ELL: Élites

Tom Priestly tom.priestly at ualberta.ca
Wed Oct 6 18:16:54 UTC 1999

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Date: Wed, 6 Oct 1999 12:16:54 -0600
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From: tom.priestly at ualberta.ca (Tom Priestly)
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A request:

About .lites among language minorities:

About 30 years ago the Slovene minority in Carinthia (Austria) was provided
with a "Bilingual" secondary school - a "Gymnasium" - to which a small
portion of the minority population has ever since been sending their
children. (The word "bilingual" is in quotes because Slovene is used much
more than German in class).

The (considerable) contribution towards the maintenance of Slovene (which
has for 150 years been under intense pressure from German) in Carinthia has
been described. What interests me is the potential opposite effect: that
one result of having such an educational establishment is, at least in
theory, the creation of an .lite - a minority among the minority population
- which speaks Standard Slovene much better (and also perhaps in more
functional domains) than the rest. In particular, I am interested in one
possible  further development - that this small .lite  may become
(socially, and at least partly) split from the remainder of the
Slovenophone population, with the result that there is no longer any
*general* tradition of language maintenance: the intelligentsia prefer to
use the standard, the others do not, and they do not communicate (even, no
longer wish to communicate) as much as before with each other. The
intelligentsia may be considered snobbish, and the non-.lite may be thought
of as "hicks." And so on. - I have some evidence of this, and am collecting
and analyzing more.

I have heard, mostly at third hand, that in some minority/endangered
language communities the same kind of process has been observed. Sometimes,
efforts at standardizing the minority/endangered language have backfired,
because most minority members, for one reason or another, do not wish to
use such a variety.

If any readers of ELL have personal experience of such a thing, and/or can
direct me to literature on this kind of phenomenon, please respond ***OFF
LIST***. If the responses are sufficiently interesting, and not too long, I
will summarize them for anyone who is interested.

Thanks in advance,
Tom Priestly

Tom Priestly
Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies
Division of Slavic and East European Studies
200 Arts Building, University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E6
phone (780) 492-5688
fax (780) 492-9106
e-mail: tom.priestly at ualberta.ca

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