Research projects

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The Last Catalan-Native Speakers in North Catalonia (French Catalonia) and their Folk Verbal Culture (2015-2017)

Catalan has been for long the usual language in oral communication among native people in the currently known as North-Catalonia region up to the middle Twentieth Century. A breakdown in language transmission yielded language shift to French and the progressive loss of Catalan by native speakers. The causes were multifarious, from compulsory schooling in French –outlawing Catalan–, the military service, youth mobilization in two World Wars, State hegemonic discourse and apparatus up to the arrival of mass media. Nowadays native speakers of Catalan are over eighty years old. The aim of the project is to meet these oldest speakers and record their speech, verbal culture and traditional knowledge. An archive of audio and audiovisual recorded material is to be achieved and a book on the topic to be written. This goal will turn into a helpful means for those youngers and children who turn back to their grandparents’ language in an ongoing revitalization process.

Joan Miralles Oral History Archive (AHOJM) (2014-2017)

The Joan Miralles Oral History Archive (AHOJM) includes the audio and/or video recordings conducted by Joan Miralles i Monserrat since 1969. In the early years the recording was done with a reel to reel Grundig TK14 L tape recorder, and afterwards with different cassette and video devices. The material has been recently digitized and sound quality has been improved. The total number of recordings reaches 700 hours.

The materials have been classified into six thematic groups according to the category of interlocutors or the subject of the recordings. The UNESCO Chair project currently focuses on one of the following groups:

Gent des Pla [People from the lowlands]. Its aim is to reconstruct the daily life of people in the region of the Majorca lowlands, which are away from the coast, from the Restoration through the Civil War, through oral sources, supplemented with written sources and images. The subjects are quite varied: life history, knowledge of nature, material folk culture, oral folk culture, practices and traditions, beliefs and local history. The recordings were made between 1969 and 1994 with the participation of 310 informants.

The data in the informants’ files will be completed and the interviews transcribed following the criteria adopted by the Technical Committee for Linguistic Assessment (CTAL, Comissió Tècnica d’Assessorament Lingüístic) and the Philology Section of the Institut d’Estudis Catalans. A database will be built in order to help search through the material. Graphic material (e.g. old photographs and written documents, either manuscript or unpublished, complementing oral sources, along with recent pictures of people or places in relation to the interview). A conventional publication with a CD will include all this material.

Linguistic normalization and the process of pedagogical renewal through the study of the models applied to Catalonia. A comparative analysis of the state of application of legislation on linguistic minorities in Catalonia and Italy (2012)

The project was commissioned by the Autonomous Region of Sardinia, which also funded it.

A comparative study of Catalan and Italian legislation on minority communities and the promotion of minority languages, as well as the process of pedagogical renewal in Catalonia in relation to the processes initiated by new Italian policy focused on minorities and their languages, especially Sardinian, the variety of Catalan spoken in Alghero and other languages and varieties spoken in Sardinia.

—  Legge Regionale 15 ottobre 1997, n. 26. Promozione e valorizzazione della cultura e della lingua della Sardegna

Legge 15 dicembre 1999, n. 482. Norme in materia di tutela delle minoranze linguistiche storiche (Gazzetta Ufficiale n. 297 del 20 dicembre 1999)

The conclusions of the research were published in Giuliana Porta’s book Política lingüística i renovament pedagògic a Catalunya i a Sardenya / Política lingüística e rinnovamento pedagogico in Catalogna e in Sardegna. Càtedra UNESCO de Llengües i Educació de l’Institut d’Estudis Catalans i Regione Autònoma de Sardigna (ed.). Gràfica Parteolla, Dolianova, Itàlia. 2012.

Alghero as a linguistic enclave: codes, language ideologies, sociolinguistic processes (2008-2011)

In collaboration with the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

Interdisciplinary study on current sociolinguistic dynamics in Alghero, as a Catalan-speaking area in Sardinia, and about its historical, literary and ethnopoetic aspects.

From a sociolinguistic point of view, the research focused on the regression and progression processes of Catalan language in Alghero, taking into account the functional restriction of the language as well as its formal reduction, i.e. its process of linguistic erosion. The cultural identity of the inhabitants in Alghero was also analysed by means of the ‘linguistic biographies’ methodological approach. The coexistence of emerging codes in the village was analysed (local Catalan, called alguerès, Sardinian, Italian and non-local Catalan) along with the impact of Catalan tourism on the island, insofar as it affected the local job market. Competing language ideologies were also analysed.

From a historical and literary point of view, the project addressed aspects of cultural history; the study and edition of Eduard Toda’s unpublished work are ongoing tasks, based on Eduardo Toda’s Archives and Manuscripts in the National Library in Madrid, as well as material from graphic files. Some texts were published for the first time.

The relationship between some genres of oral culture in Alghero and Catalonia were studied from an ethnopoetic point of view. Rafael Caria’s poetic work was also edited.

Several publications by the team members working in different disciplinary fields appear in international and local publications. The project also published the joint work Enclavaments lingüístics i comunitats locals: el català a Sardenya, i entre els gitanos catalans (Càtedra UNESCO de Llengües i Educació de l’Institut d’Estudis Catalans. Barcelona, 2014).

Two PhD theses defended:

Enrico Chessa, Another case of language death? The intergenerational transmission of Catalan in Alghero. University of London, 2011.

Sophia Simon, Identità lingüística e culturale degli algheresi. Un approccio biográfico-linguistico, Universiät Zürich, 2014.

Manual of best linguistic practices for an NGDO (2004-2007)

The aim of the project is the identification, formulation and, eventually, the implementation of best linguistic practices in international cooperation activities.

A field study was undertaken to ascertain how linguistic diversity was managed in the relationship with counterparts in education activities and in real-life situations. The study consisted of interviews with thirty-two non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and forty-two voluntary workers from the Catalan area.

After completing the field study, transcribing the data and writing the report on the field study, a draft for a proposal of best linguistic practices for an NGDO (non-governmental development organisation) was produced and shown to the Catalan Agency for Development Cooperation (Agència Catalana de Cooperació al Desenvolupament) and the Foreign Affairs Secretary of the Catalan Government (Secretaria d’Afers Exteriors de la Generalitat de Catalunya).

With the aim of publicising and debating the research aim, meetings were held with different NGDOs, along with lectures and publications.

This report, addressed to NGDOs, voluntary workers, members of brigades and counterparts, has yet to be supplemented with a brief guide in order to help manage diversity and offer resources to voluntary workers and NGDOs.

Due to reasons beyond the Chair’s control, the work was not completed.

The Chair contacted an NGO and a university in the Basque country and provided them with all the documents collected. After a period of collaboration, the project was halted. Eventually the UNESCO Chair in World Language Heritage (Euskal Herriko Univertsitatea) has undertaken a similar project, the results of which have been published.