Stages of reversing language
shift in the Basque country:
Basque usage inside and
outside the school
Teresa Fernández-Ulloa
California State University, Bakersfield
Hernán Urrutia-Cárdenas
University of Deusto, Bilbao
(Paper, 2nd Hawaii International Conference on Arts and
Humanities, Honolulu, HI, January, 8-11, 2004)
1.- The Basque Country
The Basque Country or Euskal Herria (land of
the basque language), as the three million
Basques call their nation straddles the
French-Spanish border along the western
Pyrenees. Through the centuries, waves of
Romans, Visigoths, Arabs, French and
Spanish overran their country. But the
Basques endured, often taking their traditions
to the hills and forests for safekeeping. The
same Pyrenees that separate Spain from the
rest of Europe united the Basques.
In 1980 the three Spanish provinces of Bizkaia,
Araba and Gipuzkoa were officially joined as the
Basque Autonomous Community.
But the Basque Country spills beyond the official
borders. Basques call their nation Euskal Herria, or
"land of the Basque language". And it is their
ancient mother tongue, an inflected language, that
truly unites them. It was spoken here 5.000 years
ago, before the Indo-Europeans arrived and spread
out across the continent.
This no-Indoeuropean language shows no
ressemblance to languages in neighbouring
countries, and this fact has led to the formulation of
a variety of hypotheses to explain its existence.
Owing to some similarities with the Georgian
language, some linguists think it could be related to
languages from the Caucasus. Others relate the
language to non-Arabic languages from the north of
Africa. One of the most likely hypotheses argues
that the Basque language developed "in situ", in the
land of the primitive Basques. That theory is
supported by the discovery of some Basque-type
skulls in Neolithic sites, which ruled out the thesis of
immigration from other areas.
Through the centuries, waves of
Romans, Visigoths, Arabs, French and
Spanish overran their country. But the
Basques endured, often taking their
traditions to the hills and forests for
safekeeping. The same Pyrenees that
separate Spain from the rest of Europe
united the Basques.
Basque is an inflected language, the words we list here
may have different suffixes depending on the case in
which are used, for example:
•etxe ..............home / house
•etxearen ..........belongs to the home / belongs to the
house
•etxea .............the home / the house
•etxeko ............of the house
•etxean ............at home / in the house
•etxetik ...........from the house
•etxera ............go home
•etxerantz .........towards the house
The Basque Country has 2.872.593
inhabitants. Most of them, 2.104.041
(73,25%), live in the Basque Country
Autonomous Community (formed in 1980
by three provinces: Araba, Gipuzkoa and
Bizkaia); 519.277 (18,08%) live in
Navarra and 249.275 (8,68%) in the
Northern Basque Country (Lapurdi,
Benafarroa and Zuberoa).
In the Basque Country Autonomous
Community 1.565.853 (54,51%) speak only
Spanish.
In Navarra 361.200 (85,87%) speak only
Spanish.
In the Northern Basque Country 125.100
(58,80%) speak only French.
BCAC: 1986= 71.510 new Basque speakers
1996= 287.413
2.- Bilingual education in the
Basque Country: historicallegal aspects
• The origin and development of modern bilingual
education in the Basque Country is linked with the
movement involving those schools (Ikastolas)
dedicated to the teaching of and through the
Basque language, particularly in the period from
the 1960’s to the 80’s.
• Significant changes took place during the XXth
century:
-The Basque language prohibited (1936-1960)
-Basque tolerated (1960-1976)
-The explosion of bilingual education (1976-1982)
After Franco’s death, there was a series of relevant
legislation: the Spanish Constitution (1978). The
Basque Country Autonomy Statute was passed in the
same year (1979) as the Decree on Bilingualism
which laid down the basis for future education in the
Basque Country. In 1982 the Law on Normalisation
of the Basque Language made Basque and Spanish
official languages in the Basque Country
Autonomous Community (C.A.P.V.) as well as the
guidelines for guaranteeing them as such.
3.-The four linguistic models of
schooling
MODEL A
All learning is carried out in Spanish or French. Basque
is just another school curriculum subject.
MODEL B
Both languages are used as a vehicle of learning, about
50% in each.
MODEL D
All learning is carried out in Basque. Spanish or French
are just other subjects
MODEL X
All teaching in Spanish or French, no teaching in or of
Basque.
2001-2002 (Basque Country Autonomous Community).
Infant ed.
A-X
B
primary
D
6.275 17.595 37.077
A-X
B
Obligatory
secondary
D
20.249 28.300 48.646
A-X
B
baccalaureate
D
27.155 19.214 31.427
A-X
B
D
21.141 621 14.937
Professional training
A-X
24.719
B
D
1.202
4.005
4.- Stages of reversing language
shift in the Basque country:
Fishman´s (1990, 1991) Graded Intergenerational
Disruption Scale for Threatened Languages:
• Stage 8 Social isolation of the few remaining
speakers of the minority language. Need to record
the language for later possible reconstruction.
• Stage 7 Minority language used by older and
not younger generation. Need to multiply the
language in the younger generation.
Stage 6
Minority language is passed on from
generation to generation and used in the community.
Need to support the family in intergenerational
continuity (e.g. provision of minority language
nursery schools).
Stage 5
Literacy in the minority language. Need
to support literacy movements in the minority
language, particularly when there is no government
support.
Stage 4
Formal, compulsory education available
in the minority language. May need to be financially
supported by the minority language community.
Stage 3
Use of the minority language in less
specialized work areas involving interaction with
majority language speakers.
Stage 2
Lower government services and mass
media available in the minority language.
Stage 1
Some use of the minority language
available in higher education, central government
and national media.
-Fishman, J. 1990. Limitaciones de la eficacia escolar para invertir el
desplazamiento lingüístico (RLS). Primer Congreso de la Escuela Pública Vasca.
Tomo I, Vitoria-Gasteiz. Servicio Central de Publicaciones del Gobierno Vasco.
-----. 1991. Reversing language shift. Theoretical and empirical foundations of
assistance to threatened languages. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters Ltd.
-C. Baker, Foundations of bilingual education and bilingualism, Multilingual Matters,
Tonawanda, New York, 2001, p. 76.
Throughout the four latter stages,
Fishman is keen to point out that Stage 6
is still pre-eminent. When mass media,
economic rewards and vocational
opportunities exist through the minority
language, it is still the family, the
neighborhood and community language
life that is vital to the long-term success
of the language.
In a project of research finished in 1998 we
examined the sociolinguistic factors related to the
bilingual educational system in our Community
and also the academic achievement. We worked
with 1.811 students from the last course of
primary and the second of secondary of models A,
B and D; private and public schools and ikastolas.
(Urrutia, H., L. Candia, M.ª D. Martínez y F. Milla. 1998.
Bilingüismo y rendimiento académico en la Comunidad
Autónoma Vasca. Bilbao: Jóvenes por la Paz.)
5. The research
Global index of linguistic usage
• 1: always Basque
• 2: almost always Basque
• 3: both languages
• 4: almost always Spanish
• 5: always Spanish
Table 1
LINGUISTIC USAGE
Always Basque
Almost always Basque
Both languages
Almost always Spanish
Always Spanish
DK/DA
Index of linguistic usage
INDEX
1.00
2.00
3.00
4.00
5.00
Total
Mean: 4.1
FREQUENCY
%
7
0.4
121
6.7
249
13.7
575
31.8
858
47.4
1
0.05
------------------1811
100.0
Standard Deviation: .94
Table 2 Index of linguistic usage
according to knowledge and
interlocutor (1=Basque – 5 = Spanish)
Place
School
Family
Interlocutor
Teachers
Mates Parents Br/Sis
Index of use
3.36
4.14
4.33
3.67
3. Linguistic usage with teachers
Index
INSIDE
THE
CLASS
3.36
OUTSIDE
THE
CLASS
3.70
4. Lenguage with higher
percentage of usage (according to
interlocutor and schooling model)
A
B
D
With
parents
Sp. 93%
Sp. 66%
Sp. 43%
With
teachers
Sp. 84%
Both 76%
Basque
66%
5. Means of linguistic usage in
more spontaneous situations
(1=Basque – 5 = Spanish)
Gossiping Telephoning Calculating Getting
into a
fight
Index 4.25
4.25
4.43
4.44
6. Linguistic usage according to
first language in models B and D,
and situation
School
D-Basque
1.30
Outside the
school
1.89
D-Spanish
1.63
2.56
B-Basque
1.90
1.80
B-Spanish
2.09
2.61
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