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

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.

A brief sketch of Gibbons and commitment

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Abstract
: In this post I roughly show Gibbons’ ideas (2013, 2014). I pay special attention to his notion of commitment and its epistemic consequences in the difference between truth and knowledge.

Resumen (aragonés): En iste post amuestro de traza zaborrera as ideyas de Gibbons (2013, 2014), fendo ficacio en a suya noción de compromiso y as suyas consequencias epistemicas en a esferencia entre verdat y conoiximiento.

Resumen (español): En este post muestro toscamente las ideas de Gibbons (2013, 2014). Presto especial atención en su noción de compromiso y sus consecuencias epistémicas en la diferencia entre verdad y conocimiento.


Following my keystone, ‘Belief aims at truth’ (Williams, 1970), I consider Gibbons’ ideas very interesting to its analysis and its applications.

Gibbons considers that epistemic commitment is intrinsic of truth and knowledge. So, when we say that an agent develops a belief P aiming at truth, we say that this agent is committed with true in P. Nevertheless, the grade of commitment in knowledge is bigger than in belief.

Apart from that, Gibbons considers that belief is not the only state or propositional attitude that aims at truth. Desire and guess also aim at truth. He finally establish that ‘belief aims at knowledge’ analyzing Gettier examples and Pollock conditionals.

Desire aims at truth

When we desire something, we would like it to be true. I desire to be Natalie Portman’s boyfriend, I would like it to be true. If we consider ‘aiming’ in that way, we are considering it in a connative manner. But in that case, that meaning of ‘aiming’ is different from the one I am studying about belief. In short, we are talking of different things: this aim is not epistemic, and I am aware that it is very unlikely that I can be Natalie Portman’s boyfriend.

Guess aims at truth

This is a more interesting case. As it happens when believing, when we try to guess something, we are looking for the epistemic truth. Let’s think of a guess: “I am between mountain and valley, but I am not a mountain nor a valley. What I am?” We may think of a lot of possible answers, but mountain and valley are not. As guess aims at truth, we cannot say ‘mountain’ or ‘valley’. But our epistemic commitment is weaker here than in beliefs: I guess that it can be a forest, a river or a deer (actually, the answer is ‘and’), I aim at truth when guessing, but my epistemic commitment is very weak.

If you guess that p, then you’re aiming at the truth or trying to get things right (..) But when you believe that p, you’re not just hoping or trying to get it right. You commit yourself to having done so. If you merely guess that p, it’s still an open question whether or not you’ve gotten it right. But then you believe that p, it can’t be an open question whether or not you’ve gotten it right (Gibbons, 2014, 112).

The epistemic commitment of beliefs is stronger than the one guesses have. Beliefs are better justified than guesses. Gibbons (2013, 2014) applies the notion of commitment to this question, but he does not apply it making differences between kinds of ‘aims’. He prefers to establish a difference between ‘truth’ (weak commitment and epistemic justification) and ‘knowledge’ (strong commitment and epistemic justification). So, his final proposal is: belief aims at knowledge.

Knowledge is justified, true belief plus X, where X is whatever it is that rules out Gettier cases. From the point of view of belief, knowledge is an added accretion or an optional extra (…) [But] knowledge is not an optional extra. For you, the question of whether you ought to believe that p is simply not independent of the question of whether you know that p (Gibbons, 2014, 112-3).

The kind of extra that assures a correct justification (observational, social…) is not clear in Gibbons (2014):

At very least you need evidence, and what we look for in evidence is a genuine connection to the facts. The connection can come in many forms. There’s seeing that p; being told by someone who knows; or figuring it out on the basis of other things we know. This isn’t always what we get. Appearances, like people, are sometimes defective. But it’s what we are looking for. And it’s what we commit ourselves to having when we make up our minds. Taking a stand on how things are, like taking a stand on what to do, commits you not only to being in the world. It commits you to being connected to the world. And the connection we’re looking for and that we’re committed to is not just safety, or sensitivity, or reliability, but knowledge, perception and intentional action (113).


Bibliography

Gibbons, J. (2013). The Norm of Belief. Oxford University Press.
Gibbons, J. (2014). Knowledge versus Truth. In Littlejohn, C. & Turri, J, Epistemic Norms: new essays on action, belief and assertion. Oxford University Press.