After Babel

Perspectives on Language [Vera-Kögelmaier]

Tro di wat, snack Platt!

In 100 years, 90 per cent of the current spoken languages in the world will be dead. That’s at least a prediction of a prominent US linguist. Fact is that the situation of a big number of different languages is getting more serious, since the transmission of minority languages to the next generations decreases rapidly. One of the reasons why communities give up on their language and prefer to raise their descendants with a majority language is the anxiety of losing connection to the rest of the world and being suspended or isolated. Of course also economic reasons seem to be crucial. Many people think it’s not a tragedy at all, since culture as well as language are determined by change and if languages aren’t able to survive the consequences of globalization, we should let them die their naturual deaths. The artificial maintainence of minority languages would only be for linguistics sake. It’s true that mainly linguists seem to be worried about the dissappearance of languages, but the maintainace of RML wouldn’t only be for them, but for the sake of pluralism.
I agree on the point that if no one is interested in keeping a language alive, it doesn’t make any sense to promote it. But I think that if there is a group of people who are afraid of the extinction of their cultural heritage, they should be supported in trying to revitalize their language. For this purpose the EU passed the European Charter for Regional or minority language to contribute in 1992 : “to the building of a Europe based on the principles of democracy and cultural diversity within the framework of national sovereignty and territorial integrity.” (European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages: 1992)
There are a lot of examples of endangered minority languages in Europe and as Sue Wright shows in her study “The Right to Speak One’s Own Language” it is not easy to preserve all of them ( Wright: 2007).
With approximately 2 Millions speakers the lower German dialect (or Platt), could easily be considered as a endangered minority language. Platt can be found in the northern part of Germany, whereby it is hard to tell where the area of Platt speaking people exactly ends, since the lines are blurred. Nonetheless it is a pretty widespread dialect with 10 Millions “understanders”.  Regarding to the GDI scale, Platt could be categorized in stage 5 of endangered languages, because  the dialect is embedded in different social contexts as well as in literature, but only concentrated within the community.

Map of German dialects

Also the EU charter for RML can be applied on the case of Platt and thats exactly what the “Bunderaat för Nedderdüütsch” demanded in 2010: “Die Bedeutung der Medien für den Fortbestand der Regionalsprache Niederdeutsch sowie deren Verwendung ist groß. Für die meisten Plattsprecher bedeutet die Berücksichtigung ihrer Sprache in den Medien eine Stärkung ihres sprachlichen Selbstwertes. (…) Die öffentlich-rechtlichen wie die privatwirtschaftlichen Medien haben die Regionalsprache als eigenständigen Kultur träger dieser gesellschaftlichen Gruppe gleichermaßen zu berücksichtigen.” (BfN: 2010)
It’s hard to clarify, if the demands of the BfN were successfull, but the implementation of the northern dialect in the media is much higher than I expected it to be. The news paper “Kieler Nachrichten” for example provides an own section written in Platt, even though these articles are sporadic puplished. More convincing is hereby the entertainment and culture programme of the NDR.  The NDR is a broadcasting station which is financed with public funds and thus the implementation of Platt in it’s programme can definetly be considered as a top-down policy.  The NDR provides different radio and television programmes in the lower German dialect, whereby most of them deal with the north German culture and their way of living. On top of this, the NDR also organizes different events, which have the purpose to keep Platt alive. One example which illustrates this initiative pretty well is the “Poetry Slam op Platt” (!), in which the participants present their poetries only in Platt → Poetry Slam op Platt .
In my opinion, thats a really nice approach to revitalize Platt and maybe also to improve it’s status and prestige in the population. Of course radio and television can contribute to the maintainance of a language, but I think that events like this are probably even more succesfull, because people are invited to participate – it’s not a one-sided project.
With the Bachelor Thesis of Poertzgen we could already see that the most successfull measures to preserve RMLs, are the ones which connect a certain lifestyle with the dialect/language to enhance it’s status (Poertzgen: 2015). I think a Poetry Slam in Platt might be a good idea to do so, also because mainly the younger generations is the proclaimed target group. At this point the success of the measure may become a bit questionable, since the average age of the audience was 80 at a guess. Nonetheless, it is nice to see how people keep up with their culture and try to keep it alive.

Advert in Platt

Next Post

Previous Post

Leave a Reply

© 2020 After Babel

Theme by Anders Norén