Annika Pasanen annika.pasanen at helsinki.fi
Tue Oct 30 18:23:46 UTC 2012

Lainaus "Florian Siegl" <florian.siegl at gmx.net>:

> them! But as a good scientific principle, beside criticism one  
> should be fair and present an alternative classification! And en  
> passant, you yourself have used the ?old-fashioned? 350.

Yes, as I mentioned: I have used 350, because I have no other,  
reliable numbers, and as far as I know, neither has nobody else. Some  
years earlier I used unofficially also estimation 300, but now there  
are dozens of more speakers than then. My suggestion is to use 350  
until someone studies the situation in depth. There are plans in  
Giellagas-institute to start a wide-scaled research about current  
situation of all Saami languages (in Finland or in all the four  
countries, I don't know) which we all certainly wish welcome.

> think that we are here in good company. To the best of my knowledge,  
> the Saami Parliament does not take L2 speakers with non-Saami  
> background as speaker of Saami.

This is not so simple. Who in Saami Parliament and in which context?  
There are very variable opinions inside Saami Parliament about these  
issues. Inari Sami community in generally does accept L2 speakers as  
speakers, and in their case border between L1 and L2 speakers would be  
highly artificial. Vast majority of people working for language  
transmission - teachers, parents speaking the language at home etc. -  
are L2 speakers, and revitalization of Inari Sami is based on a need  
and will to get more new speakers. By taking account only  
traditionally defined L1 speakers we may end up in a situation, where  
Inari Sami in extinct according to your estimation, even if there are  
100 or 500 speakers speaking the language.

An argument against L2 speakers we discussed in the seminars in  
Helsinki was based on some recent Livonian examples in Estonian  
newspapers. Some time ago, the number of potential Livonian speakers  
was given in one of the dailies with almost 300, because a reporter  
just added all students who over the years took classes in Livonian at  
the University of Tartu as new speakers. Here, I as an ?old-fashioned?  
linguist raise objections because this viewpoint is clearly too naïve.  
Comparing it to my own courses on Forest Enets, I have taught the  
structure of this language to about 60 students over the years, but I  
won?t classify any of those as a new speaker of the language! I think,  
here we just have to confess that there are multiple ways of  
classification and as long as we make our criteria clear, there is  
room for more than just one number. Still, make your criteria clear!

There are different L2 speakers, that's for sure. These 300 students  
obviously cannot be counted as speakers of Livonian just because they  
studied Livonian, and neither can your students be counted as speakers  
of Forest Enets. To be a speakert is about communicative skills and  
identification, I think. I would'nt regard school pupils, who study  
Karelian or Udmurt 2 hours per week, but are not able to speak the  
language actively, as L2 speakers. On the contrary, I think that we  
cannot ignore following groups as speakers of a certain language: 1.  
Children, who have learnt the language actively in language  
nest/immersion, even if they speak local majority language more  
fluently / more often / as their home language. 2. People, who have  
consciously and strongly motivated learnt the language through adult  
education or independently and started to use the language actively in  
their daily life. In some Sami communities representatives from both  
group now transmit Sami language to their children. If they are not  
speakers, then I'm not a speaker of Finnish.

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!

Really? What a dissapointment! Well, since nobody of us knows the  
situation of all the Uralic languages, I don't see any other ways than  
trying to collect data from representatives of different language  
groups. Maybe they know better in Mordovia, Udmurtia, Komi etc. how  
much speakers there are. Usually Ministries of Education in different  
regions of Russia have detailed information about pupils learning the  
local minority language at school. Then again, I wouldn't count school  
instruction as an evidence about L2 speakers.

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?

Yes, I agree, definitely a single language nest group doesn't  
necessarily lead to reversing language shift. On the other hand, as we  
all know, when studying RLS, there are several other factors to take  
account in addition to language nests. I cannot, and nobody can  
define, how many language nests there should be. What we need, is  
holistic sociolinguistic basic study about situation of Uralic  
languages, and that's what we have far too little. Hooray and ten  
points to every single student, who gets interested in this kind of  
study, and every professor and supervisor who encourages their  
students toward these issues.

There are Ph.D. studies about Kven and Meänkieli going on in  
University of Oulu. Maybe it's worth asking them, what kind of  
estimations they use.


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