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Frank Beck Lassen

Historisk tidskrift för Finland Vol. 92, nr. 1, 2007. Theme issue on conceptual history entitled: Concept, Language and History

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Joseph Errington

Indonesian is the national language of the world’s fourth most populous country. Although it has 200 million speakers, it is little known beyond its borders and a narrow circle of area specialists. To reduce its obscurity in the global scheme of things, I will show here how it has developed into an unusually national but ‘un-native’ language. A brief sketch of the language’s history highlights commonsense ideas about language, identity, and nationalism that the Indonesian case does not fit, further reinforcing its uncommon aspects.

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Re-locating the Ethnographic Field

From 'Being There' to 'Being There'

Máiréad Nic Craith and Emma Hill

When considering the ethnographic field, language use has been of continued anthropological concern. Traditional approaches to the field have associated language use with concepts such as place, territory and ethnicity and have tended to bound them within a single site. However, in conditions of increasing globalised mobility, approaches to both fieldwork and language use within the field are changing. Using existing scholarship on minority-language communities in Europe alongside original fieldwork with Somali migrants in Glasgow, this article considers the dynamics of that relationship within the contexts of single-sited, multi-sited and online fields. It finds that, for an inquiry focused on both language use and mobility, established modes of thinking about the field are a methodologically restrictive practice on 'being there'. Instead, the authors argue for rethinking the field as a 'spoken' one where, with language at the fore, emphasis is placed on 'being there'.

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Joan F. Chevalier

Language contact between Russian and non-Russian-speaking populations in the Russian Federation has typically produced subtractive bilingualism with successive generations of ethnolingual minorities shifting to Russian. Tuvan, an Altai-Sayan Turkic language spoken in the Republic of Tyva in southern Siberia, displayed a high level of intergenerational transmission during the Soviet period. This interdisciplinary study examines the evolution of the Tuvan literary language and the key institutions supporting Tuvan language literacy. The article places the development of Tuvan language literacy in a historical perspective, viewing it as part of the overall evolution of Tuvan-Russian language contact. The article also reviews local policies enacted to revitalize Tuvan literacy since the end of the Soviet period.

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Romanticizing Difference

Identities in Transformation after World War I

Nadia Malinovich

This special issue explores the theme of essentialist discourses about languages, human collectivities, and human diversity during the interwar years, outside of explicitly racist or antisemitic perspectives.

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Seals and mountain spirits

Making tri-lingual folktale books

Kira Van Deusen

For political and economic reasons, oral storytelling has lagged behind other art forms in the Siberian cultural revival. The deep spiritual philosophy found in ancient tales can clarify and unite viable approaches to today's political, artistic and ecological concerns. Since most Siberian indigenous languages are considered to be threatened, if not almost extinct, and since languages are basic to stories, perhaps revival of storytelling can facilitate initiatives to preserve language. This article looks briefly at storytelling and language during the Soviet period and the first decade after, and describes two tri-lingual folktale book projects undertaken in collaboration with Udeghe and Khakassian folklorists and cultural activists.

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Frank Dabba Smith

Simeaon D. Baumel, Sacred Speakers, Language and Culture among the Haredim in Israel, Berghahn Books, 2006, 232 pp. £75, ISBN 1-84545-062-0

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Hilary Pomeroy

Readers of the autumn 2010 issue of European Judaism, devoted mainly to literature written in Ladino, the most usual term today to denote the vernacular language of Sephardi Jews (Judezmo, Hakitía or the neutral academic term Judeo-Spanish are also used), will be well aware of the perilous position of this once flourishing language, for it is on the verge of extinction. Sadly, many of the articles in this issue reinforce that depiction of Ladino’s precariousness today, for despite the growing interest in Ladino language and literature it is no longer a language of daily communication.

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Yitzhak Navon

On 17 March 1996 the Knesset (Israeli parliament) passed a law to set up two national authorities, one for Yiddish culture and the other for Ladino culture. Yiddish is a 1,000– year old language based on German with words and idioms from Hebrew, Aramaic and additional European languages. Ladino is approximately 500 years old and is based on Spanish, with words and idioms from Hebrew, Aramaic, Northern African languages, as well as Balkan languages and from other countries once under the domination of the Ottoman Empire.

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Judezmo

The Jewish Language of the Ottoman Sephardim

David M. Bunis

Judezmo, the traditional language of the Sephardic Jews of the former Ottoman Empire, is presented as a member of the group of Jewish languages, fusing elements of Ibero-Romance, Greek, Arabic, Ottoman Turkish, French, Italian and other linguistic stocks. In common with speakers of other Jewish languages, Judezmo speakers perceived their language as 'Jewish' and denoted it as such (Djudezmo, Djidyó). They wrote it in the Hebrew or 'Jewish' alphabet; used an archaizing variety of it (Ladino) to translate sacred Hebrew texts literally; and made frequent use in everyday language of words and phrases from Hebrew, and allusions to Hebrew texts, Jewish rituals and other facets of Judaism as a civilization. They preserved words from the pre-languages (Jewish Greek, Jewish Arabic) used by the ancestors of the Judezmo speakers in medieval Iberia, and following the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, incorporated much material from the languages spoken by ethnic groups encountered in the Ottoman Empire. Distinct from both medieval and modern Spanish, Judezmo served as a lingua franca among the Sephardim throughout the ethnically and linguistically diverse regions of the Eastern Mediterranean. A special variety functioned as a secret code among Sephardic merchants. Today, Judezmo is treasured by its speakers as the unique, independent Jewish language of the Mediterranean Sephardim. However, the number of its speakers is constantly decreasing, making Judezmo an endangered language.