The effects of language planning in Sardinian

Lai, Rosangela
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Sardinian is an endangered Romance language spoken in Sardinia, the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. The Autonomous Region of Sardinia is part of the Italian Republic and it is located south of Corsica, west of the Italian peninsula, to the north of Tunisia and east of the Balearic Islands. Sardinian received official recognition from the Italian Republic as late as the end of the 20th century (Cf. Law 482/1999). Despite its official status, Sardinian is classified as endangered by UNESCO due to the loss of intergenerational transmission (Moseley 2007). Nowadays, the relative standing of Sardinian and Italian has been strongly unbalanced in favour of Italian. The domains of use have been drastically restricted (Marongiu 2007), children are no longer able to speak the language of their parents and most young people can be classified as imperfect learners (Rindler-Schjerve 1998, 2000). To prevent the decline of Sardinian, the Autonomous Region of Sardinia (henceforth ARS) has developed a standard orthography called ʽLimba Sarda Comunaʼ (henceforth LSC). LSC was presented as a mere orthographic standard for the administrative use of ARS but in fact, its purported domain of use has gradually broadened well beyond official administrative use. In the last few years, over 70% of linguistic projects funded by the ARS have focused on LSC rather than on any attested dialect (Corongiu 2013). LSC lends itself to criticism on at least two different grounds. First, it can be shown that LSC is not merely a reference orthography but a true standard language, involving standardization of both the lexicon and the grammar. In fact, it is closely modelled on a north-western Sardinian dialectal group and it does not represent the rest of the island, as the central and southern communities have complained. In this situation the imposition of LSC would encourage, rather than prevent, the abandonment of the local dialects. Second, LSC might not be in the best interest even of the speakers of north-western Sardinian. The reason is that LSC deliberately avoids recording a number of phonological processes of Sardinian. The sharp interruption of intergenerational transmission posits problems to children that learn Sardinian mainly from the official, exclusively written LSC: it is likely that in the lack of any relevant data, the phonological processes would simply get lost in the acquisition of the youngest generations. Once again, LSC could prove counterproductive to the safeguard of Sardinian. References Corongiu, G., 2013. Il sardo: una lingua "normale". Manuale per chi non ne sa nulla, non conosce la linguistica e vuole saperne di più o cambiare idea. Cagliari: Condaghes. Marongiu, M.A., 2007. Language Maintenance and Shift in Sardinia: A Case Study of Sardinian and Italian in Cagliari. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Moseley, Ch., (ed.) 2007. Encyclopedia of the World’s Endangered Languages. London-New York: Routledge. Rindler Schjerve, R., 1998. "Codeswitching as an indicator for language shift? Evidence from Sardinian-Italian bilingualism" in R. Jacobson (ed.), Code switching Worldwide, pp. 221-247. Rindler Schjerve, R., 2000. "Inventario analitico delle attuali trasformazioni del sardo", Revista de Filología Románica No 17, pp. 229-246.
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