Spanish is an endangered language

New Viejo Bridge, Manila, Philippines


In the 15th century, the kingdom of Aragon experienced a language switch: the Aragonese language used by medieval institutions -mainly notaries and court scribes- was changed into Castilian -currently Spanish- as ordered by the newly arrived dynasty of the Trastámara. Little by little, nobility and higher classes changed their language following the fashion introduced by the new kings, and then the middle classes. In the 16th century, almost every text in the kingdom was written in Castilian, and the old -and now vulgar- Aragonese language was used and preserved just by lower classes, mainly farmers at that time.

This is the basic linguistic history of Aragon usually referred to, and even if it is not false, it is not totally accurate (Tomás, 2020): the Spanish elements in the Aragonese texts appear some centuries before, under the influence of external cultural and political trends like the one offered by the Toledo School of Translators and Alfonso X “The Wise”. In the 14th century and even before, higher classes in Aragon spoke and wrote Aragonese language, but Spanish elements were popular, and that helped the fast language switch that occurred during the following century.

Back to the present, on May 29, 2022, Professor David Fernández Vítores offered a provocative interview about the current role and the future of the Spanish language, plenty of points rare to find out in the academic literature. According to professor Fernández Vítores, Spanish is not that powerful language that will menace the hegemony of English, but rather a declining language that needs to seek out a kind of agreement with English in the international linguistic market. Spanish is almost disappeared in the Philippines, its influence has dramatically decreased in Morocco, and the Hispanic community of the USA, even if proud of being Hispanic, do not always transmit the language to the new generations. And people who state they speak Spanish sometimes do not properly handle the language. In these and other cases, Spanish is residually used as a folk element at specific moments, as the Aragonese language is used in traditional festivities in many Aragonese villages where the settlers hardly use it.

Nowadays, English is the language of science, research, and technicalities, and higher classes handle English, educating their children in the international language: even if most of the peoples speak other languages, English is the language of powers and intellectuals, and the middle classes are imitating the trend. English is also the lingua franca, the one speakers of different languages use at encounters, at short and middle migrations, or to give foreigners basic instructions. In the Aragonese Middle Ages, the powerful language was Latin, and lingua franca was rarely a concern as Romance languages were close enough to allow communication.  

Nowadays, Spanish is the language of leisure. The language of Despacito song, Shakira, J.Lo, Becky G, Daddy Yankee, or Maluma, the language of songs talking about sex, drugs, and alcohol. It is the language to be listened to while drinking cocktails and twerking at ‘Spanish’ night, after an exhausting researching and working serious ‘English’ day. Interestingly, between the 17th and 20th centuries, farm tales called pastoradas were popular in some Aragonese areas, and they were often dramatized in festivities. These tales represented the society at that time, with its powers and peoples, and the mocking and rude dialogs between the mairal and the rapatán (head shepherd and trainee shepherd) were the only ones written and represented in Aragonese (Benítez & Latas, 2022).

Spanish is not experiencing the language switch Aragonese language experienced in the 15th century. Not yet. But powers and peoples are developing the breeding ground to allow such a switch if there is political pressure in the close future, as happened to the Aragonese language. And even if there is not such a political effect in the Spanish case, such a future might be inevitable anyway.

References

Benítez, M.P., & Latas, Ó. (2022). Sobre la pastorada aragonesa: Estudio filológico de las pastoradas en aragonés del siglo XVII. Prensas Universitarias de Zaragoza.

Tomás, G. (2020). El aragonés medieval: lengua y Estado en el reino de Aragón. Prensas Universitarias de Zaragoza.

Villarino, Á. (May 29, 2022). ¿El español va a desbancar al inglés? En realidad está en retirada en todos estos países. ElConfidencial.

Press Appearance: Arainfo

Recent Press Appearance: Arainfo (April 8, 2022: in Spanish).

Arainfo (2022, April 8). La lengua aragonesa llega a Vietnam[Press release]. Retrieved from https://arainfo.org/la-lengua-aragonesa-llega-a-vietnam/.


Un total de 124 alumnos de la Universidad de Hanoi (Vietnam) están conociendo la lengua aragonesa en el presente curso 2021/2022 en el marco de la asignatura de Lingüística Peninsular, de la carrera de Filología Hispánica impartida por dicha institución.

En estas clases introductorias, los alumnos están conociendo la historia del aragonés, su situación sociopolítica, su presencia en la enseñanza, en los medios de comunicación y sus crecientes comunidades neohablantes. También han recibido nociones sobre aspectos introductorios gramaticales y léxicos del aragonés, y se han ejercitado en situaciones básicas en aragonés. Como proyectos finales, algunos alumnos han elaborado producciones audiovisuales y pequeñas obras de teatro en aragonés, que han expuesto a toda la comunidad universitaria.

El seminario de introducción a la lengua aragonesa y el conjunto de la asignatura Lingüística Peninsular son impartidos por el doctor Marco Antonio Joven Romero, profesor del Departamento de Lengua Española de la Universidad de Hanoi (Đại học Hà Nội. Acrónimo inglés: HANU) en colaboración con la Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo (AECID) y el Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores y de Cooperación (MAEC).

PhD Thesis: Hispanic Place Names of Manila

Hispanic Place Names of Manila, my second PhD dissertation at UNED, in Philology, under the advisory of professors José Ramón Carriazo Ruiz and Jorge Mojarro Romero.

Press Appearance: Interview at The Manila Times

Interview at The Manila Times, on ocassion of my second doctoral dissertation: Hispanic Place Names of Manila.

Mojarro, J. (2021, December 21). A doctoral dissertation on the street names of Manila [Press release]. The Manila Times. Retrieved from https://www.manilatimes.net/2021/12/21/opinion/columns/a-doctoral-dissertation-on-the-street-names-of-manila/1826688.


MARCO Antonio Joven Romero is a native of Zaragoza, Spain. He spent three years in the Philippines as a lecturer of Spanish language at the University of Santo Tomás. Despite having a Ph.D. in philosophy, he decided to pursue a second Ph.D. in linguistics at UNED, Spain. The topic he chose for his doctoral dissertation was the toponymy of the streets of Manila, a city that, as he has declared many times, he loves so much. Given that I am not only his friend, but also the co-director of his dissertation, I take advantage of this circumstance to interview him for The Manila Times.

Marco, what did you know about the Philippines before coming to teach? And why did you choose this archipelago as your destination for three years?

Honestly, it was quite random. I was going through the worst time of my life: my father died in 2013, I could not — and in some way I still cannot — accept it, and I had never been comfortable in Zaragoza, the place where I was born. A good friend, Jesús, recommended that I go to Asia because of my personality, and there was an option as an AECID lecturer (Spanish Cooperation Agency). I took it. That was the best choice of my life.

 

You have told me several times that you love the city, that Manila is the best place to be. Why is that when so many people claim this city is unlivable? Is your love for the city what made you carry out research on its street names?

Manila is not an easy city, but it is the city that made me happy, and at the same time, it was the place where I could learn a lot of things about life. It was the city that made me a real adult. People of Manila always loved me, and I loved Manila people too — although sometimes I also hurt some people because of my lack of maturity. I am an active person, and I could not stop meeting people and covering every small alley of Metro Manila. When I arrived in Manila, I was an adventurer, and Manila is the best city for adventures. Before coming to Manila, I also carried out a study of Aragonese toponymy in A Fueba in the province of Huesca in western Spain. So, I had all the academic and personal ingredients to carry out a study of the Hispanic place names of Metro Manila.

 

How did you carry out your research? Could you tell us any curiosity that happened while doing fieldwork?

There are three main methodological steps in this work: more than 800 surveys of settlers of all the cities and districts of Metro Manila, a research on the previous studies and maps, and my personal fieldwork all over the area.

About curiosities, I covered Aroma and Happyland, two of the poorest slums in Metro Manila, for two days with my friend Alejandro Ernesto, a photo reporter. The first day he left his cellphone in his motorcycle and the second day he forgot the motorcycle keys. After entire days covering the dumps, no one took the cellphone or the keys! On another occasion, I was covering a cemetery where some people live, and I could hear a couple having sex — I suppose on a tomb. And when I went to Señorita Street and surroundings, I could not stop hearing the song “Señorita” by Camila Cabello, which the locals boasted about.

 

Could you tell us what are the three most remarkable findings of your research?

First, around 55 percent of toponyms from the Spanish period are preserved while around 45 percent are lost. Considering the new toponyms, around 75 percent are Hispanic. I think these figures are interesting when dealing with the recurrent debate on Hispanic place names in the Philippines.

Second, the preserved Hispanic place names of Manila reflect the society of the city during the Spanish period: a kernel in Intramuros, the rising bourgeoisie in Binondo — and to a lesser extent in Ermita — and the rest of the classes and activities further away. The furthest place names refer to farm and logistics activities.

Third, most of the recent place names in Metro Manila do not adhere to popular naming processes or to administrative-political norms, but to pure economic factors. Economic power is creating new cities and districts — e.g. BGC, Ortigas, some places in Makati, and so on — coining new place names according to markets.

 

What do you think of the habit of local politicians who in an attempt to immortalize their names, replace the previous names of the streets with their own? Do you think the Philippines needs some legislation regarding this topic?

I am sad every time a place name is changed or lost, in the Philippines and elsewhere in the world. Let me say that most of what we know about Celtic and Iberian peoples in Spain is because of preserved place names. And some of them seem to refer to local leaders, probably tyrants! Place names have crystallized, and they are preserved more than any other linguistic feature. And following the previous example, Celtic and Iberian languages disappeared in Spain millennia ago, but we still have these names. They are a treasure that allows us to partially know these languages too. The Spanish language is almost lost in the Philippines, but the Hispanic toponyms show the history, the identity and the geography of the country, and they also show some of the characteristics of the Filipino-Spanish language. About legislation, the Philippines and all the countries of the world must be conscious of the significance of place names.

 

Do you expect to carry out further research on the Philippines or do you want to move on to another thing already?

If possible, I would like to continue studying Hispanic place names in the Philippines. Even more, I would like to return to the Philippines and make a life in the country that has made me happy. However, due to the pandemic and my work, I do not find it easy. Furthermore, when I arrived in Manila, I was an adventurer. Now, I am looking forward to more stability, and I am not sure Manila is the best city for that. But finding such stability in the Philippines is my greatest desire. Let me add that the study of place names in the Philippines is not developed, and while the cities show social place names, the rest of the country presents a vast number of geographic place names to be studied.

 

Do you believe Metro Manileños should be proud of their city? Why?

Totally. Manila is an unknown city with many attractions. Reporters from several Spanish television networks agree with me: they were delighted when I showed them the “unknown” city. And contrary to what is sometimes stated, it is safe. Actually, Manila is not a city but a set of cities with different cultures and even language differences. Manilans are friendly and that compensates for the traffic and pollution problems. However, far from romanticizing the existent huge inequalities, the city must work to solve them. If there is something the people of Manila cannot be proud of, it is precisely the inequality in the city, which is translated into an extreme daily slavery that I hesitate to say existed any time before.

PhD in Philology: Hispanic Place Names of Manila

Hispanic Place Names of Manila. PhD Defense.

On December 15, 2021, I defended my second PhD, in Philology at Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED, Spain): Hispanic Place Names of Manila, a research work carried out between 2017 and 2021, which I have introduced in several papers and media.

I obtained a calification of Outstanding with Distinction Cum Laude by a tribunal formed by professors Francisco Moreno Fernández, Celia Casado Fresnillo, and Daisy López Pargas. The advisors for the thesis were professors José Ramón Carriazo Ruiz and Jorge Mojarro Romero.

The thesis will be available soon at UNED’s public repository.

Toponimia Hispánica Social de Manila. Glosas: Revista de la Academia Norteamericana de la Lengua Española


Toponimia Hispánica Social de Manila. My last Philology article at Glosas. 

Joven-Romero, M.A. (2021). Toponimia Hispánica Social de Manila. Glosas: Revista de la Academia Norteamericana de la Lengua Española, 10(1), 66-102.


Place names mirror the social history of a territory, the daily life and power relations of its settlers. Hispanic historical social place names in Manila depict the society of the city during the colonial period. Here I extract and explain the living toponyms coined before the battle of Manila in 1945, and I discuss the different activities, peoples, and economic classes they depict. I conclude that different areas were prone to administrative, financial, leisure, military, non-profit, rural, transport, and working-class activities, at different distances from the heart in Intramuros according to their relevance.

https://glosas.anle.us/en/issues/volume-10/number-1/

Download the whole pdf article here.

Lecture at University of Santo Tomas: Aragonese Language (in English)

Aragonese Language

Lecture conducted for the University of Santo Tomas on September 25, 2021 (in English).

Location and organizers: Department of Modern Languages, University of Santo Tomas (Manila, online).
Date: September 25, 2021

Recent Press Appearances

[English] Recent Press Appearances: Agencia EFE and associated press (May 22: in Spanish), and The Manila Times (May 19: in English).

[Español] Apariciones recientes en prensa: Agencia EFE y medios asociados (22 de mayo: en español), y The Manila Times (19 de mayo: en inglés).


Gómez, S. (2020, May 22). El chabacano se refina para sobrevivir [Press release]. Agencia EFE. Retrieved from https://www.efe.com/efe/america/destacada/el-chabacano-se-refina-para-sobrevivir/20000065-4252700.

LA PRESIÓN DEL INGLÉS Y EL TAGALO

El uso extendido de inglés y tagalo -originario de la isla de Luzón, la mayor de Filipinas, y adoptado como lengua nacional- está menoscabando el uso de las más de 170 lenguas minoritarias del país, “relegadas a las clases populares, gente mayor y al ámbito familiar”, explica a Efe el profesor de español en la Universidad Santo Tomás de Manila, Marco Joven-Romero.

“Pero eso distingue en la actualidad al chabacano, que aunque pierda hablantes, sí goza de cierto estatus social. Ya no es vista como una lengua vulgar porque es criolla española, heredada de la elite cultural clásica”, explica este estudioso de los hispanismos en las lenguas filipinas.

El chabacano simplifica la conjugación de los verbos, así como la distinción de género y número, algo que la elite cultural española de la colonia veía como una corrupción vulgar y barriobajera de la lengua cervantina, consideración que ahora está cambiando.

VARIANTES CHABACANAS

Joven aclara que el chabacano es en realidad una familia de lenguas con variantes como el zamboangueño o chabacano de Zamboanga, el más hablado, pero también existen el cotabateño de Cotabato o el akbay en Davao -versiones extintas en esas ciudades de Mindanao-.

En la isla de Luzón, las variantes del chabacano son el caviteño (en la ciudad de Cavite), ternateño (en el pueblo de Ternate, provincia de Cavite) y el ermiteño (en Ermita, barrio de Manila), cuyo último hablante murió a principios de los 2000.

“Los lingüistas no se ponen de acuerdo en si los hablantes de las diferentes versiones del chabacano se entienden entre ellos. Mi impresión es que se pueden llegar a entender, pero seguramente están más cómodos hablando otra lengua común”, indica Joven.

Se cree la primera variante de chabacano nació en la base naval española de Cavite, cercana a Manila, a principios del siglo XVII, entre los trabajadores traídos de México y otras partes de Filipinas que mezclaron sus idiomas con el español del capataz. Muchos de ellos luego emigraron en Zamboanga para construir la fortaleza.

El caviteño conserva tan solo unos 300 hablantes en los barrios de San Roque y Caridad, el casco antiguo de Cavite, aunque la lengua goza de prestigio e integra la identidad cultural de la ciudad.

Más curioso es el caso del ternateño, chabacano con sabor portugués que mantiene unos 3.000 hablantes en la pequeña localidad de Ternate, donde en 1663 se instalaron nativos y mestizos de las islas Molucas -donde España y Portugal reinaron conjuntamente entre 1580 y 1640- tras ser invadidas por Holanda.

La Corona Española cedió ese territorio al suroeste de Luzón a unas 200 familias de las Molucas que se mantuvieron fieles a España e importaron a Filipinas su particular versión del chabacano que aún sobrevive.

Other sources for the same piece of news:


Mojarro, J. (2020, May 19). Father Peláez and his search for justice [Press release]. The Manila Times. Retrieved from https://www.manilatimes.net/2020/05/19/opinion/columnists/father-pelaez-and-his-search-for-justice/725763/

A few weeks ago, I asked Dr. Marco A. Joven-Romero, a Spanish instructor at the University of Santo Tomas, how many streets in Metro Manila carried the name “Peláez.” He is the right person to ask because he is finishing a doctoral dissertation on the history of the toponymy of the streets of Manila. He pointed out three completely irrelevant and hidden streets in Manila, Parañaque and Quezon City. Apart from that, there is a small primary school bearing his name. Nothing else.

Endangered Languages and Territorial Rights. Global Encyclopedia of Territorial Rights

Endangered Languages and Territorial Rights: my first entry at the Global Encyclopedia of Territorial Rights. Springer.

Joven-Romero, M.A. (2020). Endangered Languages and Territorial Rights. Global Encyclopedia of Territorial Rights. New York: Springer.


Languages are commonly associated to territories as they are traditionally spoken by communities living in specific places. Nevertheless, languages do relate to speakers and not always to territories.This difference is highlighted by globalization, and more specifically by the increase and new possibilities of migrations, the development of Information and Communication Technologies and the global tendency to learn new foreign languages. This new context calls for direct association between languages and speakers in order to preserve the rights of the latter and the languages themselves. Small minority languages are even more affected by globalization and speakers require globally recognized rights and measures according to their new reality.

https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007%2F978-3-319-68846-6_332-1

Download the whole pdf entry here

Minority Languages and Territorial Rights. Global Encyclopedia of Territorial Rights


Minority Languages and Territorial Rights: my first entry at the Global Encyclopedia of Territorial Rights. Springer.

Joven-Romero, M.A. (2020). Minority Languages and Territorial Rights. Global Encyclopedia of Territorial Rights. New York: Springer.


Languages are commonly associated to territories as they are traditionally spoken by communities living in specific places. Nevertheless, languages do relate to speakers and not always to territories.This difference is highlighted by globalization, and more specifically by the increase and new possibilities of migrations, the development of Information and Communication Technologies and the global tendency to learn new foreign languages. This new context calls for direct association between languages and speakers in order to preserve the rights of the latter and the languages themselves. Small minority languages are even more affected by globalization and speakers require globally recognized rights and measures according to their new reality.

https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007/978-3-319-68846-6_333-1

Download the whole pdf entry here


 

Minority Languages and Territorial Rights (iii): Languages and ICT

Extract of Minority Languages and Territorial Rights, my first entry at the Global Encyclopedia of Territorial Rights, to be published soon: discussion on language policies and Information and Communication Technologies.

Joven-Romero, M. A. (Forthcoming 2020). Minority Languages and Territorial Rights. Global Encyclopedia of Territorial Rights. New York: Springer.


Development of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) since the 19th century to this day is having a deep impact in all the languages, and more specifically in minority languages, breaking the traditional link between language and territories (Pietikäinen & Kelly-Holmes 2011): once a message is created, it can be sent and received everywhere. These technologies are rather heterogeneous and the main factors for their analysis are the creator of the information herself, the message to be transmitted, the channel of communication and the receiver of the information (Cunliffe & al. 2013; see also ‘Endangered Languages and Territorial Rights’). While in the 19th century the development of these technologies focused on the information transmission between individuals -telegraph and then telephone-, in the 20th century these technologies -radio, television- allowed information diffusion from a few senders to large populations, as written press did before. Mainstream languages were established for those new communication channels, prejudicing the production and the image of minority language for both the speakers’ communities and the non-speakers’ communities. During the 21st century, popularization of the Internet is a challenge: while most of these new channels are initially developed in the mainstream languages, the users are available to create and receive information in their own language. New ICT may be both a factor for the demise of minority languages and for their preservation (De Bot & Stoessel 2002). The irruption of virtual social networks since the mid-2000s -and more recently the popularization of smartphones- increase the possibilities of the speakers and the magnitude of the challenge.

Both creators and receivers of information are usually young people, while most endangered languages speakers are elderly (Edwards 2002). These young people typically speak other mainstream languages (Fleming & Debski 2007) and they use the minority language depending of different factors: language confidence, language use in non-virtual contexts, message to share, target audience and previous presence of the language in the channel. In general terms, the more confident the speaker is, the more he uses the language in the ICTs, and the more the speaker uses the language in non-virtual contexts, the more he uses it in virtual contexts (Cunliffe & al. 2013).

According to the message to be transmitted using the minority language, some topics are more popular. Issues about traditions associated with the community of speakers and discussions about the sociology and the linguistics of the language itself tend to be written in the minority language (Cru 2015). In the case of highly aware people, political discussions usually appear written in the minority language. ICT also spread research and technical contents about the language, like linguistic discussions, interviews, recordings, clips and movies of speakers who often do not have personal presence in these channels -e.g. elderly people. On the contrary, general scientific, global and technical contents are usually written in the mainstream languages as well as messages expected to reach larger audiences. Finally, the more the presence of the minority language in the channel, the more the speaker tends to create contents in the minority language.

The channel also determines the minority language level of use. It is usually said that software developers do not pay enough attention to minority languages and nowadays most of the virtual social networks or mainstream applications do not offer interfaces in these languages (Jones & Uribe-Jongbloed 2012). It is argued that Google does not offer interface and products options in most of the endangered languages while at the same time it created and funded the Endangered Languages Project. Other times they offer several minority languages, but the lack of linguistic adaptation of these languages to the new technologies generates linguistic solutions that are not accepted among the community of speakers.

Target audiences influence the language too (Cunliffe & al. 2013). Most virtual social networks allow for different kind of messages with different target audiences. The user can vary the language of particular messages addressed to different audiences, and she can also use different languages for her status and profile information, elements with different communicative purposes and usually addressed to larger audiences. Some platforms also allow for the creation of specific -sometimes private- groups formed by speakers of the minority language, more popular among activist adults rather than among teenagers and children. In the case of video platforms, the creator can offer subtitles and additional information in different languages.

Apart from the previous elements influencing the use of a minority language in new technologies, ICT allow for migrant speakers to still use their language everywhere (Sallabank 2010; Lanza & Svendsen 2007; Pietikäinen & Kelly-Holmes 2011). That may strengthen the speakers community and the use of the language. ICT also serve as a means for the visibility and promotion of endangered languages among the non-speakers. The development of some language learning applications may also support the preservation of minority languages (Mirza & Sundaram 2017).


References

Cru J (2015). Language revitalisation from the ground up: promoting Yucatec Maya on Facebook. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 36 (3): 284-296.

Cunliffe D, Morris D, Prys C (2013) Young bilinguals’ language behavior in social networking sites: the use of welsh on Facebook. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 18(3) 339-361.

De Bot K, Stoessel S (2002) Introduction: language change and social networks. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 153: 1-7.

Edwards J. (2010). Minority languages and group identity: Cases and categories. John Benjamins Publishing, Amsterdam.

Fleming A, Debski R (2007) The use of Irish in networked communications: a study of schoolchildren in different language settings. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 28(2): 85-101.

Jones, EHG, Uribe-Jongbloed, E (2012). Social media and minority languages: Convergence and the creative industries. Multilingual Matters, Bristol.

Lanza E, Svendsen BA (2007) Tell me who your friends are and I might be able to tell you what language(s) you speak: social network analysis, multilingualism, and identity. International Journal of Bilingualism 11: 275-300.

Mirza A, Sundaram D (2017) Design and Implementation of Socially Driven Knowledge Management Systems for Revitalizing Endangered Languages. In: Helms et al. (eds) Social Knowledge Management in Action, Knowledge Management and Organizational Learning 3: 147-167.

Pietikäinen S, Kelly-Holmes H (2011) Gifting, service, and performance: three eras in minority-language media policy and practice. International Journal of Applied Linguistics 21(1): 51-70.

Sallabank J (2010) The role of social networks in endangered language maintenance and revitalization: The case of Guernesiais in the Channel Islands. Anthropological Linguistics 52(2): 184-205.

Minority Languages and Territorial Rights (ii): Languages and Migrations

Extract of Minority Languages and Territorial Rights, my first entry at the Global Encyclopedia of Territorial Rights, to be published soon: discussion on language policies and migrations.

Joven-Romero, M. A. (Forthcoming 2020). Minority Languages and Territorial Rights. Global Encyclopedia of Territorial Rights. New York: Springer.


Migrations affect the origin community, the destination community and the very migrants, and it may affect the origin community languages, the destination community languages and the very migrants languages (Lewis 1982, Britain 2002). With reference to the migrants influence, two different migrations can be distinguished: one in which the migrant community is bigger or more powerful than the destination community, and the other one in which the migrant community constitutes a minority, many times in a weaker position in comparison with the already established community. In the former case, the language of the migrant community may become the main one, as it happened in most American countries with Spanish and English. In the latter case, it may vanish and disappear in a few generations, as it is happening with Galician language in Argentina or the Italian language in the USA. In both cases, three different kind of factors describe the migrations and their linguistic consequences: spatial, temporal and socio-cultural factors (Kerswill 2006).

Long distance migrations were traditionally associated with lifelong migrations, but as means of transport become faster and cheaper, that is not longer the case. Spanish, English, French and Dutch colonizers of America migrated for a very long -even lifelong- time, while nowadays many European people go to America just for holidays. On the contrary, short distance migrations traditionally allowed for the maintenance of linguistic and cultural ties. With regard to minority languages, they are usually associated with rural areas and during the rural exodus of the 20th and 21st centuries many of their speakers are moving to bigger towns and cities to study and to work. Many of the Aragonese speakers located in the Aragonese Pyrenees move from their small villages to the head of the regions for their High School, where they sometimes commute while other times they stay in the new town. The same speakers may move to bigger cities like Huesca, Zaragoza or even Madrid and Barcelona -where they cannot commute anymore- for higher training or work (Reyes et al. 2017). As people get older, migration pressure increases, such migration points to further distances, links with the original rural area vanish, the native language is no longer used in the new localities and in many cases it is only recovered during the summer or winter holidays. Sometimes the migrant community settle in particular districts or areas of the bigger heads and cities, forming their own districts, suburbs or ghettos, where the language may still remain, as it happened with Jewish languages in different European countries over different times.

From a linguistic point of view, migrations also cause diglossic processes in which the different languages adopt characteristics of the others, what may also cause the emergence of new creole languages and pidgins. Jewish languages like Yiddish or Judaeo-Spanish are examples. If different varieties of the same language merge, natural dialect leveling or koineization into a simplified variety happens (Trudgill 1986, 127; Kerswill and Williams 2000). So far, when the inhabitants of the different deep Aragonese valleys moved into the south plains during the Reconquista, a quite homogeneous Aragonese koine emerged (Conte et al. 1977).

Temporal factors are strongly related with the spatial ones, but this correlation is weakening as means of transport are increasingly faster and cheaper. Migrations may have different duration and four different categories are usually listed: daily, periodic, seasonal and long term migrations (Gould and Prothero 1975, cited in Kerswill 2006). Daily migrations are cyclical and they do not suppose overnight stays. Such direct steady contact between different languages or dialects may play a fundamental role in linguistic leveling processes (Trudgill 1983). Periodic migrants move from their origin places for a short period of time establishing weak contacts with the destination community. They often circulate by various places and countries for short periods. This kind of migration favors the establishment of a lingua franca, like English in Western countries or Tagalog -and also English- inside the Philippines, damaging the image of local minority languages. Business workers, researchers or tourists are some examples of periodic migrants. Seasonal migrants stay for months or years in the destination place with the intention of returning. Romanian migrants-speakers in Aragon were a few hundred in 2001, to increase to almost 70.000 in 2013 and then decrease to less than 50.000 in 2016. Some of these seasonal migrants may change their mind and stay in the destination place becoming long-term migrants, like many Turkish people living in Germany. Long-term migrants often leave their origin place without the intention of returning, as many European migrants who went to the USA in the 19th and 20th centuries did, or many Occitan people moving from rural areas to cities like Toulouse or Paris. While seasonal migrants are likely to preserve their language and pass it into their children, many long-term migrants forget it and the minority language disappears in one or a few generations.

Socio-cultural factors may explain why some minority languages remain while others do disappear when presenting similar temporal and territorial contexts (Sallabank 2010; Edwards 2010). According to these factors, the relationship of the migrants with the destination community can be classified into segregation or participation relations. Segregation spirit in migrating groups is a factor for the conservation of their origin -and now minority- language. That is the case of German language of Amish and Mennonites communities in North America (Coleman 1997). Participation does not necessarily suppose the lost of the minority language, although its weaker position may demand special measures for its preservation. Furthermore, a difference between voluntary migrations and forced migrations, like the one of refugees, can be made. In the latter case, groups are more likely to develop a deep sense of pride towards their origins.


References

Britain D (2002) Space and spatial diffusion. In: Chambers JK, Trudgill P, Schilling-Estes N (eds) The Handbook of Language Variation and Change. Oxford University Press, p. 603-637.

Coleman DA (1997). The origins of multi-cultural societies and the problems of their management under democracy. In: Proceedings of the 23rd International Population Conference, Beijing 1997, Vol 3. Presses Universitaires de Liege.

Conte A, Cortes Ch, Martínez A, Nagore F, Vázquez Ch (1977). El aragonés: problemática e identidad de una lengua. Librería General de Zaragoza.

Edwards J. (2010). Minority Languages and Group Identity: Cases and Categories. John Benjamins Publishing.

Gould WTS & Pothero RM (1975). Space and time in African population mobility. In: Kosinski LA, Pothero RM (eds) People on the Move: Studies on Internal Migration. Methuen.

Kerswill P (2006). Migration and language. In: Mattheler K, Ammon U and Trudgill P (eds) Sociolinguistics/Soziolinguistik. An International Handbook of the Science of Language and Society, 2nd ed, vol 3. De Gruyter.

Kerswill P & Williams A (2000). Mobility and social class in dialect leveling: evidence from new and old town in England. In: Mattheler K (ed) Dialect and Migration in a Changing Europe. Peter Lang Publishing, p 1-13.

Lewis GL (1982). Human Migration: A Geographical Perspective. Palgrave-Macmillan.

Reyes A, Gimeno Ch, Montañés M, Sorolla N, Espluga P, Martínez JP (2017). L’aragonés o lo catalán en l’actualidat. Analisi d’o Censo de Población y Viviendas de 2011. Available via Zaguan. https://zaguan.unizar.es/record/60448.

Sallabank J (2010) The role of social networks in endangered language maintenance and revitalization: The case of Guernesiais in the Channel Islands. Anthropological Linguistics 52(2): 184-205.

Trudgill P (1983). On Dialect: Social and Geographical Perspectives. Oxford University Press.

Minority Languages and Territorial Rights (i): Questioning the Territory-Language Link

Introduction of Minority Languages and Territorial Rights, my first entry at the Global Encyclopedia of Territorial Rights, to be published soon.

Joven-Romero, M. A. (Forthcoming 2020). Minority Languages and Territorial Rights. Global Encyclopedia of Territorial Rights. New York: Springer.


Abstract: Languages are commonly associated to territories as they are traditionally spoken by communities living in specific places. Nevertheless, languages do relate to speakers and not always to territories. This difference is highlighted by globalization, and more specifically by new possibilities for migrations, by the development of Information and Communication Technologies and by the global tendency to learn new foreign languages.

This new context calls for direct association between languages and speakers in order to preserve the rights of the latter and the languages themselves. Small minority languages are even more affected by globalization and speakers require globally recognized rights and measures according to their new reality.


Questioning Territory-Language Link

Languages are commonly associated to territories. They are usually spoken in specific territories and, in a more legal sense, they may be official or recognized by political entities associated with territories (May 2012). In this sense, most languages get their names from the places where they are spoken or where they originated. It is said that Icelandic is the language of Iceland. It is also claimed that Spanish -or Castilian- is the language of Spain, although it is also the official or common language in other 21 countries, it is not the only language of Spain and it did not originate in the whole Spain.

Nevertheless, languages do not belong to territories but to speakers, and the previous link language-territory have some counterparts (Pavlenko 2011; Heller and Duchêne 2007). While stating that Nepali and Tibetan are the languages of both sides of the Mount Everest, it is difficult to imagine Nepali or Tibetan being continuously spoken in the top of the Everest. Nomad tribes like Tuareg people move around vast spaces but their languages are not continuously spoken in such territories. Their languages are more prone to receive the name of the speakers’ tribe rather than the one of the territory -although these different categories may mix and the vast territory may receive the name of the tribe too. Some languages belong to peoples spread on different regions where other languages already established, developing minority groups along vast territories. That would be the case of the Romani languages spoken by Gypsy communities especially around Europe and Asia.

In spite of the previous rebuttals, the traditional link language-territory have been accepted and used. However, globalization processes deeply challenge this relationship and three factors must be taken into account: migrations, Information and Communication Technologies and the growing popularity of learning languages. None of these factors is strictly new. Many huge migrations happened over the history, many languages moved and new ones appeared. Celtic and Latin languages spread over Europe, and European -and even African- languages arrived to America. Nowadays migrations are increasing and the development of transport means and networks offers new temporal and territorial dimensions. Information and Communication Technologies find their forerunners in old post services, but during the 20th and 21th centuries they have become faster, more accessible and they are offering more functionalities: from the old post services to virtual social networks, people not only receive but also produce more and more information and it is possible to instantaneously share it with vast communities all over the world in a cheaper and faster manner. Telegraph, radio, phone and television are also milestones in this evolution. Finally, learning languages is something popular by more and more people and most educational systems introduce the instruction of at least one foreign language.

The challenges towards the link between languages and territories are even deeper in the case of small minority languages. For these languages, migrations and social networks are critical, and their teaching and learning present different contexts, with weaker human and material resources, and with fewer but highly motivated students. Information and Communication Technologies, and especially virtual social networks where the speakers can obtain and provide written material, may play a very positive role in its preservation, but at the same time the pressure of mainstream languages in these platforms may have a negative influence.

It must be noted that minority languages and endangered languages are not the same even when they usually correlate. Some minority languages are not endangered, as it is the case of the Sentinelese language, native language of the Sentinelese tribe with some 100-250 estimated speakers living in North Sentinel island who reject any kind of contact with the outside world and modern civilization. This community and some other groups in the Amazon or Papua New Guinea jungles are very small but at the same time they remain stable and there is not any imminent serious danger against them and their languages. Similarly, some endangered languages are not minority languages, as it happens with some Chinese languages spoken by millions of people but disappearing owing to the pressure of Mandarin Chinese. Furthermore, a specific language may be a minority or endangered language or not depending on the analyzed territory. Spanish in neither an endangered nor a minority language in general terms, but if we focus in the Philippines, then it is both an endangered and a minority language.

In the three following sections, I address the relationship between minority languages and territories with regard to the new context provided by globalization, and more specifically, by migrations, new Information and Communication Technologies and language learning.


References

Heller, M. & Duchêne, A. (2007) Discourses of endangerment: Sociolinguistics, globalization and social order. Discourses of endangerment: Ideology and interests in he defence of languages. London: Continuum, pp. 1-13.

May, S. (2012) Language and minority rights: Ethnicity, nationalism and the politics of language. London: Routledge.

Pavlenko, A. (2011) Language rights versus speakers’ rights: on the applicability of Western languages rights approaches in Eastern European contexts. Language Policy 10: 37-58.