This is an application for funding to support the establishment of a research network in order to examine systematically, and for the first time, the implications of some of the major socio-cultural transformations witnessed across industrial democracies today for our understanding of how contemporary language revitalization efforts should be designed and implemented.
The network will bring together an international and interdisciplinary group of academic researchers, spanning the arts, humanities and social sciences, along with a number of prominent language policy practitioners.
There are two principal reasons why such a research network needs to be established.
First, public policy efforts aiming to revitalize the prospects of regional or minority languages are increasingly common across Western Europe. Indeed, over the past few decades, such revitalization efforts have become more systematic and far-reaching in scope, encompassing a range of regulatory, distributive and constitutional instruments, and touching on key social domains, including the family home, the education system, the media, the economy and civil society.
Second, and more important, these language revitalization efforts have been developed and implemented against a backdrop of radical social change: societies are now increasingly individualistic, diverse and mobile; their economies are increasingly interconnected; and their governance structures are increasingly complex. Many of the assumptions that have traditionally dominated both the academic and public policy literature on language revitalization relate to areas of life that are implicated in current patterns change. Yet, despite this, to date there has been no serious reflection on whether our fast-changing social context should prompt a rethink with regard to how the task of language revitalization should be approached.
In response, the network will aim to provide answers to the following key questions:
- To what extent do recent changes in the nature of community life and in patterns of interaction among individuals have implications for the emphasis traditionally placed by language revitalization frameworks on the role of the local, territorially defined, community in promoting stable patterns of language use?
- To what extent do recent changes in the way that families organize their day-to-day lives and care for their children have implications for the emphasis traditionally placed by language revitalization frameworks on role of the family in promoting language acquisition?
- To what extent do contemporary economic developments such as globalization and the advent of skills-based employment have implications for the emphasis traditionally placed by language revitalization frameworks on the need to ensure that the minority language possesses a measure of economic value?
- To what extent does the current trend of 'state transformation' and the emergence of new models of governance have implications for the emphasis traditionally placed by language revitalization frameworks on the need for long-term state recognition and support for the minority language?
The network will study these questions with reference to a variety of European examples of language revitalization, including Catalonia, the Basque Country, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and with a view to identify lessons that will inform the work of public officials and civil society actors at the regional, state and international levels.
The centerpiece of the network's activities during the life of the grant will be held in Aberystwyth, Edinburgh, Geneva and Cardiff between March 2017 and September 2018. The workshops will culminate with an international conference held in Brussels in January 2019. This event will disseminate the main conclusions that arise from the workshops among non-academic audiences. It will be organized in collaboration with the Network to Promote Linguistic Diversity.