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> Cornish Coming Back From The Brink, Newspaper Article
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Antwn 
Posted: 16-Aug-2009, 03:29 PM
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QUOTE (stoirmeil @ 15-Aug-2009, 11:17 PM)
One of the problems systems like that run into is that adults after the age of early puberty don't really learn language the way children do, so it's somewhat disingenuous advertising. There is a virtual ton of research on this, if it interests you --- when I have taught Yiddish, I've had people say exactly this: Why do we have to learn grammar, why can't we just learn it naturally? My answer has been: if you want to spend five years learning this, and come out speaking like a five year old, go for it. The truth is, it would not even be that good. Adults have matured cognitively to learn by systematized categories and generalizations -- in other words, grammar. This is faster and more efficient, and it is not a kind of processing available to babies and small children, so they have to do mind-boggling, astronomical amounts of processing to learn language. Fortunately they have neural rates of development -- actual neural connection growth rates -- to burn at that stage, and for that reason. But that kind of learning does not go on throughout life. Approaching adulthood, we get efficient.

Its reassuring to hear you say that, since the grammatical approach has always worked best for me as an adult and I often hear sublte put downs about it. Oh you're one of those that like.....GRAMMAR! Then they roll their eyes because they're in the presence of someone who they obviously consider some kind of pedantic intellectual.


--------------------
Yr hen Gymraeg i mi,
Hon ydyw iaith teimladau,
Ac adlais i guriadau
Fy nghalon ydyw hi
--- Mynyddog
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englishmix 
Posted: 16-Aug-2009, 04:55 PM
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I think declaring them as extinct, raises the intrigue of learning them!

And it should stir those "dinosaurs" who can still speak one of them to promote them all the more. In other words, its kind of like when yoru church building is declared an historic site. Its not necessarily a bad thing, just depends how we respond to the challenge!

I hope that the legends and culture of our heritage may continue to the next generation.
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stoirmeil 
Posted: 23-Aug-2009, 07:25 PM
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Antwn and englishmix, you both have interesting points here.

There's a matter of what's called sociolinguistics here -- where language stands as a social item among its users. No language is completely neutral of this; but these deeply located yet politically "de-turfed" languages have strong issues of national identity and patriotism bound around them that are not the language itself, but still determine how or whether it functions. Some people want them protected and not "sullied" by modernization, because they carry a culture that is disappearing. (Yiddish has some very loud, argumentative camps about that, pro and con.) So you get these people that basically want to use it as if it's made of glass, in a museum-case way, not add any words or usage that will take away from its purity: so you can't swear in it, make love in it, or express modern events or technology in it. (Not that people haven't always cursed or made love -- but that is the language that got edited out and never gets in the textbooks. smile.gif)

Others know that you have to fold the passing years into it naturally -- that's the way it grew in the first place -- but they don't know how; or maybe historical events have made this distasteful, especially when there has been strife or oppression (again, the way Yiddish stopped incorporating modern German after World War II for its modern vocabulary needs, and turned to Hebrew roots instead -- a real strain, I can tell you.) In any case, your "historic site" language may be such, with honor, but it still has to be used, and used vigorously. You have to hold the services and attach the youth to that old church.

Then you have another kind of cultural thing happening -- a kind of reverse elitism, which denies that there is such a thing as "grammar" in their earthy old mother tongue: grammar is not the way "the common folk" spoke. This is absurd: grammar is merely the pattern of word order, ways of telling subject from object, social standing, time and place, and a load of other markers that evolved (with many dialect variations) naturally over centuries, whether the people were even literate or not. You don't impose grammar, as a fancy way of putting an elite harness on the language; you observe it in practice, as it is codified in a collection of "rules" (which are really just a thorough and condensed description of what is already there) and use it as a faster and more efficient way of learning how to speak and read. It does get more politicized when you have a standardized, "high" version of the language that takes precedence over the regional dialects, and that is a problem when this form becomes the marker for education. A kind of class issue. So people who equate book learning with moving away from the common people and their earthy languages look at this as somehow stilted and invalid, and they repudiate it and the whole way of learning with it. Unfortunately, this may be the only form accessible to many learners, and this argument may put them off learning at all.

I have heard the same silly argument claiming that classical musicians who, since they know how to read music and are classically trained, can't ever really get the traditional swing or improvisatory talent into their playing. I don't know what we do with folks like James Galway or Derek Bell, the flutist and harpist of the Chieftains, among many, many others, who have had long careers in both styles. But it's all the same basic issue -- will an educated way of acquiring the language, or the musical style, do something artificial to this precious heritage and ruin it? I tell you I have heard people go so far as to wish the whole thing would die rather than have that happen. You can figure out for yourself what that's about.
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Antwn 
Posted: 25-Aug-2009, 11:44 AM
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QUOTE (stoirmeil @ 23-Aug-2009, 07:25 PM)
Antwn and englishmix, you both have interesting points here.

There's a matter of what's called sociolinguistics here -- where language stands as a social item among its users. No language is completely neutral of this; but these deeply located yet politically "de-turfed" languages have strong issues of national identity and patriotism bound around them that are not the language itself, but still determine how or whether it functions. Some people want them protected and not "sullied" by modernization, because they carry a culture that is disappearing. (Yiddish has some very loud, argumentative camps about that, pro and con.) So you get these people that basically want to use it as if it's made of glass, in a museum-case way, not add any words or usage that will take away from its purity: so you can't swear in it, make love in it, or express modern events or technology in it. (Not that people haven't always cursed or made love -- but that is the language that got edited out and never gets in the textbooks. smile.gif)

Others know that you have to fold the passing years into it naturally -- that's the way it grew in the first place -- but they don't know how; or maybe historical events have made this distasteful, especially when there has been strife or oppression (again, the way Yiddish stopped incorporating modern German after World War II for its modern vocabulary needs, and turned to Hebrew roots instead -- a real strain, I can tell you.) In any case, your "historic site" language may be such, with honor, but it still has to be used, and used vigorously. You have to hold the services and attach the youth to that old church.

Then you have another kind of cultural thing happening -- a kind of reverse elitism, which denies that there is such a thing as "grammar" in their earthy old mother tongue: grammar is not the way "the common folk" spoke. This is absurd: grammar is merely the pattern of word order, ways of telling subject from object, social standing, time and place, and a load of other markers that evolved (with many dialect variations) naturally over centuries, whether the people were even literate or not. You don't impose grammar, as a fancy way of putting an elite harness on the language; you observe it in practice, as it is codified in a collection of "rules" (which are really just a thorough and condensed description of what is already there) and use it as a faster and more efficient way of learning how to speak and read. It does get more politicized when you have a standardized, "high" version of the language that takes precedence over the regional dialects, and that is a problem when this form becomes the marker for education. A kind of class issue. So people who equate book learning with moving away from the common people and their earthy languages look at this as somehow stilted and invalid, and they repudiate it and the whole way of learning with it. Unfortunately, this may be the only form accessible to many learners, and this argument may put them off learning at all.

I have heard the same silly argument claiming that classical musicians who, since they know how to read music and are classically trained, can't ever really get the traditional swing or improvisatory talent into their playing. I don't know what we do with folks like James Galway or Derek Bell, the flutist and harpist of the Chieftains, among many, many others, who have had long careers in both styles. But it's all the same basic issue -- will an educated way of acquiring the language, or the musical style, do something artificial to this precious heritage and ruin it? I tell you I have heard people go so far as to wish the whole thing would die rather than have that happen. You can figure out for yourself what that's about.

Well, the Celtic languages are not de-turfed but are indigenous to the areas where they're spoken. This accentuates feelings of entitlement, national identity and patriotism associated with their preservation in my opinion. It must be very difficult to maintain a language when surrounded by a linguistic behemoth like English, yet Yiddish survives, so does Pennsylvania "Dutch" amongst the Amish, which is a dialect of German. Dutch in the name is a mispronunciation of Deutsch.

I can't speak for Yiddish, but I don't think all attempts to maintain linguistic purity are necessarily attempts to avoid moderization, but to incorporate modernization within an existing linguistic context. Although restricting the use of neologisms among a general population is pretty impossible, that doesn't mean alternatives which are more conducive to the native language can't be imposed. I'm thinking mainly of the French Academy and Icelandic speaker's attempts to find technical terms more conducive to their language in lieu of importing already prevalent English terms. Being collective creators and stewards of linguistic continuity I think they have every right to this effort and can do so in a living non-monolithic way. Welsh has/is doing the same thing. There's even an email list for those looking for Welsh technical and medical terms.

I agree that a language has to be used to be maintained, and not just used but depended upon, in other words people have to live through the medium of that language successfully. One of the ways languages decend from living to moribund to extinct is when they're either not taught to the young or when succeeding generations learn incomplete versions and thus cannot pass on a viable medium of cultural continuity or practical use. The language then becomes a subject of academic study only and is a dead artifact for all practical purposes.

I guess the best analagous situation for the Celtic languages is that of Native American languages in the US. Speakers are somewhat geographically isolated but at the same time surrounded by the 2nd most widely spoken language in the world. Survival is not contingent of the speaking of a minority language, its preserved only by the love of the people for it.

Although Welsh is considered to be in a healthy position when compared to the other Celtic languages with regard to its continuity, it still faces challenges. One is the influx into traditional areas of speaker concentration by English monoglots who purchase real estate and move in but are unwilling to learn Welsh. Also there's been emigration from rural communities in the west to large cities like Caerdydd (Cardiff) and Abertawe (Swansea). Despite this, the language remains strong with the latest census (2001) showing an increase of speakers, especially within the under 15 age group. The hope in Wales from what I've read and heard from residents there, is that the country will ultimately become happily bi-lingual. Another encouraging sign has been the increase of Welsh medium schools, to which many non-Welsh speaking parents have decided to send their children.

All in all, there can't be any separation between language continuity and the preservation of communities which support the language's use.

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stoirmeil 
Posted: 26-Aug-2009, 12:27 AM
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Sounds like Welsh is doing at least as well as Irish, and that is encouraging.

In saying "de-turfed," I guess I am not being clear. Of course the language is in its location, and that's important; and of course none of the celtic languages have been forbidden on their own ground for a long time. The turf issue is more a matter of the official language that may have been imposed and the language in which members of the generations coming up are being educated, and in which they will conduct most of the interactions of their adult lives. Literacy is a big part of transmission, especially when the language has to be carried into adult and professional life in modern society -- if the home language is spoken but not read, for example, because education is conducted mainly or exclusively in the official language, it's a blow, even if the language never leaves its location and sustains a good core population of speakers.

Kids in Ireland, I think, learn Irish for a number of years but don't have the main balance of their schooling in it. How is it in Wales?
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Antwn 
Posted: 26-Aug-2009, 01:40 PM
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QUOTE (stoirmeil @ 26-Aug-2009, 12:27 AM)
Sounds like Welsh is doing at least as well as Irish, and that is encouraging.

Kids in Ireland, I think, learn Irish for a number of years but don't have the main balance of their schooling in it. How is it in Wales?

Well, fist of all I'm an outsider, so what I say I've gleaned from either reading news articles and talking to Welsh speakers in Wales via the net.

In Wales, study of the Welsh language is compulsory up to the age of 16. There has been a large increase in Welsh medium schools through the secondary level. However there's a shortage of fluent teachers capable of teaching through the medium of Welsh. Many who have expertise in the subject they teach may not have much fluency in Welsh, though that's not always the case. Many parents who don't speak English will send their kids to Welsh medium schools for a number of reasons. There are studies that suggest that kids educated bilingually do better in math and other subjects. Also there's a renewed pride in being a Welsh speaker and in language preservation. That said, such pride not shared by all, and there's also resentment among English monoglots in predominately English speaking areas about their kids being required to learn what they consider to be a dead or irrelevant language. What they resent most is the taxpayer money spent to preserve Welsh. Naturally there a native speakers who speak Welsh at home and also send their kids to Welsh medium schools. At these schools, English is also taught and used.

Even in Welsh medium education I've heard concern expressed that kids will study their subjects in Welsh then switch to English on the playground or when away from school. They'll also revert to "Wenglish" the same way bilingual kids revert to Spanglish in the States, though Wenglish also includes the use of "Welshified" English words, such as the word lyfo (love-o) for love when Welsh has the word caru (pronounced like car-ee) which ironically enough comes from Latin. This vocab substitution may be innocent enough, but if its cause is a lack of suitable vocab aquisition then that may be a troubling sign over the long term, because it may mean the language is not being learned completely. I don't think that's the case, though its troubling that with all the effort to educate them in Welsh that they revert to English. The reasons may be varied. Some kids live in English speaking homes in predominately English speaking neighborhoods, so Welsh becomes a "school language". Others just think English is more cool - though I've heard at the college level the opposite has become true. That's another story. Welsh medium classes are offered at University, but there's also a shortage of fluent teachers. Even in cases where kids use Wenglish with one another, to the dismay of their Welsh speaking parents, they are also able to read, write and speak perfectly good Welsh when they want or when required, so it may be just a kid thing.

The biggest problem like I mentioned before, is the encroachment of English monoglots in traditionally Welsh speaking areas. They buy 2nd or retirementj homes increasing the real estate values to a point where the Welsh who've lived there for so long can't afford housing. The English who move there have little desire or need to learn Welsh, though some do, so the concentrations of Welsh speakers have diminished. There are organizations trying to address this, the most active of which is Cymuned (Ka-MEEN-ed) which means "community". There's an effort and an activism there too, an effort to get more Welsh used and spoken and to change the attitudes of those who resent Welsh preservation efforts. Sometimes businesses will forbid or discourage Welsh being spoken in their establishments by employees and occasionally by customers - believe it or not. If that happens, often activists will picket the establishment with signs saying "Ble mae'r Cymraeg" (blay meyer kimRAG - where's the Welsh). So there are public relations issues the language has too.

Speakers according to the 2001 census total about 21% of the population of Wales. The largest increase is among people under 15 years old, which is encouraging. If they carry on, use the language, teach it to their children and if the communities remain or if enough speakers use Welsh in the cities and live through Welsh then the language has a good chance long term. Total speakers are betweeen 500,000 to 600,000, depending on what source you use. Because there was a Welsh colony established in Argentina in the late 1800s, there are a few hundred or so speakers there too - not sure of the exact total. There are about 30,000 in England and I've read approximately 2,000 in North America.

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