HomeSchools and languages in areas faced with linguistic division throughout history

HomeSchools and languages in areas faced with linguistic division throughout history

Schools and languages in areas faced with linguistic division throughout history

L'école et les langues dans les espaces en situation de partage linguistique à travers l’histoire

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Published on Friday, September 18, 2015 by Céline Guilleux

Summary

Many times throughout history, the situation has occurred in which different linguistic practices share the same physical space. These practices differ according to social strata as well as social usage and type of interaction. Western Brittany has certainly found itself in this situation, even in the 20th century, when, according to Pierre Jakez Hélias’ account, the Breton language reigned supreme in villages, on the street, in businesses and the church, while French was limited to schools and interactions between the city and public institutions.

Announcement

Argument

Many times throughout history, the situation has occurred in which different linguistic practices share the same physical space. These practices differ according to social strata as well as social usage and type of interaction. Western Brittany has certainly found itself in this situation, even in the 20th century, when, according to Pierre Jakez Hélias’ account, the Breton language reigned supreme in villages, on the street, in businesses and the church, while French was limited to schools and interactions between the city and public institutions.

However, it is important to realise that such situations are not exclusive to outlying regions with strong linguistic idiosyncrasies. The patois of the country folk in Molière is a source of comedy for the city dwellers, who have evolved in another, albeit not so distant, linguistic environment. At that time, a third language had also taken root, at once dead and living, the prerogative of and object of diligent study for the upper classes for a part of their education. We are, of course, talking about Latin, which was used as an administrative and intellectual language for a longer period of time elsewhere in Europe and in certain global institutions than in France. Father Julien Maunoir, a Jesuit priest from French-speaking Upper Brittany assigned to the college in Quimper in the 17th century, used three languages adapted to different types of interaction: French for everyday communication in the town or formal communication with the upper classes, Latin for teaching and certain administrative procedures of his order, and the vernacular, Breton in this case, to evangelise the countryside peasants as part of his pastoral work.

While the Church may have recognised the need to speak the language of its flock, emerging nation states were often tempted to impose linguistic uniformity. The “language policy” started by the French Revolution considered “patois” to be obstacles to the expansion of the Republic and sought to eradicate them, notably using schools[1]. The real impact of and methods implemented with this policy on the ground are yet to be studied. Additionally, the matter of the role of schools in a context of coexisting, indeed conflictual, languages still arises irrespective of any proactive policy.

However, we are not only interested in conflict between clearly differentiated linguistic groups (such as French/Breton, German/Czech), we would also like to look more broadly at conflict between formal and informal variations within the same linguistic group. The idea of dialect, in the sense more often used in Germanic countries, is certainly more relevant here than the concept of patois. There are many possible variations on this theme: language of the upper classes vs. language of the lower classes, city languages vs. country languages, language of power vs. language of the subject, scholarly language vs. the vernacular, native languages vs. language of the occupiers or colonisers. This issue should also be considered differently depending on the level of education in question, from primary school to university.

The questions we are most interested in regarding this theme are the following:

  1. What role do schools play in language? This clearly depends on the context, which varies according to location and period in history, as well as the level of education. According to these factors, the role of schools could come down to providing formal language, the language of administration, literature, and national cohesion. The latter may also imply the following on an ideological level: the language of revolution, the nation, socialism, the language of religion (Literary Arabic in the Muslim world or Latin in Catholic countries).
  2. What is the relationship between these languages within schools? What procedures are in place to separate the use of languages or exclude one or more languages entirely?
  3. What are the teaching methods used to convert pupils or students from their mother tongue to an official language? On the other hand, what are the methods used to repress the mother tongue (punishment, humiliation, stigmatisation using a “symbole[2]; what level of leniency is granted over usage and deviation from the rules?
  4. What status does a language acquire from being encouraged, imposed, acknowledged, or tolerated at school? This also relates to foreign languages when they function as carriers of new cultural models distinctive of an elite and are in fact used within this group as a means of communication: for example, Italian, Spanish, French, and English in turn in the nobility and high society, at least in certain parts of Europe.
  5. How far-reaching are these effects? Is the role of the education system in the evolution of linguistic practices not sometimes overestimated, particularly regarding the vernacular? Can schools change linguistic usage over the long-term or even save a language?

[1] Michel de Certeau, Domiique Julia, Jacques Revel, Une politique de la langue: la Révolution française et les patois: l'enquête de Grégoire, 1975, updated second edition, Paris: Gallimard, 2002.

[2] The “symbole” was an item (a clog, a skittle) given to a child when caught speaking his/her native language

Submission guidelines

Deadline for submitting proposals for papers: 30 September 2015

Provide a title, a description of the paper of between 1,500 and 3,000 characters, as well as some personal information and details of publications (institutional role, speciality(ies), and a few publications related to the subject or field).

Organisation

Colloquium organised by CRBC (Centre de Recherche Bretonne et Celtique, EA 4451) and supported by ATRHE (Association transdisciplinaire pour les recherches historiques sur l’éducation)

Chair

Jean-Luc Le Cam, Associate Professor of Modern History

Jean-Luc.LeCam@univ-brest.fr

Scientific committee

  • Nelly Blanchard, Celtique, Université de Bretagne Occidentale, Brest
  • Jean-Luc Le Cam, Histoire moderne, Université de Bretagne Occidentale, Brest
  • Erwan Le Pipec, Sociolinguistique, Université de Bretagne Occidentale, Brest
  • Youenn Michel,  Sciences de l’éducation, Université  de  Caen-Basse-Normandie.
  • Serge Tomamichel, Sciences de l’éducation, Université de Lyon 2

Venue

Pôle universitaire Pierre Jakez Hélias, Université de Bretagne occidentale, Quimper

Date: 19-20 May 2016.

Working languages

  • French,
  • English

Places

  • Pôle universitaire Pierre Jakez Hélias - 18 Avenue de la Plage des Gueux
    Quimper, France (29)

Date(s)

  • Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Keywords

  • enseignement, langue, sociolinguistique, école, méthode, pédagogie

Contact(s)

  • Jean-Luc Le Cam
    courriel : Jean-Luc [dot] LeCam [at] univ-brest [dot] fr

Information source

  • Jean-Luc Le Cam
    courriel : Jean-Luc [dot] LeCam [at] univ-brest [dot] fr

To cite this announcement

« Schools and languages in areas faced with linguistic division throughout history », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Friday, September 18, 2015, https://calenda.org/339295

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