 (att. ROLIG)
snail mail: ROLIG (The linguistic circle of Roskilde), POB 260,
 DK-4000 Roskilde, Denmark
ROLIG papers are distributed free of charge as long as our stock lasts.
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 4: Re: What rights do language communities have?

Date: Mon, 06 May 91 08:47:43 CST
Subject: Re: What rights do language communities have?
An issue that has not been considered about banning languages is how the
language will be written. Richard West, writing in the most recent issue of
the New York Review of Books, observes that when the French arrived in Vietnam
about 80% knew the Chinese ideographs for writing Vietnamese. The French
prohibited Chinese characters and required the use of a Latin alphabet devised
by a missionary in the 17th Century. Many Vietnamese protested so that by the
end of the 1930s 80% of the boys of school age were not attending classes.
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 5: Native American languages taught

Date: Mon, 6 May 1991 10:51:03 EDT
From: Sarah Thomason <>
Subject: Native American languages taught
In response to Karen Christie's query about what Native American
languages are taught formally in schools:

 Flathead (a.k.a. [Montana] Salish) classes are offered in
a few elementary schools and high schools and at the Salish-Kootenai
Community College by the Salish-Kootenai Confederated Tribes on their
reservation in northwestern Montana. The classes are well attended,
though White parents occasionally prevent their interested children
from enrolling in the language classes. At the elementary-school
level, the classes have to compete with art and music classes -- that
is, they are classified among elective "non-central-academic" classes,
and this of course has a negative effect on enrollments. When I
meet annually with community elders to work on teaching and analytic
materials, local teenagers frequently drop by to listen; there's a lot
of interest in the language among young people on the reservation.
But only a few school systems on the reservation (where 80% of the
land is owned by Whites, and where there is much anti-Indian prejudice)
have a large enough Native American population to offer the classes.
And even in schools where Native Americans constitute a majority, the
White principal is likely to refer to them as minority
official support of the language classes is not very good.

 Tribal elders estimate that there are no more than 70 really fluent
speakers of Montana Salish remaining; and almost all of them are now
over 60. The tribe now operates a Language Camp in the summer, where
children go for ordinary camp activities (including Salish cultural
activities and games) and language instruction -- this is for very
young children, toddlers to age 5 or so.

 -- Sally Thomason
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 6: languages without orthographies

Date: Mon, 6 May 91 06:39:09 CDT
From: John Goldsmith <>
Subject: languages without orthographies
A flood of notes from linguists will arrive pointing out that
ASL (and other sign languages) are languages used in authorized
teaching situations with no available orthography.
John Goldsmith

[End Linguist List, Vol. 2, No. 201]
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue