Michael Rießler michael.riessler at skandinavistik.uni-freiburg.de
Wed Oct 31 09:48:28 UTC 2012

Thank you all for this interesting discussion!

Definitely, Meänkieli and Kveeni need to be inluded because these are languages in exactly this sense of "language" we are referring to when discussing "language endangerment", "language revival", "language policy", etc. The statistics presented by Wikipedia or Ethnologue for these two languages are better than nothing. In fact, for many other languages we also often use impressionistic data because statistics based on thorough surveys are simply not available.

For the purpose of the present project, i.e. presenting an average and generally accepted picture of speakers of Uralic languages, you should be more flexible when dealing with diversity in the data (e.g. "L1" vs. "L2", "active" vs. "passive speakers" or even with conspicious high deviation between different sources). I suggest including an additional column into your database with references to the literature (or other sources) and allow for data ranges (minimum-maximum) calculated from the data sources considered for the respective language. Taking Akkala and Kildin Saami and a few random sources, this would result in the following example data set:

* Rantala, Leif 1994. "Samerna på Kolahalvön: deras situation i dag." SUSA 85, 200-204.
* Rantala, Leif and Aleftina Sergina 2009. Áhkkila sápmelaččat. Rovaniemi.
* Scheller, Elisabeth 2011a. "The Sámi language situation in Russia." Ethnic and linguistic context of identity, ed. by Riho Grünthal and Magdolna Kovács. Helsinki (=Uralica Helsingiensia 5), 79-96.
* Scheller, Elisabeth 2011b. "Samisk språkrevitalisering i Ryssland - möjligheter och utmaningar." NOA 27:1, 86-119.

If your database is meant to serve just as a general overview reflecting the current state of knowledge, you can leave it to the user to make sense of the presented data ranges. S/he can always go back to the sources and perhaps investigate the issue in more detail. 

On the other hand, if you want to make it simpler for the user by presenting a concrete figure (of, e.g., 150 Skolt Saami or 350 Kildin Saami) you need to carry out much more research yourself to make sure the presented data are consistently calculated. To me, the figure of 350 Kildin Saami seems a reasonable mean value if one takes into account both Scheller's recent investigations (Scheller 2011a and 2011b present exactly similar estimations on the numbers of active vs. passive speakers for Kildin) and earlier surveys (like Rantala 1994). The figure of 150 Skolt Saami, however, seems to reflect a "minimum" rather than a mean value. Most sources I know are much more positive (see also Annika's post). Based on my own observations and (impressionistic) understanding of current East-Saami language situations, I would guess that Skolt Saami is considerably more vital than Kildin Saami.



Dr. Michael Rießler
Skandinavisches Seminar, Universität Freiburg
michael.riessler at skandinavistik.uni-freiburg.de

On Oct 29, 2012, at 1:44 PM, Florian Siegl wrote:

> Over the last month, the Department of Finno-Ugric studies in Helsinki has collected and re-evaluated existing statistical data concerning estimated numbers of speakers (!) of individual Uralic languages. As this data is biased, we have decided to make our estimations available on Ura-List in order to gather feedback and suggestions. The overall intention is NOT to present an exact number of speakers (see also principles in the attached file) which would result in a sanctioned list, but to arrive at a reasonably realistic estimation which can be used e. g. in teaching, research or PR work. Although this should not need any further explanation, we wish to exemplify this with two instances which demonstrate the urgency of such an endeavor; the number of Lule Saami speakers has been estimated as roughly 1500-2000, and this number has been around for a longer period. Recent estimations from within the Lule Saami community operate with roughly 700 speakers only – the resulting discrepancy is 50%. A similar case is to be expected for Forest Nenets. The number of speakers has been reported exceeding 1000 for quite a while now, but may actually not exceed 700 when taking general demographic trends into consideration.
> Further, several languages were once a while reported as extinct (e. g. Livonian, Ume Saami and Pite Saami) though for all languages L1 speakers could still be found. Possibly Akkala Saami could also be added to this list.
> As Ura-List, unfortunately, does not stimulate much online discussion, we encourage subscribers to comment this particular matter online. Of course, we also welcome offline comments. These should be sent to florian.siegl at helsinki.fi. Please state on which kind of evidence your assumptions rest and if possible provide links to further online resources, own work etc. Please also state if we are allowed to quote your data/assumption publicly as p. c. if this would become necessary.
> A summary will be posted on Ura-List. A more “official” mode of representation is currently also thought of perhaps resulting in an updated version of the 1992 map Geographical Distribution of the Uralic Languages (then compiled by Grünthal & Salminen). A suitable online forum is also currently debated on.
> Last, but not least, please forward this message to colleagues and language activists who are not subscribers of Ura-List.
> Florian Siegl
> PhD, researcher
> Department of Finnish, Finno-Ugrian and Scandinavian Studies, 
> P.O.Box 24
> FIN-00014 University of Helsinki
> Finland
> <Uralic_Languages_Speakers_2012.doc>

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