Graphic Art

A graphic representation of language distribution in multilingual societies

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Most Europeans are monolingual, but multilingualism is a frequent phenomenon in other world regions, and there are important exceptions in Europe itself. Multilingualism arises in societies where different languages or language communities coexist in
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   2004 by Gerd Jendraschek  CamLing 2004 .   A graphic representation of language distribution in multilingualsocieties *   Gerd Jendraschek Université de Toulouse-Le Mirail Most Europeans are monolingual, but multilingualism is a frequentphenomenon in other world regions, and there are important exceptions inEurope itself. Multilingualism arises in societies where different languages orlanguage communities coexist in specific constellations. One such pattern of language distribution is diglossia, where languages (or varieties of onelanguage) are chosen depending on the formality of the situation and theintimacy with the interlocutor. Alternatively, there can be segregation, whereindividual speakers or communities have a preferential language which theyaim to use exclusively as long as they do not transgress community borders.The two parameters register  and  population allow for a graphicrepresentation of different multilingual situations. The basic patterns areminorized languages, prestige languages, mixed patterns, unstable patterns,official languages as lingua franca , or several languages for formal purposes.Since the important works of Ferguson (1959), Fishman (1967), Stewart(1968), and others, the situation has changed drastically in some of Europe’smultilingual corners. We will look at the situation in Luxembourg, where thetraditional pattern of language distribution has become unstable, and we willsee an example from outside Europe, the ABC islands, where Papiamentu,Dutch, English and Spanish co-exist. My graphic representation aims atschematizing this complex interplay between linguistic varieties inmultilingual societies for a general audience. Finally, a global outlook willshow that languages can be classified into five groups with respect to theirchances to be used in formal situations. In such a hierarchy, English is at thetop, followed by a handful of prestigious languages, whereas thousands of “small” languages have no access at all to formal situations. 1   D EFINING FORMAL VS INFORMAL DOMAINS   There is a continuum between informal and formal language use. When we speak abouteveryday matters, with people we know well, who have the same geographic srcin, then wetend to use informal language. When we write about unfamiliar issues to people we haven’tmet before, then our language tends to be more formal. There are several parameters fordescribing the distinction ‘formal’ vs. ‘informal’.(1) Sociolinguistic parametersformal > informalwritten > spokenuniversity > secondary > primary schoolofficial > public > privateprestigious > popularinternational > national > regional > local > homeexceptional > dailylanguage learnt as adult > as a child > acquired in the family * Thanks to Fernand Fehlen for comments on the situation in Luxembourg. I would also like to thank theGottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz foundation for financial support.  Gerd Jendraschek 2In a society with two languages, one may be used for writing, the other for speaking. If bothlanguages are written, one may be used in universities, and another one in primary schools,and so on. Several parameters may interact, others may be irrelevant in a given multilingualcontext. 2   B ASIC PATTERNS WITH TWO LANGUAGES  2.1 Diglossia One pattern of language distribution is diglossia, where languages (or varieties of onelanguage) are chosen depending on the formality of the situation and the intimacy with theinterlocutor. The informal variety is the first language for most people. The formal variety ismore standardized and has to be learnt during childhood, which entails that people with betteraccess to the education system will have better knowledge of the formal variety. Thisknowledge is a prerequisite for social mobility, i.e. access to all spheres of public life.Examples for diglossic societies are Luxembourg and the Germanic part of Switzerland.Diglossia is also very frequent in creole societies, with the creole being the native variety andthe corresponding colonial language the high variety used in schools, administration, and themedia. More generally, most societies have some kind of diglossia, as lower and higherregisters display differences in lexicon and grammar.(2) diglossia  formalinformalpopulation 2.2 Segregation Alternatively, there can be segregation, where individual speakers or communities have apreferential language which they aim to use exclusively as long as they do not transgresscommunity borders. Linguistic communities can be segregated according to the territorialprinciple or to the personal principle. The territorial   principle states that different areas havedifferent official languages, which means that people moving to another area lose the right touse their first language. The personal   principle applies when areas are considered as beinglinguistically heterogeneous: everybody should then have the right to use his language inpublic. In both cases, given individuals use a single language in both informal and formalsituations. Common institutions shared by both communities have to offer services in bothlanguages.(3) segregation  formalinformalpopulation   A graphic representation of language distribution in multilingual societies 3 2.3 Minorized language This refers to linguistic varieties which are spoken by only part of the population and,moreover, are not used in formal situations. Examples are all regional languages of France,Kurdish in Turkey, Low German, and some regional varieties of major European languages.Even if not considered to be different languages, these regional varieties can be considerablydifferent from the standard, especially in phonology and morphology, so that people have toswitch in order to adapt to formal situations.(4) minorized language  formalinformalpopulation 2.4 Prestige language Prestige languages are used in formal contexts, although they are not native varieties in theconcerned societies. They are used alongside the native language, which can be used in bothformal and informal situations (irrespective of whether the native variety may make use of different registers). This pattern can be found in Maghreb countries (Tunisia, Algeria,Morocco) where French is used in some formal domains, in Malta (where Maltese is themajority language and English the prestige language), and it emerges in Germanic-speakingnorthern Europe, where English is making inroads into more and more formal domains:   “In arelatively small nation such as Sweden an increasing number of people speak, read and writeEnglish of good quality. Indeed, most Ph.D. theses at Swedish universities are submitted inEnglish.” (Dixon 1997:148).(5)  prestige language  formalinformalpopulation 2.5 Mixed pattern Here, the population is divided into two linguistic communities. However, most people arebilingual, and both languages can be found in formal domains. Depending on the context,people choose the language which seems most appropriate. This pattern applies in Catalonia.(6) mixed pattern  formalinformalpopulation  Gerd Jendraschek 4 2.6 Unstable patterns When different languages coexist, they are generally assigned either to different domains(diglossia, minorized languages, prestige languages) or to different populations (segregation,but also minorized languages). When assignation is not clear, languages compete for domainsand speakers (or the other way round). Diglossia, for example, becomes unstable, when theformal variety “nativizes”, i.e. is acquired as a first language by more and more people: Thisentails that the informal variety is attacked in its domain and likely to be minorized. If it hassufficient support among the population, it may counter-attack by invading formal domains.This process is known as ‘normalization’, and it generally involves standardization andofficialization. The new native speakers of the formal variety will use it in every situation,deeming the informal variety unworthy of learning, whereas native speakers of the informalvariety will claim their right to use their language in formal situations. The result issegregation or, at least, the mixed pattern.(7) from diglossia to segregationformalinformalpopulation 3   B ASIC PATTERNS WITH MORE THAN TWO LANGUAGES  3.1 Official language as lingua franca The population is divided into several linguistic communities. The official language is not anative variety (but may become one when communities dissolve and mix, especially in urbanareas) and therefore mainly used in formal contexts. The official language serves as a lingua franca between the different linguistic communities. This pattern is frequent in SubsaharanAfrica.(8) lingua franca formalinformalpopulation 3.2 Several languages for formal purposes In this constellation, the population is linguistically homogeneous, but refrains from using itsnative variety in the most formal contexts. For formal purposes, people can choose among   A graphic representation of language distribution in multilingual societies 5several languages. This is close to the situation of Luxembourg, where French and German arepreferred over Luxembourgish for formal purposes. This pattern is not very frequent, aslinguistic diversity is more prominent in informal contexts, whereas formal contexts tendtowards reduction of diversity.(9) several languages for formal purposes formalinformalpopulation 4   C ASE STUDIES IN SOCIOLINGUISTIC TYPOLOGY  4.1 Luxembourg   All native Luxembourgers have Luxembourgish, a West-Germanic language, as their firstlanguage. The traditional elite language in Luxembourg is French. French is therefore thepreferred language for the most formal situations. However, as good command of Frenchrequires substantial educational efforts for a Germanic-speaking population, the majoritygenerally prefers German for reading and writing. Until recently, Luxembourgish wasbasically an oral variety and therefore absent from most formal contexts. This situation couldbe described as ‘double diglossia’: if we subsume Luxembourgish and German under the label‘Germanic’, then we can speak of diglossia between Germanic and French. The seconddiglossia exists within Germanic, Luxembourgish being the spoken, German the writtenvariety.(10)  Luxembourg: old pattern formal FRENCHGERMANinformal LUXHowever, things have changed in Luxembourg in the last decades:1.   Foreigners now account for 38% of the population; “newcomers” often prefercommunicating in French and only those long enough in the country learnLuxembourgish (Fehlen 2002:92-93);2.   In 1984, Luxembourgish has been declared the national language and has beenpromoted to a written language on a pair with French and German;3.   Due to the internationalization of Luxembourg’s economy, English is becoming animportant elite language alongside French.
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