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Professor Michael Hornsby, UAM Poznań, Poland: Cities as sites of minority language renewal and transformation: Examples from Brittany and Lusatia

Calendar Tuesday, 18 February 2020
Calendar 13:00-14:00

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In common with many other minoritized languages, both Breton (Brittany, France) and Lower Sorbian (Lusatia, Germany) are undergoing revitalization efforts in order to stem the loss in the number of speakers of these languages.

Both of these languages have identifiable heartlands - Lower (western) Brittany and Upper (southern) Lusatia, where the highest density of native speakers of these languages are still to be found.

In contrast, much smaller (but significant) communities of speakers are to be found outside of these heartlands, especially in the urban conurbations of Rennes and Nantes (Upper Brittany) and Cottbus (Lower Lusatia).

These smaller language communities are composed overwhelmingly of so-called ‘new’ speakers of Breton and Sorbian, respectively. This presentation explores the conditions for self-legitimation among these new speaker communities, particular with regard to the current tensions over who counts as a legitimate speaker of the two languages in question.

Since dominant discourses posit older, rural, native speakers as the ideal speaker model (Beaugrande, 1998), new speakers in the urban locations have to find strategies to maintain a sense of ‘authentic’ speakerhood.

The paper surveys current knowledge of such strategies and outlines how these will be further explored in a project the author is conducting on ‘revitalization without native speakers’ (Polish Academy of Sciences, 2019-2022).

Reference: Beaugrande, R. (1989). “Performative speech acts in linguistic theory: The rationality of Noam Chomsky.” Journal of Pragmatics 29: 1-39.