Language & Identity in Multilingual Environments HIF 3620 Representations & Self-Representations Laura A. Janda Overview • National identity linked to language – History of nationalism • What is a language? – Why is it a core factor of identity? – How many languages & countries are there? • Matrix vs. embedded languages – Colonialism & post-colonialism – Group vs. individual interests Nation, Nationality, and Nationalism • Are innovative, recent concepts, artifacts created in late 18th century in W. Europe (Anderson 1991) • Prior to the advent of nationality, and in the absence of technologies such as print, railroads, automobiles, how were human societies organized? Local communities Dynastic realms Religious communities Local Community • Defined by place – people who are close enough for face-to-face contact • Can be multilingual Religious Community • Defined by faith, but could potentially reach all mankind • Often used a sacred language, “superior” to vernaculars Dynastic Realm • Defined by loyalty to royal leader • Eventually took on nationalist features in W. Europe Nationalism – A product of W. European Romanticism • Three German philosophers: Johann Gottfried Herder Wilhelm von Humboldt Johann Gottlieb Fichte Nationalism – A product of W. European Romanticism • Three German philosophers: Johann Gottfried Herder “Has a nation anything more precious than the language of its fathers?” Nationalism – A product of W. European Romanticism • Three German philosophers: Wilhelm von Humboldt Language is the “spiritual exhalation” of the nation Nationalism – A product of West European Romanticism • Three German philosophers: Johann Gottlieb Fichte “Men are formed by language far more than language is formed by men” German nation and language are superior A modern definition of nation (Anderson 1991) • An imagined political community that is both limited and sovereign • Imagined because members cannot all know each other • Limited because no nation encompasses all of mankind, nor even aspires to • Sovereign because nations came into being during Enlightenment and strive for freedom • Community because a nation is conceived of as a horizontal comradeship of equals What do the people of a nation share? • • • • • • • A name An “ideal” nation-state A language assumes A territory Myths & memories ONE nation = ONE state A culture An economy Rights and duties Q: Which are necessary? Which are un/chosen? Which are objective/discrete? Language (Andersen 1991) • A language is a powerful means to root a nation to a past because a language looms up from the past without any birthdate of its own, and suggests a community between a contemporary society and its dead ancestors • Poetry, songs, national anthems create a simultaneous community of selfless voices Why is language a key factor in identity? (Janda forthc) • Vehicle for culture (both “C” and “c”) • Vehicle of transmission for “wordless” media (dance, cuisine, handicrafts) • If language is lost, access to culture is also lost • Cultural concepts are embedded in language • Language and culture co-evolve, are continuously tailored to each other What is a language? A dialect? • Mutual comprehensibility? – This works for some situations, but are there counterexamples? • It doesn’t work for : – German (incomprehensible dialects) – Norwegian,Swedish,Danish (comprehensible) – Slavic (both situations) – Chinese See Ethnologue's criteria Q: What’s going on? A: IMAGINATION Problem with the “ideal” nation-state • Q: How many countries are there in the world? • A: 192. • Q: How many languages are there in the world? • A: At least 6912. Why are languages important? (Harrison 2006, Janda forthc) • They contain information about Languages are culture and human interaction repositories of • They contain information about human sustainable use of niche knowledge environments • They contain information about the human brain Most languages of the world belong to indigenous nations Most of human knowledge is in the hands/mouths of indigenous peoples Matrix and Embedded Languages • Matrix – a language that is connected to political structures, that serves purposes of national or regional communication • Embedded – a language that is used within a single ethnic group, that is under pressure from a matrix language Nearly all indigenous languages are embedded languages Colonialism & Post-Colonialism • Colonialism has – Created “new” boundaries and identities that persist in post-colonial era – Treated indigenous peoples and their languages in different ways – Sometimes shifted the identity of languages as matrix vs. embedded Group vs. Individual Interests for Indigenous Languages • Group Interests – Preserve indigenous language – Have monolingual speakers, transmission to young generation – Have education in native language • Individual Interests – Social and economic upward mobility – Fluency in (one or more) matrix language Bibliography • Anderson, Benedict. 1991. Imagined Communities. London/New York: Verso. • Edwards, John. 1985. Language, Society and Identity. Oxford: Blackwell. • Harrison, K. David. 2006. When Languages Die: The extinction of the world's languages and the erosion of human knowledge. Oxford: Oxford University Press. • Janda, Laura A. Forthcoming. "From Cognitive Linguistics to Cultural Linguistics", to appear in Slovo a smysl/Word and Sense.