ELL: Endangered Languages Debate
heszy at jetcity.com
Mon Oct 4 17:39:32 UTC 1999
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Date: Mon, 4 Oct 1999 10:39:32 -0700 (PDT)
From: Henry Szymonik <heszy at jetcity.com>
To: Paulina Jaenecke <pj at mail.zedat.fu-berlin.de>
cc: Endangered Languages List <endangered-languages-l at carmen.murdoch.edu.au>
Subject: Re: ELL: Endangered Languages Debate
In-Reply-To: <m11Y3uD-00NWFUC at Mail.ZEDAT.FU-Berlin.DE>
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I'm interested in the status of Sorbian. What would you say its situation
is in regards to viability? I remember reading how many if not most
Sorbian youth tend towards German because they move to cities where jobs
are away from Sorbian areas. Is state support greater or smaller compared
to GDR days?
I speak Polish and wonder if Polish and/or Czech have influenced Sorbian.
On one hand, it seems like Polish and/or Czech would have prestige status
for Sorbians as viable Slavic languages, but on the other hand I could see
Sorbian seeing Polish/Czech as a threat to swamping the much smaller
pool of Sorbian speakers.
On Mon, 4 Oct 1999, Paulina Jaenecke wrote:
> I found Henry's comments very interesting, actually I contacted Lisa
> Valentine to find out more about her book. But since English is not
> my native language, I find it hard to participate in the debates on
> the list, for fear of being misunderstood (and possibly flamed, as
> well). And if I want my mail to be grammatically correct, it usually
> takes me so long to write, the debate is over when I'm finished
> :-) I'll give it a try this time......
> I am working with Sorbian, a minority language spoken in Southeastern
> Germany. The Sorbs were christianised in the 11th century. During the
> reformation, most of the Sorbs took to the new Lutheran faith, only a
> small part retained their catholic denomination. In this century, the
> catholic Sorbs turn out to be the "stronger" Sorbs, with regards to
> language maintenance. While the actual number of Catholic Sorbs has
> remained relatively stable, there is a dramatic decline of Sorbian
> Historically there has been a lot of activism among both Protestant
> and Catholic Sorbs. Priests have published books in the Sorbian
> language and paid for them themselves, often they were rebuked for
> this by church authorities.
> The line of Sorbian activism has been stable in the catholic
> communities, although the number of young men opting for priesthood is
> decling. The protestants have / had enormous difficulties recruiting
> young people, not just for priesthood but for other activities as
> I don't think you could say the Protestant church is / was inherently
> negative toward the Sorbs and the Catholic church pro-Sorbian. I
> rather think, it is what the people inside the church make of it.
> There are examples, where protestant groups have been very
> succesful on maintaining their language f.i. the Mennonites.
> And I guess, this brings me to the point, what disturbs me most about
> Matthews mails.
> I don't like to believe in the ideas of victims, I think that people
> have their own motives to act in a specific way. I don't think that
> the missionaries would have much success among the Akha, if there
> hadn't been internal tensions that favoured new ideas.
> An anthropologist I know, studied why some "development programms"
> don't work. One example he told was like this:
> There had been attempts to introduce new rice seeds, and they just
> didn't sprout in the fields. The foreign helpers with best
> intentions of doubling the harvest were quite puzzled, because this
> was the new "wonder seed" and they just couldn't figure out, why it
> didn't grow. The local people told the anthropologist that they
> didn't trust the new seed, but the easiest way to get around possible
> sanctions for not cooperating was to plant the seed anyway. However,
> to prove their point, they boiled the seeds just for a minute, so it
> would still look the same, but wouldn't sprout.
> Of course there are situations in which methods like this don't work.
> Still it shows that people usually aren't as helpless as we might
> think they are.
> Paulina Jaenecke pj at zedat.fu-berlin.de
> Nehringstr.14 +49-30-3265514
> 14059 Berlin
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