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Language secessionism

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Language secessionism

Language secessionism (also known as linguistic secessionism or Linguistic separatism) is an attitude supporting the separation of a language variety from the language to which it normally belongs, in order to make this variety considered as a distinct language. This phenomenon was first analyzed by Catalan sociolinguistics[1] but it can be ascertained in other parts of the World.

In Catalan and Occitan

Common characteristics

In the Occitano-Catalan language area, language secessionism is a quite recent phenomenon which has only developed since the 1970s. Language secessionism affects both Occitan and Catalan languages with the following common features:[2]

  • A breakaway from the tradition of Occitan and Catalan revivalist movements, which usually claim the unity of both languages since the 19th century.
  • An often deliberate ignorance of the tradition of Romance linguistics which also claims the unity of Occitan and Catalan.[3]
  • An exacerbation of the cultural identity linked to dialects which secessionism considers as separate languages.
  • A lack of success (or a very marginal position) in linguistic scientific research.[4]
  • An active lobbying in regional political circles.
  • The support of a writing system or of any prescription which breaks up linguistic unity and exaggerates dialectal particular features.

In Catalan

In Catalan, there are three cases:

  • Valencian language secessionism, or blaverism, appeared during the Democratic Transition at the end of the 1970s, after the fall of franquism. It is supported by some conservative circles of the Valencian society, which are branded as “post-franquist” by partisans of Catalan unity. It has variable impact in the population: Valencian people usually name their language “Valencian” but are divided about the unity of Catalan: some people agree in that “Valencian” is just the regional name for “Catalan” while other people think that “Valencian” would be a distinct language from “Catalan”. Blaverism has no impact in the scientific community of linguists. Valencian institutions and Valencian partisans of Catalan unity use the official norm of Catalan (as codified by Institut d'Estudis Catalans and Acadèmia Valenciana de la Llengua), while “Blavers” (partisans of blaverism) mostly write Valencian using a spin-off, nonstandard system called “normes del Puig”.
  • Balearic language secessionism is quite marginal and is supported by some cultural groups. It has very little impact in the population. It is included in a wider (but unorganized) tendency called “gonellisme”, which struggles against the standardization of Catalan.
  • In Franja de Ponent (a Catalan-speaking strip in eastern Aragon), language secessionism is quite marginal. It appeared during the 2000s. It is supported only by a fraction of the already minority pro-Aragonese movements, they overstate a so-called Aragonese ancestry in the Catalan spoken in Aragon.

In Occitan

There are three cases in Occitan:

  • In the Auvernhat dialect, language secessionism has been supported since the 1970s by Pierre Bonnaud, who founded the Bonnaudian norm, the group Cercle Terre d'Auvergne and the review Bïzà Neirà. It has negligible impact in the population, where knowledge of the language is in any case at best residual. Auvernhat cultural circles are divided between the unitary vision of Occitan (associated with the Occitan classical norm) and secessionism (associated with Bonnaudian norm).
  • In the Provençal dialect, language secessionism appeared during the 1970s with Louis Bayle and has been reactivated since the 1990s by Philippe Blanchet and groups like “Union Provençale” and “Collectif Provence”. This secessionism supports the Mistralian norm (but it doesn't represent all Mistralian norm users, since some of them claim traditionally the unity of Occitan). It has little impact in the population. Provençal cultural circles are divided between the unitary vision (supported by users of both Mistralian norm and classical norm) and the secessionist vision (only supported by some users of the Mistralian norm). The Regional Council of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur voted a resolution on the 5th of December 2003 which approved the principle of the unity of "Occitan or Langue d'Oc" and the fact that Provençal is a part of it.
  • In the Gascon dialect, language secessionism is claimed since the 1990s by Jean Lafitte, who created during the 2000s a group called "Institut Béarnais et Gascon". It has negligible impact in the population. Lafitte's secessionism supports two original writing systems: one is a nonstandard spin-off from the classical norm and the other one is a nonstandard spin-off from the Mistralian norm. Gascon cultural circles almost unanimously support the unitary vision of the Occitan language. In Aran Valley (a little Gascon Occitan-speaking area in Spain), Aranese, the local variety of Gascon, is officially recognized as a part of the Occitan language. The status of half autonomy of Aran Valley (1990) presents Gascon Aranese as “Aranese, the variety of the Occitan language peculiar to Aran ("Er aranés, varietat dera lengua occitana e pròpia d’Aran"). Similarly, the status of autonomy of Catalonia, as reformed in 2006, confirms it with the following expression: “The Occitan language, which is named Aranese in Aran” ("Era lengua occitana, denominada aranés en Aran").

In English

Black nationalists have advocated that African American Vernacular English, or Ebonics be considered as a distinct language from Standard American English.

In Romanian

The official standard language of Moldova is identical to Romanian. However, its official name in that country is "Moldovan" and at least one local linguist has asserted that it is, in fact, a separate language in its own right. During the Soviet era, the USSR authorities officially recognized and promoted Moldovans and Moldovan as a distinct ethnicity and language. A Cyrillic alphabet was introduced in the Moldovan SSR to reinforce this claim. Since the independence of Moldova (in 1991), the official language switched to the Latin script and underwent the same language reforms as Romanian, but has retained its name, Moldovan. Nowadays, the Cyrillic alphabet remains in official use only on the territories controlled by the breakaway authorities of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, where it is named "Moldovan", as opposed to the Latin script version used elsewhere, which the local authorities call "Romanian".

In Serbo-Croatian

Serbo-Croatian has a strong structural unity, according to the vast majority of linguists who specialize in Slavic languages.[5] However, the language is spoken by populations that have strong, different, national consciousness: Bosniaks, Croats, Montenegrins and Serbs.

Since the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991, Serbo-Croatian has lost its unitary codification and its official unitary status. It is now divided into four official languages which follow separate codifications: Croatian language, Bosnian language, Serbian language and the Montenegrin language.

The common Serbo-Croatian system still exists in a (socio)linguistic[6] point of view: it is a pluricentric language,[7][8] being cultivated through four voluntarily diverging varieties,[9] Croatian, Bosnian, Montenegrin, and Serbian, which are sometimes considered as Ausbau languages.[10] However, Ausbau languages must have different dialect basis,[11] whereas Croatian, Bosnian, Montenegrin and Serbian standard variants have the same dialect basis (Štokavian):[12]

The problems of the so-called Ausbau-languages in Heinz Kloss’s terminology are similar, but by no means identical to the problems of variants. In Ausbau-languages we have pairs of standard languages built on the basis of different dialects [...]. The difference between these paired Ausbau-languages and standard language variants lies in the fact that the variants have a nearly identical material (dialectal) basis and the difference is only in the development of the standardisation process, while paired standard languages have a more or less distinct dialect base.[13]
Kloss contrasts Ausbau languages not only with Abstand languages but also with polycentric standard languages (Stewart 1968[14]), i.e. two variants of the same standard, such as Serbo-Croatian, Moldavian and Rumanian, and Portuguese in Brazil and Portugal. In contrast, pairs such as Czech and Slovak, Bulgarian and Macedonian, and Danish and Swedish, are instances of literary standards based on different dialects.[15]

On the contrary, the Serbo-Croatian kind of language secessionism is now a strongly consensual and institutional majority phenomenon. Still, this doesn't make it legitimate to say that such a language secessionism has led to "Ausbau languages" in the cases of Croatian, Bosnian and Serbian, because such diversion has not taken place:[16][17]

The intercomprehension between these standards exceeds that between the standard variants of English, French, German, or Spanish.[18]

In Portuguese

The Portuguese kingdom, originally a southern county belonging to the kingdom of Galicia, was created by Afonso I of Portugal in 1126 and expanded towards the Islamic south, like its neighbouring kingdoms. That part of Galicia (Portugal) became independent while the northern part of the country remained under the Kingdom of León during the 12th century and early 13th century and later under the kingdom of Castile (core and ethnic base for the future Spain), but the culture was the same on both sides of the political border; it attained great prestige during the Low Middle Ages. In the late 15th century, Castilian domination became harder, banishing their language in all official uses, including the church.

Galician Portuguese survived diglossically for the following centuries among the peasant population, but it suffered a strong Spanish influence and had a different evolution. Meanwhile, the same language (for the reintegrationist view) remained fully official in Portugal and was carried across the world by Portuguese explorers, soldiers and colonists.

During the 19th century a revival movement arose. This movement defended the Galician language, and created a provisional norm, with a Castilian orthography and many loanwords. When autonomy was granted, a norm and orthography (based in rexurdimento writers) (Galician literature) for a Galician language was created. This norm is taught and used in schools and universities of Galicia. But most writers (Castelao, Risco, Otero Pedrayo) did not support the traditional Galician forms; some of them based in Spanish orthography even if they recognized the essential linguistic unity, saying that the priority was achieving political autonomy and being read by the population. Other writers wrote with a Portuguese-like orthography (e.g. Guerra da Cal and Carvalho Calero).

Reintegracionists defend that the official norm (released in 1982) was imposed by the Spanish state, with the covert intent of severing Galician from Portuguese. But this idea is rejected by the Real Academia Galega, which supports the official norm.

Reintegrationist and Lusist groups are protesting against this so-called language secessionism, which they call Castrapism (from castrapo, something like "patois") or Isolationism. Unlike in the case of Valencian Blaverism, isolationism has no impact in the scientific community of linguists, and it is supported for a small number of them but still has clear political support.

However, Galician-Portuguese linguistic unity until the 16th century seems to be consensus, as does both Galician and European Portuguese being closer to each other and to the more conservative Portuguese variants of Brazil and Africa in the 18th century than in the 19th century, and also closer in the 19th century than in the 20th century and now. In this period, while Galician for the most part lost vowel reduction, velarization of /l/ and nasal vowels, and some speech registers of it adhered to yeísmo, all making it phonologically closer to Spanish, for example, European Portuguese had splits that created two new vowel phonemes, one of them usually an allophone only in the case of vowel reduction and the other phonetically absent in any other variant, some dialects had a merger of three of its oral diphthongs and another three of its nasal ones and together with Brazilian Portuguese absorbed more than 5000 loanwords from French as well as 1500 from English.

It seems that the debate for a greater integration among Portuguese-speaking countries had the result of a single writing standard (1990 Portuguese Language Orthographic Agreement), often shunned by some segments of Portuguese media and population but long waited and cheered by Brazilians despite occasional criticism to some aspects and that changed the spelling of between 0.5% and 1% of the words in both former varieties, with minor respect to major dialect phonological differences. The other debate, whether Galician should use the same standard of Portuguese (Lusism), a standard with minor differences (Reintegracionism), a re-approximation of both through another Lusophone spelling agreement that would give particular regional differences such as that of Galician as well as major diverging dialects of Portuguese (especially in South America) more room (Reintegracionism), or the present standard based on the Spanish orthography, still did not cast official attention of government authorities in none of the involved countries, even if Lusophone support is expected to be strong in any of the first three cases.

A point often held by minorities among both Reintegracionists/Lusists and Lusophones is that Portuguese should have a more conservative and uniform international speech standard that at the same time respected minor phonological differences between its variants (such as a complete free choice of the various allophones of /ʁ/, [a ~ ɐ ~ ɜ ~ ə] for /a ~ ɐ/ or [s ~ s̻ʲ ~ ʃ ~ ɕ] for the voiceless allophone of /S/) that would further strength Lusophone integration (while sung European Portuguese is comprehensible to untrained Brazilians, this is not the case for even the media standard of Galician, let alone more colloquial varieties), but this is not especially welcomed by any party in Europe, much because as the adoption of the 1990 OA in 2009–2012 proved, the Portuguese are often very reticent of the adoption of things seen as giving preference, even if minor, to Brazil.

In Tagalog

Republic Act No. 7104, approved on August 14, 1991, created the Commission on the Filipino Language, reporting directly to the President and tasked to undertake, coordinate and promote researches for the development, propagation and preservation of Filipino and other Philippine languages.[19] On May 13, 1992, the commission issued Resolution 92-1, specifying that Filipino is the
indigenous written and spoken language of Metro Manila and other urban centers in the Philippines used as the language of communication of ethnic groups.[20]

Though the Commission on the Filipino Language recognises that a lot of the vocabulary of Filipino is based on Tagalog, the latest definition given to the national language tries to evade the use of the term "Tagalog".

According to some Filipinologists (people who specialise in the study of Filipino as a language), the main reason that Filipino is distinct from Tagalog is that in Filipino, there is a presence of vocabulary coming from other Philippine languages, such as Cebuano (such as bana - husband) and Ilocano (such as ading - little brother)). They also maintain that the term Tagalog is the language of the Katagalugan or the Tagalog Region and puristic in a sense. It lacks certain phonemes like /f/ and /v/ which makes it not capable to produce some indigenous words like Ifugao and Ivatan.[21]

However, when one asks a person from Metro Manila what language he speaks, he will instantly answer Tagalog. Curiously, proponents of language secessionism are unable to account for the glaring absence of long vowels—phonemic in Tausug—in Filipino phonology, nor for the absence of a schwa. Arguments in favor of secessionism generally ignore the fact that the various languages of the Philippines have divergent phonologies.

See also


  1. ^ For example:
    • STRUBELL Miquel (1991) "Catalan in Valencia: the story of an attempted secession", Swiss Academy of Social Science Colloquium on Standardization: Parpan / Chur (Grisons) 15–20 April 1991
    • PRADILLA Miquel Àngel (1999) "El secessionisme lingüístic valencià", in: PRADILLA Miquel Àngel (1999) (ed.) La llengua catalana al tombant del mil·leni, Barcelona: Empúries, p. 153-202.
    • Article "secessionisme lingüístic", in: RUIZ I SAN PASCUAL Francesc, & SANZ I RIBELLES Rosa, & SOLÉ I CAMARDONS Jordi (2001) Diccionari de sociolingüística, coll. Diccionaris temàtics, Barcelona: Enciclopèdia Catalana.
  2. ^ SUMIEN Domergue (2006) La standardisation pluricentrique de l’occitan: nouvel enjeu sociolinguistique, développement du lexique et de la morphologie, coll. Publications de l’Association Internationale d’Études Occitanes 3, Turnhout: Brepols, p. 49.
  3. ^ BEC Pierre (1970-71) (collab. Octave NANDRIS, Žarko MULJAČIĆ) Manuel pratique de philologie romane, Paris: Picard, 2 vol.
  4. ^ Georg Kremnitz, "Une approche sociolinguistique", in F. Peter Kirsch, & Georg Kremnitz, & Brigitte Schlieben-Lange (2002) Petite histoire sociale de la langue occitane: usages, images, littérature, grammaires et dictionnaires, coll. Cap al Sud, F-66140 Canet: Trabucaire, p. 109-111 [updated version and partial translation from: Günter Holtus, & Michael Metzeltin, & Christian Schmitt (1991) (dir.) Lexikon der Romanistischen Linguistik. Vol. V-2: Okzitanisch, Katalanisch, Tübingen: Niemeyer]
  5. ^  
  6. ^  
  7. ^ Bunčić, Daniel (2008). "Die (Re-)Nationalisierung der serbokroatischen Standards" [The (Re-)Nationalisation of Serbo-Croatian Standards]. In Kempgen, Sebastian. Deutsche Beiträge zum 14. Internationalen Slavistenkongress, Ohrid, 2008. Welt der Slaven (in German). Munich: Otto Sagner. p. 93.  
  8. ^  
  9. ^  
  10. ^ The Ausbau language concept was developed by linguist Heinz Kloss. See:
  11. ^  
  12. ^ Blum, Daniel (2002). Sprache und Politik : Sprachpolitik und Sprachnationalismus in der Republik Indien und dem sozialistischen Jugoslawien (1945-1991) [Language and Policy: Language Policy and Linguistic Nationalism in the Republic of India and the Socialist Yugoslavia (1945-1991)]. Beiträge zur Südasienforschung ; vol. 192 (in German). Würzburg: Ergon. p. 200.  
  13. ^  
  14. ^ Stewart, William A. (1968). "A Sociolinguistic Typology for Describing National Multilingualism". In Fishman, Joshua A. Readings in the Sociology of Language. The Hague, Paris: Mouton. pp. 529–545.  
  15. ^ Cooper, Robert Leon (1989). Language planning and social change. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 216.  
  16. ^ Kafadar, Enisa (2009). "Bosnisch, Kroatisch, Serbisch – Wie spricht man eigentlich in Bosnien-Herzegowina?" [Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian – How do people really speak in Bosnia-Herzegovina?]. In Henn-Memmesheimer, Beate; Franz, Joachim. Die Ordnung des Standard und die Differenzierung der Diskurse; Teil 1 (in German). Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang. pp. 100–101, 103.  
  17. ^  
  18. ^ Thomas, Paul-Louis (2003). "Le serbo-croate (bosniaque, croate, monténégrin, serbe): de l’étude d’une langue à l’identité des langues" [Serbo-Croatian (Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin, Serbian): from the study of a language to the identity of languages]. Revue des études slaves (in French) 74 (2-3): 325.  
  19. ^ "Commission on the Filipino Language Act". Chan Robles Law Library. Retrieved 2007-07-19. 
  20. ^ "Resolusyon Blg. 92-1" (in Filipino). Commission on the Filipino Language. 13 May 1992. Retrieved 2007-03-24. 
  21. ^ "Resolusyon Blg. 92-1" (in Filipino). Commission on the Filipino Language. 13 May 1992. Retrieved 2007-03-24
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