"Our language"

Östen Dahl oesten at LING.SU.SE
Mon Dec 16 10:19:20 UTC 2002

One of the minority languages that were recently officially recognized
in Sweden is ”meänkieli”. This was previously regarded as a variety of
Finnish and referred to in Swedish as “tornedalsfinska”.  “Meänkieli” is
transparently ‘our language’ in meänkieli. Apparently, this is a
relatively new coinage. There may of course be problems if more Finnic
varieties choose the same option!


Claude Hagège mentioned Guaraní as a case of a language referred to as
‘our language’ by its own speakers. Another language in the same family
that I have some first-hand knowledge of is Sirionó. Although it has
been labelled “mbia chëë” ‘the people’s language’ in some published
texts, my feeling is that the most common way of referring to it in
speech is “nande chëë” ‘our language (our speech)’. 


There is of course a descriptive problem here: to what extent are such
expressions conventionalized? Obviously, anyone could call their mother
tongue “our language”, and it is quite natural to do so, in the same way
as you would probably refer to your family as “our family”, in
particular when speaking to its members, rather than using a last name
or anything similar.


- Östen Dahl

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