The New Speakers Blog

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How can we help change the discourses about migration?

We’ve recently heard the news of an airstrike on a refugee camp in Northern Syria, which came a day after a truce was extended to include Aleppo. On the same day, the news was followed the apparently more worrying announcement that the departure of the Turkish Prime Minister would threaten the current deal between the EU and Turkey over migrant numbers. (A deal in any case which in all likelihood violates international law.)

The world is clearly in the midst of a humanitarian crisis; conflict, displacement, underdevelopment, famine, disease… Though that is not the crisis we hear about the most.

 

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Dètz jorns en Escòcia per parlar de lenga e de poder

Dètz jorns en Escòcia per parlar de lenga e de poder

Me fuguèt recentament balhada l’oportunitat, a travèrs d’un financiament STSM de l’Action COST IS1306 ‘Nòus locutors dins una Euròpa multilinga’, de passar dètz jorns en Escòcia.

S’agissiá de trabalhar amb Bernadette O’Rourke, Professora a l’Universitat Heriot-Watt d’Edimborg, sus de tematicas dau Grop de Trabalh 10 (WG10) d’aqueu projèct que ne’n siáu co-coordonator amb Alfonso Del Percio de l’Universitat d’Oslo en Norveja.

Aqueu grop de trabalh, qu’acampa de cercaires de l’Euròpa entiera, cerca de cavar la question de la legitimitat dei nòus locutors dins de contèxts de lengas minorizadas o non en Euròpa, e dins aqueu cadre la problematica dei nòus locutors es clarament centrala.

O sabèm ben en Occitània, mai se pòt dire la mema causa dins mantuneis autrei luècs, sufís pas de sacher parlar occitan per èstre acceptat per leis autrei locutors.

Fau tanben es reconoissut coma locutor legitim, es a dire dotat de la capacitat de s’exprimir publicament en Occitan, per èstre prés au seriós, cresegut, mostrar una certa autoritat, o tot simplament per que lo mond acceptèsson aqueu o aquela qu’a aprés la lenga fòra la familha coma interlocutor e que li parlèsson, o respondèsson, en occitan.

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The “legitimate” new speaker

Thanks to the COST New Speakers Network, I was given the opportunity to visit Sari Pietikäinen and her research team (Jyväskylä Discourse Hub) in December 2015.

I am currently working with Alexandre Duchêne at the Institute of Multilingualism of the University of Fribourg.

Together, we are doing ethnographic fieldwork in a town at the French-(Swiss)German language border in Switzerland, which brands itself as bilingual tourism destination, what is linked to particular linguistic requirements and tensions.

For my thesis I am investigating the branding’s impact on the definition of the legitimate and authentic tourism worker on this specific site.

My STSM at the University of Jyväskylä enabled me to engage in meaningful conversations with other researchers who are working with the concept of legitimacy.

By comparing legitimacy-issues of new speakers across different sites (e.g. cleaning work, indigenous tourism, handcraft, sports), I could learn a lot on the complex challenges in other multilingual contexts.

The scientific mission turned out to be a great opportunity for networking, and further collaboration is already scheduled.

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Language policing in minority communities

Language policing in minority communities

I have recently published a book about new speakers of three minority languages: Breton, Yiddish and Lemko. One of my main aims was to demonstrate that certain aspects of “newspeakerness” seem to be common across a number of different situations of language minoritization.

Common features included:

  • non-intergenerational acquisition of the language, even though many of the people interviewed for the book had family members who spoke the language in question fluently;
  • a struggle over their status as “legitimate speakers”, that is, wider recognition of their speakerhood; and
  • a need to establish a sense of ownership of the language they were new speakers of, in order for it to become (one of) “their” language(s).

A reaction I was not expecting to the publication of the book was contestation over its title.

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Working on Irish Turf

Working on Irish Turf

With the generous support of the COST New Speakers Network, I was recently able to undertake a short-term scientific mission at the National University of Ireland, Galway with Management Committee Member John Walsh.

This mission took place at a crucial point in the development of my PhD research, which focuses on attempts to promote the Irish language as an economically valuable commodity within urban business communities in the Republic of Ireland.

I have been working on this research for almost two years as a PhD student at Heriot-Watt University under the supervision of Action Chair Bernie O’Rourke and Mike Danson, and this autumn I will focus on writing up my thesis.

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