Florian Siegl florian.siegl at gmx.net
Tue Oct 30 12:42:24 UTC 2012

Well, we could count 10-20 L2 speakers of Livonian. But how do we go 
further? What about L2 speakers of Northern Saami, Udmurt, Komi etc? Any 
ideas how to get reliable data? We cannot send them all to Inari to get 
your judgement!

What we are after is a reasonably realistic picture which means that the 
principles should apply for all languages. Personally, a note "reversing 
language shift" sounds good and could be thought of as label. But then, 
we need long term results and efforts to show that this category is 
meaningful. At the current moment I would not add "reversing language 
shift - language nest" to Forest Enets and Nganasan; initialization is 
the first step but it will need some time to see whether this has a 
future and whether this really will produce new speakers. No objections 
for adding this label to e.g. Inari Saami and South Saami, but again we 
would need a relatively coherent framework as I already pointed out. 
What about Mordvin? How many local language nests do you need so that we 
can add the label "reversing language shift" to the language as a whole? 
Could you work out such a framework and could you contribute such data?

 From the perspective of language revitalization, minority languages and 
sociology of language I understand Annika's concerns about those 10-20 
Livonian L2 speakers very well. But old-fashioned linguists write 
grammars and dictionaries based on the competence of L1 speakers and not 
(yet) on grammars of L2 speakers. There are disciplines which do that 
e.g. language X as a foreign language, but this is not what we are 
after. The discriminative idea of L1 speakers is underlying the current 
approach but in contrast to state-cencuses, we have no problems 
admitting that most of the L1 speakers of minor Uralic languages are in 
fact bilingual. And even a young L1 speaker of Inari Saami who is also 
fluent in Finnish has to decide what language he or she claims as a 
mother tongue when approaching the state. At least in this parameter, 
the current approach is less false...

Best wishes,


On 30.10.2012 13:32, Annika Pasanen wrote:
>> I am not quite sure I understand what Annika means by "...there 
>> should be
>> strong evidence about diminishing speakers. There's no sense to replace
>> conjectured estimation with another..." Some of the previous numbers are
>> 1) several decades old, 2) often claimed to be of mostly older
>> (middle-aged and elderly) speakers, 3) guesses made by people from 
>> outside
>> the language-speaking community, and 4) often proposed during a time of
>> less openness regarding minority language use. All of these factors
>> suggest that they may be terribly unreliable. Isn't it better to make 
>> use
>> of more recent estimates provided by the community itself - but taking
>> into account several possibly confounding factors if possible?
> Yes, Bruce, I totally agree with you: much of the data used nowadays 
> is totally unreliable. What I tried to express, was that we should 
> avoid attitude "well, nobody knows the number, but 350 seems to be too 
> optimistic, so let's say 250". When discussing with Janne, I 
> understood, that there was no realible evidence of neither  250 
> speakers of Inari Sami, or 150 speakers of Skolt Sami - which is 
> remarkably less than estimations not-so-many-decades-ago. Maybe I 
> understood wrong, and you have some new information in Helsinki? At 
> least Skolt Sami activits seem to think, that there are 250-300 
> speakers of Skolt Sami in Finland. Take a look at for instance 
> http://www.saaminuett.fi/kolttasaamelaiset/koltansaamen-kielestae.html 
> (unofortunately only in Finnish - a website of Saami Nuett 
> -organization). As far as I know, Inari Saami language activists still 
> use the stimation of 350 speakers, also in recent publications like 
> Olthuis - Kivelä - Skutnabb-Kangas (in print) 
> http://www.tove-skutnabb-kangas.org/en/Revitalising-Indigenous-Languages-How-to-recreate-a-lost-generation-Marja-Liisa-Olthuis-Suvi-Kivela-Tove-Skutnabb-Kangas-Bristol-Multilingual-Matters-Feb-2013.htm
> And further, about Livonian: There was a group of Livonian activists 
> visiting Inari some years ago. Some of these young activists spoke 
> Livonian with each other. When visiting Sami Radio, I interpreted 
> Inari Sami radio reporter from Inari Sami to Finnish, and then a 
> Livonian activist from Finnish to Livonian. Latvian wasn't used. What 
> kind of message do we give to the world, if we ignore these speakers 
> in our lists? At least there should be some explanations and 
> additions, like: "Mother tongue speakers: 1; besides 10-20 L2 
> speakers; some reversing language shift going on" or something like that.
> Annika

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