Monday, January 2, 2017

Increasing Linguistic Diversity Helps Rather than Hurts Numerically Smallest Languages, Expert on Chuvash Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 2 – Many people assume that increasing linguistic diversity will lead those who find themselves in that situation to look for a common language and that it will thus work against those who speak the numerically smaller language, but in fact Hector Alos Font argues, the reverse may turn out to be true.

            In a Facebook post yesterday, the Catalan linguist who works in Chuvashia argues that “individual languages survive better in milieus where there are many languages than where there are few and thus the preservation of linguistic diversity … works in favor of each of the local languages” (èctor-alòs-font/укрепление-других-родных-языков/10153955607592000).

                That diversity, he points out in comments that he says he has submitted to the Chuvash authorities who are developing a concept paper on teaching the national language there can be either based on long-standing patterns or be “the result of new migration processes,” which bring speakers of other languages into the republic.

            What that means, and this may seem counter-intuitive to many, is that Chuvash benefits when non-Chuvash minority languages are promoted because speakers of those languages can see why learning Chuvash as well is useful for them in their daily lives, more useful perhaps than learning some lingua franca like Russian.

            One of the implications of Alos Font’s argument is that the presence of other linguistic minorities in a particular territory or the increase in such minorities as a result of immigration puts the local titular nationality in a better position to survive than does a situation in which there is only that nationality and Russian speakers.

            And from that arise another: If his point is accepted, those in non-Russian republics of the Russian Federation may come to welcome the presence or the arrival of other minority languages as important allies in their efforts to maintain their national language and national identity rather than viewing them as many do now as adjuncts to Moscow’s efforts at russification.



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