Welcome to Linguis Europae, the EUC's language blog!

Linguis Europae is dedicated to a range of topics involving official state, regional, and minority languages in the EU. Posts are written in five languages by UI students and faculty! Check back regularly for updates!

Bridging the Gap: Language and Community in Action in East Central Illinois

Skye Mclean discusses the East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center (ECRIMAC), which provides services essential to refugee and immigrant resettlement in East-Central Illinois and aids in the exchange and preservation of their respective cultures.

Place and Space: Another Perspective on Crimea

Senior Andrey Starosin offers his perspective on the current events taking place in Crimea.

French Professor Revamps Course on "Language and Minorities in Europe"

Linguis Europae's own Zsuzsanna Fagyal and her course "Languages and Minorities in Europe" were featured in a recent issue of the School of Literatures, Cultures, and Linguistics.

Un'Ode al "Dialàtt Bulgnaiś": An Ode to the Bolgnese Dialect

Kaitlyn Russell muses on her fondness for the Italian dialect, Bolognese.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Irish as an Ornament

by Laura Ther

Curved green lines interlaced in a pattern similar to Celtic knotwork.
It is commonly believed in Ireland that knowing a handful of words in Irish is enough to consider oneself fluent. There is a well-established cultural pretense that "a few words will do" and only a few basic pleasantries in Irish are needed. It seems that those few words are learned primarily in childhood, as the number of adult Irish speakers reporting to speak the language tends to decrease rather precipitously with age (Figure 1). Knowing no words in Irish at all can also condemn someone as a complete cultural outsider, which might bring us to conclude that the Irish language is of primary importance to its people.

This assumption is correct, but it is not necessarily reflected in everyday practice. Everyday communication in Ireland has been conducted exclusively in English for at least two centuries, which led to the relative neglect of Irish. After generations of British interference, Irish had all but disappeared from public life. The events leading up to its disappearance were described by Monaghan in the late 19th century as, “the most rigorous laws [that] were enforced against the use of the Irish language [and over time] the dominant influence of the English people over Ireland resulted in the discontinuance of the Irish spoken tongue” (Monaghan, 31). Thanks to the efforts to maintain the relevance of Irish in a culture that exclusively relies on English for commerce and daily communication, the language has indeed remained a key aspect of Irish culture and identity.
Figure 1: Shows very high numbers of Irish speakers in an education setting, with an abrupt drop at age 18 and a steady decline in overall use of the language from that point forward.
Fig. 1. (Bliain Na Gaeilge » Facts & Figures)

The practice of Irish, however, is often purely ornamental. According to "Language Policy and Language Governance: A Case-study of Irish Language Legislation" by John Walsh, in Irish, “the expression ‘cúpla focal’ (literally, ‘a few words’) is widely used by those ‘speakers’ who do not know that much Irish at all but who, to varying degrees, consider themselves part of the larger Irish speaking community.” The ideology of ‘the few words (will do)’ signals the widespread belief that “a minimal level of Irish suffices in all circumstances” (Walsh, 13), which can create a vicious circle of lack of incentives for advanced language learning. For instance, in order to be culturally accepted, it might be necessary to learn how to greet people in Irish. However, selecting the proper greeting requires advanced language skills that are informed by the context of the interaction. Knowing a few words in Irish might be regarded as a symbolic or tokenistic display of the language similar to an adornment, but few seem to realize that even the symbolic use of Irish can be more complex than wearing ‘something Irish’ on occasions…

Picture 1: A bilingual road sign showing both English and Irish place names in black text on a white sign.
Picture 1. Bilingual road sign in Ireland
(Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Recently, the Irish Government has made several attempts to revitalize the Irish language. The Official Languages Act of 2003, for instance, was an important step in this direction. It set out some clear rules regarding the use of Irish in public and established the Office of the Language Commissioner (Coimisinéir Teanga) that monitors and enforces the use of the language in public administration. While most signage in Ireland is bilingual in Irish and English, there have been attempts to include more Irish in the media, politics and schools. In the Irish-dominant territories of the Gaeltacht, for instance, Irish on public signs is primary while English is considered a translation (Picture 1). Irish-only signs and posters are also common (Picture 2).

The Irish government’s many attempts at encouraging language learning through education were also quite successful (see again Figure 1). One such attempt was described by Thomas Sheehan in his article, “Reviving a Dying Language”. Sheehan argues that the government’s initiative to strengthen “the national fiber by giving the language, history, music and tradition of Ireland their natural place in the life of Irish schools” (Sheehan, 215) was well-received in Ireland. However, one of the immediate concerns was that “most teachers knew little or nothing of the Irish language, it was necessary to teach the teachers” (Sheehan, 215). Many more attempts have been made since the late 20th and early 21st centuries to expand Irish within the education system. The number of people capable of speaking Irish is now on the rise. As of the 2011 census, “[t]he total number of persons (aged 3 and over) who could speak Irish in April 2011 was 1,774,437. This was an increase of 7.1 per cent on the 1,656,790 persons who could speak Irish in April 2006” (Bliain Na Gaeilge » Facts & Figures). This growth is due in large part to the inclusion of Irish as a bilingual and main medium in primary education.
Picture 2: An Irish-only placard in green and white, attached to the pole of a street light on an urban street.
Picture 2.
Irish-only sign inviting the Irish to vote for marriage equality in 2015.
(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Despite the fact that the Irish language still nearing extinction in everyday public life, it remains a great source of pride for the Irish. It is part of their collective identity and serves as a symbolic form of linguistic rebellion against its historical oppressors. Although the revitalization effort has become a rather complicated form of cultural resistance, the Irish language has been a tether to Irish heritage and culture. Recent attempts by the government to revitalize the language have been embraced by the Irish who realize that language is part of what makes Ireland unique from its neighbors. While the belief that a few words will suffice is still common, it is starting to be replaced with a more widely spread and widely acclaimed literacy, as a new generation of Irish people have grown up.  If anything, their pride and confidence may save the Irish language from being forever reduced to the status of an occasional cultural ornament.

Works Cited

Kelly, Aoife. "Bliain Na Gaeilge 2013- Bigi Linn." Bliain Na Gaeilge » Facts & Figures. N.p., 2012. Web. 10 Mar. 2017. http://gaeilge2013.ie/en/about/irish-language/facts-figures/

Monaghan, Charles P. “The Revival of the Gaelic Language.” PMLA, vol. 14, 1899, pp. xxxi-xxxix., www.jstor.org/stable/456448.

Sheehan, Thomas W. “Reviving a Dying Language.” The Modern Language Journal, vol. 29, no. 3, 1945, pp. 215–217., www.jstor.org/stable/318734

Walsh, John. "Language Policy and Language Governance: A Case-study of Irish Language Legislation." Lang Policy. Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012, 24 Feb. 2012. Web. 9 Mar. 2017.

Laura Ther was a senior in Political Science at the University of Illinois when she wrote this text in 418, ‘Language and Minorities in Europe’. Laura was planning on going to Law School and was interested in International and Constitutional Law.


Monday, December 18, 2017

Signora Sindaco: Debate about the Feminization of Professional Titles in Italy

By Robin Wilson

Adapted from Wikimedia
The debate about the feminine form of certain words of profession in the Italian language, specifically job titles, was brought back to the fore with the election of Virginia Raggi, the newly-elected mayor of Rome. She is, in fact, the first ever female mayor of Rome. With her election came the question of whether the word sindaco ‘mayor’ would be used to describe her as occupying the position of the major. Until recently, sindaco had no widely recognized feminine form in the Italian language.

The dominant use of masculine words for titles and professions within the Italian language, however, is not a new phenomenon. Attitudes and inequalities associated with such a dominance was raised as early as 1987 by the researcher and activist Alma Sabatini in her influential treatise Raccomandazioni per un uso non sessista della lingua italiana ‘Recommendations for a non-sexist use of the Italian language’. Although Sabatini’s recommendations were reportedly “listed on the website of the Ministry Equal Opportunities (Ministero delle Pari Opportunità)” until the Ministry was terminated by Matteo Renzi’s government in 2013, it is true that masculine forms continue to dominate when naming professions and institutional roles that were not traditionally filled by women. Examples include medico ‘medical doctor’, ingenere ‘engineer’, and minister ‘minister’ (Robustelli 2013). Many reasons are listed for the resistance of the use of feminine forms for these titles. Some consider feminine forms “ugly” while others believe that masculine forms are also acceptable to use for women exercising the same functions, which makes it unnecessary to invent new forms. On the other hand, there is no resistance to the use of feminine forms for professions and roles traditionally occupied by women, such as infermiera ‘nurse’. As Robustelli (2013) points out, the resistance to feminine forms might indicate a resistance to gender equality and the representation of women in formerly male-dominated professions.
"Mayor" on wordreference.com

La Repubblica, a large Italian newspaper, recently published a piece about how the Italian language is taking a long time to catch up to the new societal norms created in Italy’s increasingly diverse professional environment. Among the most prominent sectors are architecture and surgery (Farinaccio 2016). L'Accademia della Crusca, the oldest linguistic academy in the world and the most revered resource of the Italian language, strongly recommends the feminized versions of the words to be used rather than applying the masculine equiavalents universally. For professional titles and institutional roles relating to crafts, the Academy started recommending a general grammatical guide on how to create the feminine version of these previously solely masculine titles. The National Research Council collaborated with l'Accademia della Crusca and created a “Guide for the Preparation of Administrative Acts: Rules and Suggestions” in 2011. The report specifically mentioned the title sindaco/sindaca, due to its relevance in political life (Istituto di teoria e tecniche dell’informazione giuridica and Accademia della Crusca, 2011). Later, in 2013, the Academy reinforced its recommendations and support of the word sindaca ‘major’ (Robustelli 2013).

In 1987, Alma Sabatini submitted the book “Il sessismo nella lingua italiana" [Sexism in the Italian language] to the Italian Government and to the Commission for Equal Opportunities. This is a crucial piece of writing that is often referenced with respect to the Italian language that derives feminine forms from their masculine equivalents. Sabatini says that such a practice can create negative attitudes towards women (Sabatini, 1897). She also talks about how many conservatives are wary of any linguistic change because they see any adaptation as unnatural and infringing on current habits.

Virginia Raggi (Adapted from Wikimedia)
As Virginia Raggi was one of the catalysts to bring this questioning of the feminization of professional titles back into play, it is of interest to look at her use of the word for mayor. During her campaigning, Raggi used the masculine form sindaco exclusively. Since being elected, Raggi has consistently referred to herself by the feminine form, sindaca, and has proclaimed that gender policies will be an important focus during her term (Aimar 2016).

Changes in the Italian lexicon are undoubtedly important, but they have not yet penetrated into Italian society. Many dictionaries only include the masculine form of various names of professions, and women, specifically mayors, are still more often than not referred to with an all-encompassing masculine titles. Thus, the change from predominantly masculine to a more inclusive grammar in Italy is slow but promising.


Robin Wilson was a sophomore majoring in Global Studies and Italian when she wrote this text in 418, ‘Language and Minorities in Europe’. Robin has worked as an intern in the Illinois Department of Commerce in Chicago over the summer and is studying abroad in Bologna during her senior year. She is interested in migration and international security studies.

Works Cited

Aimar, S. (2016, August 1). What Rome's election of its first female mayor says about women in Italian politics. Retrieved December 1, 2017, from http://fortune.com/2016/06/28/rome-mayor-virgina-raggi/

 “Alma Sabatini e le Raccomandazioni 25 anni dopo”, Retrieved Decmber 1, 2017, from http://www.lauradebenedetti.it/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=65:alma-sabatini-e-le-sue-raccomandazioni-25-anni-dopo&catid=55&Itemid=490

“Guida all’uso non sessista della lingua italiana”, LINKIESTA, Retrieved Decmber 1, 2017, from http://www.linkiesta.it/it/article/2014/07/17/guida-alluso-non-sessista-della-lingua-italiana/22264/

“L’Italia non può permettersi di non avere un Ministero per le Pari Opportunità”, Vice News, marzo 8, 2016, Retrieved Decmber 1, 2017, from https://news.vice.com/it/article/italia-ministro-pari-opportunita-donne

Farinaccio, V. (2016, November 18). Sindaco o sindaca? Cinque regole per risolvere tutti i dubbi
dell'italiano di genere. Retrieved April 08, 2017, from http://www.repubblica.it/cultura/2016/11/18/news/sindaco_sindaca_crusca_italiano-152283266/

Istituto di teoria e tecniche dell’informazione giuridica and Accademia della Crusca, Guida alla redazione degli atti amministrativi. Retrieved December 1, 2017, from http://www.ittig.cnr.it/Ricerca/Testi/GuidaAttiAmministrativi.pdf

L'Accademia della Crusca. (2011). The Accademia. Retrieved April 08, 2017, from

Robustelli, C. (2013, March). Infermiera sì, ingegnera no? Retrieved April 08, 2017, from

Sabatini, A. (1987). Il sessismo nella lingua italiana. Roma: Ist. Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato,

Libreria dello Stato.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Joseph Conrad and the value of immigration in pre-Brexit Britain

by James Warning

Joseph Conrad (source)
The British novelist Joseph Conrad, a man of Polish origins who did not set foot in England until his early 20s, is today considered to have been one of the greatest English prose writers of his time.1 In his novella, Heart of Darkness, Conrad’s narrator Marlow sits on the deck of a ship coming to port in London and meditates on the Roman conquest of Britain and the idea of racism and empire: “The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretence but an idea; and an unselfish belief in the idea—something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice to....”2

With the United Kingdom’s 2016 decision to exit the European Union, a decision in part motivated by the racial anxieties of native British citizens towards immigrants, including Polish immigrants, Conrad would probably be dismayed to find that his adopted homeland had irredeemably resolved to offer a sacrifice to “sentimental pretence.” A populist movement has proven willing to do irreversible damage to its own country in an effort to move back towards a sentimentalized past, a past before the troubling influx of an ethnic other.

Flag of the United Kingdom (source)
Census data from Britain’s Office of National Statistics has shown that Polish is the second most commonly spoken language in the UK3 and according to a briefing paper published by the UK House of Commons library there were approximately 984,000 Polish nationals living in Britain as of 2016.4 But since the June 23 Brexit referendum there have been troubling incidents of hostility towards this substantial linguistic minority. As reported in such outlets as the Guardian5 and Reuters6, Polish immigrants in the UK have faced harassment and have been discouraged from speaking their language by locals who believe that low-skilled immigrants are driving down wages and taking jobs.

But are these racial hostilities around jobs and wages grounded in reality? A recent article in the Financial Times7 would suggest not. In interviews with business owners in the warehouse and food processing industries in the East Midlands region, FT found that there was a high level of market anxiety around finding workers to fill the low-wage jobs which locals often refuse to do and which up till now were only able to be kept filled by Polish immigrants. Thus, the uncertain future for Polish immigrants in the region presents an uncertain future to local businesses.

Flag of Poland (source)
Likewise, many analysts have shown, including a London School of Economics report entitled “The Consequences of Brexit for UK Trade and Living Standards” by Dhingra et. al,8 that the damage to the British economy caused by a substantial decrease in trade will most likely lead to a significant decrease in living standards in the UK. The idea that retreating from the EU will allow Britain to raise living standards for locals by getting rid of immigrants, including Polish immigrants, is unsupported by empirical evidence and doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

While it may be too late for the UK to back away from its unfortunate decision, it would be both humane and in Britain’s best interest to maintain a tolerant attitude toward its Polish immigrant population. As Joseph Conrad’s contribution to English letters demonstrates, immigrants can be a valuable resource to the United Kingdom, both in terms of their input on the labor market as well as their enrichment of the local culture. Either way, no Polish person should have to be afraid to speak their native language in Britain.

Works Cited

1. The Editors of the Encyclopedia Britannica. (2010, February). Joseph Conrad. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Joseph-Conrad

2. Conrad, Joseph. (1899). Heart of Darkness

3. Booth, Robert. (2013, January). Polish becomes England’s second languagehttps://www.theguardian.com/uk/2013/jan/30/polish-becomes-englands-second-language

4. Hawkins, Oliver; Anna Moses. (2016, July). Polish population of the United Kingdom http://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CBP-7660

5. Ratcliffe, Rebecca. (2016, November) They tell me not to speak Polish https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/nov/27/international-students-life-after-brexit-universities

6. Gumuchian, Marie-Louise. (2016, June). Polish migrants fearful over future after Brexit vote http://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-eu-poles-idUSKCN0ZE26X

7. Chaffin, Joshua. (2016, November). Businesses fear losing Polish migrants after Brexit https://www.ft.com/content/209b0f44-a036-11e6-891e-abe238dee8e2

8. Dhingra, Swati et. al.(2016). The consequences of Brexit for UK trade and living standards






James was a senior in Linguistics when he wrote this text in 418, 'Language and Minorities in Europe'.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Languages of Innovation: the tortuous linguistic history of the EU’s Unitary Patent System

By Victoria Bauer and Zsuzsanna Fagyal-Le Mentec

At first glance, the European Union has the most liberal language regime in the world: all twenty-four of its official languages are considered equal and can be used by EU citizens to communicate with their institutions. The EU’s strong commitment to multilingualism holds despite the formidable costs associated with the enormous translation flow. Consider, for instance, that the European Commission's Directorate General reportedly spends over 330 million euros per year on translation (Translation in the EU) and the total costs of language services within the Union are estimated to be close to a billion euros. However, EU language regimes are much more constrained than they might appear.

Source: Wikipedia
In principle, the Council of Europe determines the rules governing language use (Article 342, Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union), but EU institutions “may stipulate in their rules of procedure which of the languages are to be used in specific cases” (The French Language in European institutions). Typically, a handful of languages are used as ‘procedural’ or ‘working’ languages, but preference for one or another can vary depending on the context and the institution. For instance, the European Commission works exclusively in English, French, and German, while the European Council varies its rules of language use depending on the meeting. The European Parliament has an even greater flexibility: it can mandate up to seven languages per group of interpreters delivering simultaneous interpretation in its plenary sessions. Occasionally, language use in EU institutions can become a political issue.

In the late 1990s, legal and financial experts working on the newly planned European Unitary Patent System were close to a major breakthrough. Having worked for decades on replacing the systems of national patents requiring costly translations by a single European patent, the European Patent Office (EPO) was finally ready for a new era of unity and transparency. Since the EPO has been working in English, French, and German since its foundation in 1997, everyone assumed that patents under the new unitary system would continue to be written and filed in these three languages. After all, they would require no additional translations and would allow patent applications to be handled fast and efficiently. Who would possibly object to such advantages?

As it turns out, multilingualism got in the way...

EPO Office
Unexpectedly, Italy and Spain disagreed. They objected strongly to the idea of a practical status quo in matters of language when filing for patents with the EPO. They cited conflicts with their own national interests and claimed that the proposed trilingual patent system would put their own businesses at a disadvantage over British, French, and German companies. When the Council of the European Union gave the green light to proceed without the unanimous support of all member states, Italy and Spain took the EPO to court.

In May 2011, Italy and Spain filed for the annulment of the language clauses of the unitary patent regulation with the European Court of Justice (CJEU cases C-274/11 and C-295/11). They have argued that the proposed language regime was discriminatory: filing innovations only in English, French, and German would be non-compliant with EU treaties, distorting competition, and causing a misuse of the Council’s powers. Italy and Spain’s goal was to add Italian and Spanish to the list of working languages in which all patents could be translated when filed. Or, as a possible concession: use English only. When the French objected to the latter, the negotiations have stalled.

The controversy has dragged on for years. While everyone agreed that it was a good idea to ‘streamline’ the patent application procedure, how to do it without undermining national interests remained an open question. In 2012, a second version of the patent scheme was debated in the Parliament and the Council. Most state parties seemed satisfied with the idea of proceeding without the agreement of Italy and Spain, as the financial gains of the new scheme looked promising enough to prompt further action. According to the European Commission: "an EU patent validated in only 13 Member States cost on average €20,000, compared to €1,850 in the United States” (see Last hurdle for EU Patent: translation). Translation costs, which then stood at €14,000, would be reduced to approximately €680 per EU patent. It was also estimated that adding a single language to this translation scheme could add up to €1,500 to the cost of a single patent.

Image Source
And yet, it took until October 2015 for Italy to agree on a new version of the Unitary Patent system. On the Spanish side, the opposition remained unchanged. The Spanish Employers Organization (CEOE), among others, explained that it “strongly supported the position of the Spanish Government” resisting the “unbalanced and discriminatory language regime” of the proposed unitary system (see reference). While Catalonia has been ready to join for several years, Spain’s central government continued to argue in favor of an English-only system that the French continued to refuse. Despite a non-binding vote in the Spanish Parliament in March 2017 in favor of joining the unitary patent system, the Spanish government resisted. The Spanish government pointed out that patents are an important way of disseminating and protecting technological and scientific innovations and that the Spanish language could be just as useful in doing so within the EU as it already is everywhere else around the world. Economic and legal reasons for resisting a language regime not including Spanish were foregrounded:

  1. Spanish companies would not be able to file European patents with unitary effect ("Unitary patents") in their own official language;
  2. Since the Unitary patents would not need to be translated into Spanish in order to produce effects in Spain (unlike the case of "traditional" European patents), the Spanish companies would not benefit from the disclosures therein;
  3. The linguistic regime would also produce legal uncertainties for Spanish companies, which would have to respect the rights conferred by more than 95,000 new patents per year (not translated into Spanish).
  4. Spanish companies would bear the translation costs of every new patent;
  5. Spanish companies would be forced to plead in English, French or German in invalidity and non-infringement declaratory proceedings which would be heard by the Unitary Patent Court’s ("UPC") central division.
  6. Spanish companies sued for infringement before the local divisions would also have to litigate in a language chosen by the patentee.
To date, neither the Unitary Patent System, nor the Unitary Patent Court have been ratified in every EU member state. The Brexit vote, unsurprisingly, threw an additional wrench in the works, and this summer Germany's constitutional court has also put a halt to domestic legislation trying to ratify Europe’s single patent system. On the German side, the objections appear to be legal rather than linguistic, but the outcome remains the same: the entry in force of the unitary patent scheme might again be delayed well beyond the currently intended date of December 2017.

Although the winners and losers of this particular language controversy are still too early to call, one is reminded of the warning of the late Joshua Fisher, sociologists and expert in multilingualism: “Do not leave your language alone”, if you want it to make it to the next era of global innovation and language use.


‘Unitary Patent & Unified Patent Court’, official site of the European Patent Office https://www.epo.org/law-practice/unitary.html

“Patents: Commission proposes translation arrangements for the EU patent – Frequently Asked Questions”, 1 July 2010, MEMO/10/291 http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-10-291_en.htm?locale=en

‘Patent Translations, Language Wars, and the EU Patent’, March 15, 2011 https://www.morningtrans.com/patent-translations-language-and-the-eu-patent-2/

‘Italy and Spain sue over patent language’, EU Observer, June 1, 2011 https://euobserver.com/innovation/32434

‘Language Winners and Losers -The 40-Year European Patent War is (Almost) Over’, byLibor Safar, July 4, 2012 http://info.moravia.com/blog/bid/182942/Language-Winners-and-Losers-The-40-Year-European-Patent-War-is-Almost-Over

‘The unitary patent’, Library of the European Parliament, June 12, 2012 http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/bibliotheque/briefing/2012/120404/LDM_BRI(2012)120404_REV1_EN.pdf

‘Unified EU patent scheme moves a step closer’, April 16, 2013, http://www.computing.co.uk/ctg/news/2261808/unified-eu-patent-scheme-moves-a-step-closer

‘Spain would have been better off inside the Unitary Patent and the Unified Patent Court’, Kluwer Patent Blog, October 20, 2015, http://kluwerpatentblog.com/2015/10/20/spain-would-have-been-better-off-inside-the-unitary-patent-and-the-unified-patent-court/

‘The European Patent Office (EPO) Doesn’t Like Spanish, So Why Should the Spanish Tolerate the EPO?’, January 8, 2016 http://techrights.org/2016/01/08/epo-vesus-spanish-speakers/

‘False alarm: Spain will not join the Unitary Patent System after all’, March 27, 2017 http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=5567f802-70fa-4f48-814e-27fa1378e6b0

“Germany puts halt on European unitary patent”, June 13, 2017 https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/06/13/germany_halts_european_unitary_patent/


Victoria Bauer is a second year MAEUS student and a French FLAS fellow, and Zsuzsanna Fagyal-Le Mentec is an Associate Professor of French Linguistics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. They collaborated on this blog post as a follow-up to Victoria’s work on procedural languages in the EU in the FR 418 ‘Language and Minorities in Europe’ seminar.


Monday, November 13, 2017

Europeans Choose English as the Winner of Eurovision

by Kirsten Vold

Eurovision: where European nations compete through song, dance, costumes, pyrotechnics, and light shows every summer to an audience of over 200 million people worldwide-compared to the 30 million global viewers drawn to the 2016 Rio Olympic opening ceremonies (O’Connell 1). This summertime tradition has reflected not only Europe’s taste in music, but also language. Previous to 1999, countries generally sang in their mother tongues; then a rule change allowed them to choose any language for their entry (Rosell-Aguilar 2). The effect of this change was seen almost immediately, both the percentage of entries and the percentage of winners who performed in English increased dramatically (Eurovision 1).

The Eurovision Song Contest was created in 1956 by the European Broadcasting Union to mend and unify the continent after the previous two World Wars. Since then, Eurovision has been a reflection of political and cultural changes in Europe. Each country sends an entry of a song with at least one performer; the competition has grown to over 40 countries from the original seven in 1956 (Beauchamp 2). The competition promotes cultural diversity among European nations. The winning country hosts the competition the following year and displays their country’s culture in small video clips and skits as interludes to the acts. Following the 1999 rule change, countries can sing in any language including their mother tongue, any lingua franca, and even gibberish (Rosell-Aguilar 2). As well, the contest’s growing popularity and participation has brought in viewers from all around the world, prompting the inclusion of non-European countries like Australia to join in 2015 (Siim 1). This increase in participants correlates and arguably leads to the dominance of English as the chosen lyrical language and mimics the spread of English as a lingua franca in Europe over time.

Looking at all the entries that made it to the semifinals or higher from the beginning of Eurovision in 1956 to 2016, there is a clear shift in the use of English starting at the turn of the century (Eurovision 1). The breakdown of language used by contestants in the first year (1956), middle year (1986), and most recent year (2016) shows three stages of this gradual and eventual dominance by English. In 1956, 0% of the contestants sang in English; in 1986, 10% of the entries were in English; and in 2016, 91%of the countries chose to sing in English. The 199 rule change gave the countries the freedom to strategically choose which language to sing in, and most chose English (Rosell-Aguilar 2).

Previous to the rule change, English shared the title of most popular winning language along with French. From 1956 to 1998, English and French won 14 times each, or about 32% of the time. The closest competition came from Dutch with just 7% of the winning entries. Following the rule change, English shot up to 89% of winning songs with Ukrainian and Serbian trailing it with one win, and 5%, each (Eurovision 1). This dramatic change shows an undeniable trend: English, when given the option, will be the preferred language for Eurovision contestants and the preferred language for Eurovision voters and judges.

Eurovision was created with the intention of bringing a war-torn Europe together, and now does so on a worldwide scale. Viewers pour in from around the world to bear witness to the over the top extravaganza that is Eurovision; last year totaling over 200 million. This increase in viewership, along with the 1999 rule change, have shifted the preferences to favor English over any other language.

Work cited:

Beauchamp, Zack. "Eurovision, the World's Biggest and Best Singing Competition, Explained." Vox. Vox, 14 May 2016. Web. 08 Apr. 2017. <http://www.vox.com/2016/5/14/11667716/eurovision-song-contest-2016-logo-timberlake>.

*Graphs produced by me by data gathered from:Eurovision. "History." Eurovision.tv. N.p., 14 May 2016. Web. 05 Apr. 2017. <http://www.eurovision.tv/page/history/year>.

O'Connell, Michael. "TV Ratings: Rio Olympics Opening Ceremony Falls 28 Percent From London." The Hollywood Reporter. The Hollywood Reporter, 06 Aug. 2016. Web. 05 Apr. 2017. <http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/tv-ratings-rio-olympics-opening-ceremony-how-many-watched-917393>.

Rosell-Aguilar, Fernando. "Parlez-vous Eurovision?" OpenLearn. The Open University, 22 May 2015. Web. 09 Apr. 2017. <http://www.open.edu/openlearn/languages/parlez-vous-eurovision#>.

Siim, Jarmo. "Australia to Compete in the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest." Eurovision.tv. Eurovision, 10 Feb. 2015. Web. 06 Apr. 2017. <http://www.eurovision.tv/page/news?id=australia_to_participate_in_the_2015_eurovision_song_contest>.

--------------Kirsten was a junior in Political Science at the University of Illinois when she wrote this blog post in the 418 ‘Language and Minorities in Europe’ course in the spring of 2017. She is currently applying to law schools to pursue a career in global corporate compliance.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Conversations on Catalan: Status, Identity, and Independence

By Emilee McArdle

I spoke with my friend, Albert Lozano, who lives in a Catalonian town, Lleida. He is a graphic designer for several different companies in Catalonia. He is 24 years old. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design 3 years ago from the BAU Design College of Barcelona. He represents one opinion from one person in Catalonia, but I believe that his thoughts on Catalonia are very important in representing Catalonian culture. I asked him several questions to see his impressions regarding the Catalan language.

Flag of Catalonia
What are your thoughts regarding the national government (Madrid) in relation to the region (Community) of Catalonia?
That’s a tricky question. It’s not easy to define feelings about both institutions. If I am honest with myself. I need to recognize that my feelings towards Catalonia are significantly stronger compared to the combined feelings with Spain. I feel Catalonian more so than Spanish. It’s true that since the 20th century, there was a huge migration of people from the south of Spain to Catalonia, which made it so that said territory had a large population from the south of Spain, continue to be larger but in general, I would identify much more with Catalonia.

What language do you speak at home?
Knowing that my parents originally have Aragonese roots, we solely speak Catalan in our house.

What language did you learn in school?
Since I was little, I went to an elementary school in Lleida. In this city, Catalan is the most commonly spoken language, due to very little immigration that we had in our city, for this reason in our elementary school I learned mostly in Catalan. I should note too that the school offered the subjects of Spanish and English.

Do you think that Catalan is important for people in the rest of Spain? What about just in Catalonia?
I think that languages are tools that help us communicate and help us understand. Similar to both English and Spanish which are very extensive languages that can help you communicate wherever you want, but if you truly want to understand a culture, you have to know their language. 

That said, I think that Catalan is not sufficiently appreciated in the rest of the country, because it is confronted by several elements that are trying to reduce the use of Catalan. 

Despite what it looks like, not all Catalans see the language as a useful tool and for that it continues to decline.

What does Catalan represent for the community?
Catalan is an intangible asset for all Catalans. It is one of the many things that make our region different. From Catalan institutions, we try to encourage the use of our language.

Do you want Catalonian Independence?
Yes. I think we have been culturally "attacked" for many years by the Spanish government. I would like to find a way to preserve Catalan culture and social welfare by being independent. It is a somewhat uncertain road but as it is said in Spanish "who does not risk does not win".Yes. I think we have been culturally "attacked" for many years by the Spanish government. I would like to find a way to preserve Catalan culture and social welfare by being independent. It is a somewhat uncertain road but as it is said in Spanish "who does not risk does not win".

If Scotland and Northern Ireland secede from the UK, do you think that Catalonia will want to also declare their independence?
That event would be a guide for us. Surely, it would help to clarify the ideas of the majority of people who are undecided about the independence of Catalonia. The European Union is a new institution where we still do not know how it will respond to secessionist decisions. Seeing how it works against Northern Ireland and Scotland, will undoubtedly help the Catalans have more hope for the independence of Catalonia.

With respect to Albert's answers, we can see that Catalan plays an important role in Catalonia. We use language to express our ideas, which are inherently cultural. So, if you really want to understand Catalan culture, you have to understand the language to see how people express themselves in their own language. The autonomous region has its own flag that can be seen abovenext to the title. It is a region that has a lot of history and many think it shouldbe an independent country. We need to protect the rights of Catalan as an autonomous language and respect its existence as the official language of the region.

Converses en Català: Prestigi, Identitat, i Independència

By Emilee McArdle

Hablé con mi amigo, Albert Lozano, que vive en Lleida, una ciudad en Cataluña. Le hice algunas preguntas para ver sus impresiones respecto al idioma catalán.

¿Cuáles son tus sentimientos hacia el gobierno nacional (Madrid) y hacia la región (comunidad) de Cataluña?
Es una pregunta bastante compleja. No es fácil definir los sentimientos hacia ambas instituciones. Siendo honesto conmigo mismo, tengo que reconocer que mis sentimientos hacia Cataluña son mucho más fuertes que hacia el conjunto de España. Me siento catalán antes que Español. Es cierto que a mediados del siglo XX hubo una gran migración del sur de España hacia Cataluña, lo cual ha provocado que dicho territorio tenga una gran población de gente del sur, aún así creo que la diferencia cultural entre las dos instituciones siguen siendo muy grandes. Quien nace en un entorno catalán, por lo general, se siente más identificado con Cataluña.

¿Qué idioma hablas en tu casa?
A pesar de que mis padres tengan orígenes aragoneses tanto mis padres como yo, hablamos en casa el catalán como única lengua.

¿Qué idioma aprendiste en el colegio?
De pequeño fui a un colegio de Lleida. En esta ciudad el catalán es la lengua más hablada, a causa de la poca inmigración que hay en dicha ciudad, por eso en el colegio aprendí principalmente el catalán, a pesar de que también dábamos una asignatura en castellano y otra en inglés.

¿Piensas que el idioma catalán es importante para la gente de España? ¿Y para la de Cataluña?
Yo creo que los idiomas son herramientas que ayudan a comunicarnos y hacernos entender. Tanto el inglés como el español son idiomas muy extendidos que te pueden ayudar a comunicarte donde quieras, pero si realmente quieres comprender y entender una cultura, primero tienes que saber su idioma.

Dicho esto, Creo que el catalán no está suficientemente valorado por el resto del estado Español, ya que recibe constantes acosos e intentos de reducir su uso.

A pesar de lo que podría parecer, no todos lo catalanes ven el catalán como una herramienta útil, y por eso su uso se ve en continuo descenso.

¿Qué representa el catalán para la comunidad?
El catalán es un bien inmaterial para todos los catalanes. Es una de las muchas cosas que hacen diferente nuestra región. Desde las instituciones catalanas, se intenta fomentar el uso de nuestra lengua.

¿Quieres la independencia de Cataluña?
Si. Creo que hemos estado muchos años siendo “atacados” culturalmente por parte del gobierno español. Me gustaría encontrar una manera de preservar la cultura catalana y el bien social siendo independientes. Es un camino un poco incierto pero como se dice en español “quien no arriesga no gana”.

Si Escocia e Irlanda del Norte se sesionara del Reino Unido, ¿piensas que Cataluña querría también sesionarse?
Ese acontecimiento sería un referente para nosotros. Seguramente ayudaría a aclarar las ideas de la mayoría de gente que está indecisa respecto a la independencia de Cataluña. La Unión Europea es una nueva institución donde aún no sabemos cómo responder frente a decisiones secesionistas. Ver cómo actuar frente Irlanda y Escocia, sin duda alguna ayudará a que los catalanes tengamos más ilusión por la independencia de Cataluña.

Con respeto a las respuestas de Albert, podemos ver que el catalán tiene un rol importante en Cataluña.  Usamos el idioma para expresar nuestras ideas, las cuales son inherentemente culturales.  Por eso, si realmente quieres entender la cultura catalana, tienes que entender el idioma para ver cómo la gente se expresa en su propia lengua.  La región autónoma tiene su propia bandera que puedes ver al lado del título.  Es una región que tiene mucha historia y mucha gente piensa que debe de ser un país independiente.  Necesitamos proteger los derechos del catalán como lengua autónoma y respetar su existencia como idioma oficial de la región.


Aspachs-Bracons, O., Costa-Font, J., Clots-Figueras, I., & Masella, P. (2008). Compulsory Language Educational Policies and Identity Formation. Journal of the European Economic Association, 6(2/3), 434-444. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40282653

Lozano, A. (2017-03-05). Phone Interview with Lozano.

Image: By User:Martorell - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=391199

Emilee is a graduate student in European Union Studies at the University of Illinois. She is planning on getting her MA in European Union Studies in May 2018, after which she is thinking of seeking a job relating to her passion for language in a translation or interpretation department. She wrote this text in the 418 ‘Language and Minorities in Europe’ course in the spring of 2017.


Monday, October 16, 2017

Belarus for Belarusian, or the reemergence of a national language

by Marshall Janevicius

How can a national language be considered legitimate when the president of the nation does not believe in it? Alexander Lukashenko has been the authoritarian president of Belarus since 1994. Lukashenko has previously taken a stance that Belarusian is inferior to Russian, saying, “nothing significant can be expressed [in Belarusian].” Belarus, formerly Byelorussian SSR, gained its independence on August 25, 1991. Even though the Eastern European country has been independent for just over two decades, a near-century of soviet influence makes many Belarusians still feel like they are under direct Russian influence. Due to this, there is a stigma in Belarus that anything Belarusian is boring and that Russian is superior. How can a national language be considered legitimate when the president of the nation does not believe in it? Alexander Lukashenko has been the authoritarian president of Belarus since 1994. Lukashenko has previously taken a stance that Belarusian is inferior to Russian, saying, “nothing significant can be expressed [in Belarusian].” Belarus, formerly Byelorussian SSR, gained its independence on August 25, 1991. Even though the Eastern European country has been independent for just over two decades, a near-century of soviet influence makes many Belarusians still feel like they are under direct Russian influence. Due to this, there is a stigma in Belarus that anything Belarusian is boring and that Russian is superior.

However, Lukashenko received much attention from Belarusian speakers in 2015 because it appears that he may have changed his mind on his previous stance. For decades, Belarusian speakers have offered language courses to the public, even though Belarusian is not greatly welcomed in state affairs.  Much of this is shifting in recent years. There is a large push towards the popularization of Belarusian and an increased number of language courses across the country.

Timing could not have been better, as after decades of neglect, the situation is truly alarming. Belarusian, which is an official language of Belarus, can claim just a little over 3 million native speakers. Russian, the other official language of Belarus, has around 6.5 million native speakers and everyone in Belarus appears to be bilingual, which means knowledge of Russian over Belarusian predominates. Although a sizeable part of the population can still speak Belarusian, less than 10% of Belarusians indicate that they use Belarusian to communicate in their everyday life.

Spoken languages of Belarus according to 2009 census
(Green - Belarus, Blue - Russian)

Structural and cultural proximity to Russian is definitely a factor. Belarusian is an East Slavic language, just like Russian, and the Belarusian alphabet was elaborated based on the Cyrillic script. In the early twentieth century, before modern Belarusian was defined, the language was written using the Latin alphabet, Arabic alphabet, or sometimes even the Hebrew script. Today, two main dialects of Belarusian exist: North-Eastern and South-Western Belarusian, although the area between the two has some distinct characteristics that seems to militate for a Middle Belarusian pseudo-dialect. Another less common dialect in the country, the West Palyesian dialect, is more linguistically linked to Ukraine, and spoken almost exclusively by individuals living in the Ukraine.

Since Belarus is not a signatory member of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, there is no international oversight of its regional minority languages. However, Belarusian is considered a regional language in Poland and also a recognized minority language in the Czech Republic, Ukraine, and Lithuania. All but one of these nations being signatories of the Charter, there seems to be at least some hope for continued maintenance and revitalization.

A large number of the younger population of Belarus appears to be tired of their culture living in Russia’s shadow.  In a direct break with Soviet and 20th century post-Soviet times, they want to revitalize the culture and language of Belarus in order to increase cultural pride and move towards a more distinctive national identity and culture.

Image source
As it turns out, this excitement and push towards a national revitalization of Belarusian goes farther than just the youth.  Many scholars indicate that language courses in Belarusian are emerging everywhere and they are not just for the purpose of teaching the language. It seems that they are also serving as an expression of pride in Belarus that has not been seen for over a century.

Predictably enough, language seems to be one of first steps towards cultural revival and revitalization. As a new generation emerges into the workforce that has no memories of Soviet control, it will be interesting to observe what the Belarusian youth decides is most important for language and culture. Will they continue to choose Russian and embrace Soviet-enforced ideas of the superiority of the Russian language? Or will they reclaim their culture and language as they search for their generation’s identity? “Political is daily, cultural is eternal”, says Alena Makouskaya, one of the coordinators of the Belarus language campaign, indicating that Belarusian is considered an emblem and a token of pride.


"Belarusian Language." Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 06 Mar. 2003. Web. 09 Apr. 2017.

"History of Belarussian Language." Europe-Cities. Europe Cities, 2017. Web. 09 Apr. 2017.

Minsk, Katerina Barushka in. "After Decades of Russian Dominance, Belarus Reclaims Its Language." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 28 Jan. 2015. Web. 09 Apr. 2017.

See also: Alyssa Lowery’s blog, titled Belarusian on the Road to Revival, on Linguis Europae, http://eucenterillinois-language.blogspot.com/2017/02/belarusian-on-road-to-revival.html


Marshall is a graduate student in European Union Studies at the University of Illinois. He is planning on getting his MA in European Union Studies in May 2018 and is currently applying to law schools to pursue a career in international business law or international human rights/immigration law. He wrote this text in the 418 ‘Language and Minorities in Europe’ course in the spring of 2017.