Work package "Language as identity"
The first strand of research delves into studies on the effectiveness of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages regarding the protection and promotion of minority languages. Due to the vague formulations in the definitions and the menu of provisions of the Charter to choose from by the ratifying parties, States have been allowed to fulfil the Charter’s requirement in a very minimalistic way, not providing an effective domestic legal framework for minority languages. ECMI’s studies have looked into the implementation of the ECRML in different Central and Eastern European states, hereby paying special attention to those minorities who are in a particularly vulnerable position, such as those who do not enjoy the support by a kin-state or are not territorially concentrated.
The research on language loss and ethnic identity presents different entry points to the discussion of the relation between language and identity which has thus far not been fully established in the academic research, although recent studies have tried to analyze this relation from a more multidisciplinary approach. In many European countries, minority groups who lost their language are now trying to revitalize it by demanding the state to take measures for raising its status and promoting its use and transmission. However, due to the elusive character of the concepts of ethnicity and minority, the full impact of language loss on ethnic identity remains to be investigated. The study explores root causes for language loss by looking at factors like legal status, symbolic value, and functionality, but also at demographic and economic factors affecting the use of minority languages. Preparing the conceptual framework for case studies, the research establishes what effect the loss of the original minority language can have on a group’s self-identification or its perception by others and how this, in turn, should create incentives for the maintenance or revitalization, protection and promotion of minority languages in Europe.
The focus of this study addressing the relation between state language(s) and minority language(s) is particularly on those territories where one language was in extensive use as lingua franca (as in former Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union) in many public spheres and had relegated the minority language(s) to restricted private use. With the change of the political situation and dissolution of those large entities many new independent states found themselves not only in need to develop a new state language(s) but also requiring minority groups to use that language(s). Additionally, through the European legal instruments, minority languages are entering spheres in which they have not been present before and confronting decisions that will determine whether they will be able to develop and be safeguarded or not.
For further information, please contact: Ewa Chylinski