On the importance of mental conceptualisations for the standardisation of minority languages. The case of Rumantsch Grischun

Büchler, Andrin (22 May 2019). On the importance of mental conceptualisations for the standardisation of minority languages. The case of Rumantsch Grischun (Unpublished). In: International Conference on Minority Languages (ICML XVII). Leeuwarden. 22.–24.05.2019.

The present paper deals with the fact that the standardisation of minority languages does often not find the community’s approval and sometimes even brings to the fore defensive and/or hostile attitudes. I will show that an understanding of how speakers mentally conceptualise the minority language as well as the contact language(s) is key to language planning and policy’s (LPP) actions. As an example, the Romansh speech community in Grisons, whose members reacted strongly against the implementation of Rumantsch Grischun (an artificial koiné-language based on the five spoken idioms) in schools, is discussed more thoroughly. The case study is to be situated in the Folk linguistics’ tradition; it uses Berthele’s (2010) “Cluster-Modell”, which rests on Geeraert’s (2003) assumption that there is a romantic and rational way of conceptualising languages, as a framework.
For this project, data was gathered via an online-questionnaire reaching out to people living in the most-western part of Grisons, where Romansh is still very vital. Open-answer questions addressing participants’ Sprachbiographie (with respect to Romansh, Swiss German and Standard German) were included in the questionnaire. The answers of about 300 participants were analysed qualitatively by assessing which metaphors/concepts (e.g. language of the heart, language as tool etc.) were used for describing the individual languages.
Results suggest that a cluster-model based on a functional differentiation of Romansh, Swiss German and Standard German can indeed be assumed. As far as Romansh is concerned, it is nearly exclusively described by metaphors that reveal a strong emotional/affective connection to the language as well as a pronounced attachment to the regional variety. This romantic conceptualisation of the language opposes the very idea of standardisation, which is connected to rationally-driven aspects such as uniformity, universalism or instrumentality. So, the concept speakers have of Romansh is yet not compatible with the perceived values of a standard language. Finally, an understanding of how speakers conceptualise languages can help LPP planners before and during the process of implementation to evaluate the sociolinguistic situation or to gather grass-root results on how the policy is proceeding. Furthermore, the proposed framework can also be made productive after the phase of implementation for assessing whether the policy has had the desired effect, which in the case of Rumantsch Grischun would mean that the conceptualisation speakers have of Romansh would move closer to the rational site of the cluster-model.

References

Berthele, Raphael (2010): „Der Laienblick auf sprachliche Varietäten. Metalinguistische Vorstellungswelten in den Köpfen der Deutschschweizerinnen und Deutschschweizer“. In: Anders, Christina Ada et al. (eds.): Perceptual Dialectology. Neue Wege der Dialektologie. Berlin/New York, de Gruyter: 245–267.

Geeraerts, Dirk (2003): “Cultural models of linguistic standardization”. In: Dirven, René/Pütz, Martin (eds.): Cognitive models in language and Thought. Ideology, Metaphors and Meanings. Berlin/New York, de Gruyter: 25–68.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)

Division/Institute:

06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies > Institute of Germanic Languages
06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies > Institute of Germanic Languages > Sociolinguistics

Graduate School:

Graduate School of the Humanities (GSH)

UniBE Contributor:

Büchler, Andrin

Subjects:

400 Language
400 Language > 410 Linguistics
400 Language > 490 Other languages

Language:

English

Submitter:

Andrin Büchler

Date Deposited:

08 Jun 2021 16:09

Last Modified:

08 Jun 2021 16:09

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/152180

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