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Documenting Poland’s Heritage Languages: The Challenge of Polish Yiddish

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  1. Documenting Poland’s Heritage Languages: The Challenge of Polish Yiddish Michael Hornsby (with Tomasz Wicherkiewicz) KatolickiUniwersytetLubelski Jana Pawła II, Lublin, Poland

  2. Documenting the languages of the Second Polish Commonwealth: • Docelowy repertuar zagrożonych języków obejmować ma bazy danych dotyczących odmian używanych przez wspólnoty komunikatywne Rzeczypospolitej, a charakteryzujących się znacznym stopniem zagrożenia wymarciem • Characteristics of selected languages : • Endangerment • Communicative • High probability of extinction • (Wicherkiewicz 2011)

  3. 1922 • The Commonwealth bordered Czechoslovakia, Germany, the Free City of Danzig, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania and the Soviet Union, plus a tiny strip of the coastline of the Baltic Sea, around the city of Gdynia • An area of 388,634 km² (sixth largest in Europe) • 27.2 million inhabitants • 1939 • 35.1 million inhabitants. Almost a third of these were of minority groups: 13.9m

  4. Lukowski, Jerzy, and Hubert Zawadzki. A Concise History of Poland. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Page 224

  5. dialektyiodmianyjęzykajidysz dialektylitewskie dialektyłatgalskie dialektybiałoruskie dialektyukraińskie przejściowedialektypolsko-białorusko-ukraińskieipoleskie rosyjskiedialektystaroobrzędowców dialektyłemkowskie dialektyspisko-magurskieiorawskie, dialektylaskie czeskidialektZelowaiKucowa, orazdialektyczeskieKotlinyKłodzkiej niemieckiedialektywyspowe – Bielitz-BialaerSprachinsel dialektydolnoniemieckie (w tymdialektmenonitów) dialektyromani dialektykaraimskie Varieties of Yiddish Dialects of Lithuanian Latgalian dialects Belarusian dialects Dialects of Ukrainian ‘Kresy’ (border) dialects Russian Oldbeliever dialects Lemko dialects Dialects of Spis-Maguraand Orava Lach dialects Czech dialects of Zelowaand Kucowa and of KotlinaKłodzka Germanic varieties of Wilamowice and Hałcnów Low German dialects (including Mennonites) Roma dialects Karaite dialects

  6. What challenges are involved in the documentation of Yiddish? Which Yiddish? Selection of texts Selection of speakers

  7. Cagé(2007)

  8. Which texts to use? • Wide range of texts • RP had the choice of which text(s) to read

  9. Which speakers? What speakers might we have expected to find? (Grineveld & Bert 2011) • Fluent speaker 3 (+ ≈ 10) • Semi-speaker - • Terminal speaker 1 • Remembers - • Ghost speakers - • Neo-speaker . . . • Last speaker - (Territorial speaker) 2

  10. Some issues • Tensions of standardization

  11. Multilingual speakers • Polylanguaging/translanguaging

  12. Polylanguaging/translanguaging • It is increasingly acknowledged by sociolinguists that “languages” as separate bounded groups of features is an idea which does not represent or describe real language use (Makoni and Pennycook 2006, Heller 2007, Jørgensen 2008; Jørgensen et al 2011). • ‘Translanguaging’ or ‘polylanguaging’ is the phenomenon that speakers employ linguistic resources at their disposal which are associated with different ‘languages’, including the cases in which the speakers know only few features associated with a given ‘language’ (Møller 2008, Jørgensen 2010). • Yiddish, English, Polish, Ukrainian, Russian.

  13. Fragmentation/authentication

  14. Authenticity For speakers of minority languages, a standardized form of the language is not ‘authentic’ (‘Klal Yiddish sounds too German’); cf. “linguistic mundaneness” (Bucholtz 2003: 405) • Authentication It is the tactic of authentication that produces authenticity as its effect. Thus sociolinguists should speak not of authenticity but more accurately of authenticity effects, achieved through the authenticating practices of those who use and evaluate language … authenticity is always achieved rather than given in social life, although this achievement is often rendered invisible (Bucholtz2003: 410)

  15. Fragmentation • Fragmentation Minority languages resist attempts at standardization which more prestigious, more widely spoken languages do not (cf. accents in Polish and in English). Deacon (1996: 93): attributes of postmodernity include the ‘growing perception of fragmentation, particularity, difference and contingency’.

  16. Conclusions The particular problems of the Yiddish strand of the project: Demographics – sheer loss of numbers Locations – speakers of pre-war varieties of Yiddish are now unlikely to be found in Poland (cf. response of one ‘gatekeeper’ in London, July 2012) Dialect vs. standard Yiddish Who is a ‘good’ enough speaker? (researcher ideologies; RP ideologies) Some wider issues: Majority/minority dichotomy – when we find a Yiddish speaker, we also find a Russian, English, Polish, Romanian, etc, speaker. PLURILINGUALISM (cf. recording issues). ‘Authentic’ language – this seems to be contested on a regular basis (RP responses).

  17. References Bucholtz, Mary. 2003. Sociolinguistic nostalgia and the authentication of identity. Journal of Sociolinguistics 7:3, 398‐416. Cagé, Christophe. 2007. Carte des dialectes Yiddish entre le XVe et le XIXesiècle / Map of Yiddish dialects between XVth and XIXth century. Inspiréde Histoire Universelle des Juifs, Hachette, 1992, page 193. Available online at (accessed 04 August 2012). Dean, Bernard. 1996. Language revival and language debate. Modernity and postmodernity. Cornish Studies 4. Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 88- 106. Grineveld, Colette & Michel Bert. 2011. Speakers and communities. In Austin, Peter K. & Julia Sallabank (eds.). The Cambridge Handbook of Endangered Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 45-65. Heller, M. 2007. Bilingualism: a social approach. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Jørgensen, N. 2008. Polylinguallanguaging around and among children and adolescents. International Journal of Multilingualism 5(3), 161–176. Jørgensen, J. N. 2010. Languaging. Nine years of poylingual development of Turkish-Danish grade school students, vol. 1-2. Copenhagen Studies in Bilingualism, the Køge Series, vol. K15-K16.

  18. Jørgensen, J. N., M. S. Karrebæk, L. M. Madsen, J. S. Møller. 2011. Polylanguaging in Superdiversity. In: Diversities Journal Fall 2011, 32-54. Lukowski, Jerzy, and Hubert Zawadzki. 2006. A Concise History of Poland. New York: Cambridge University Press. Makoni, S. & A. Pennycook 2007. Disinventing and reconstituting languages. In S.Makoni& A. Pennycook (eds.).Disinventing and reconstituting languages. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, 1–41. Møller, J. 2008. Polylingual performance among Turkish-Danes in Late-Modern Copenhagen. International Journal of Multilingualism 5 (3), 217–236.