Conference Main Theme

This year’s focus is on the interface between linguistic endangerment and Diaspora. We invite theoretical and empirical studies that investigate phenomena emerging in this interface. From about 7000 languages spoken today in the world, about half are expected to die by the end of this century, with those most endangered already losing functions and speakers every week. Many of them are languages of diasporic communities. We welcome studies by scholars from multiple disciplines and methods, and also reports by activists, that examine the state of endangered languages in the linguistic, cultural, religious, ethnic and political ecosystems of diasporas, especially with regard to the proximity/distance between the communities and countries of origin. The emphasis is on linguistic endangerment as it relates to diaspora communities perceived either traditionally, as crystallized, physically “dwelling” in a country away from the homeland; or, in a novel sense, perceived as fluid, hybrid, “travelling”, transnational entities. This conference is not about the theoretical study of diaspora per se, nor its conceptualization.

bridge Tirana

 

Open list of suggested general topics in relation to the main theme of the conference
  • Forms and factors of language maintenance and language reclamation in the old diaspora communities
  • The role of language maintenance for the identity of diaspora communities
  • Communities of endangered diaspora languages and issues of identity and identification with the origin in old and new narratives
  • Language and religion: history of adaptation, transformation, and loss
  • Nostalgia for the “old language” and the “old country” as a factor for maintenance
  • Women, mothers, grandmothers - their role in the maintenance and revitalization of the endangered languages of diaspora
  • Rebuilding the broken linguistic and cultural bridge through fact and myth – linguistic commodification and authenticity in diaspora communities
  • Linguistic encounters of new emigrant groups with their old kin diaspora communities
  • The linguistic effects on endangerment of voluntary and grassroots activism across kin communities
  • Producing materials for the endangered languages: issues of codification, orthography, dictionaries, grammars etc. and the use of old documents vs. new standards in the process
  • Diaspora endangered languages as effective repositories of rare and lost linguistic features
  • The effects of cultural and political ties between host and mother states on the endangered languages of diaspora communities - Endangered languages caught among kin-state, kin-minority, and host-state politics
  • The endangered languages and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages – the role of host and kin states
  • Generational linguistic gap and language schools in the new diaspora
  • Endangered languages of stateless diaspora communities

Relative to the main theme, we would also like to underline the strong local ties the main topic of the conference has with old and recent focal cases in the area of the conference: Albania, the country of the conference, the Western Balkans, the entire Mediterranean, and Europe at large.

a) Strategically situated in a zone populated by various endangered languages and old and new diasporas, Tirana’s conference will easily draw contributions about diverse case-studies and endangerment situations not only from the Balkans and Italy, but from Northern Africa, Middle East and the rest of Europe. Yet, the conference welcomes contributions from all the continents offering a much larger stage for discussion and advancement of knowledge and practice relevant to endangered languages.

b) The Balkans are a small peninsula with rich linguistic encounters, where different branches of IE and non-IE languages have lived in contact: Albanian, Greek, Latin, Slavic languages have met for centuries with Semitic, Turkic and Finno-Ugric languages. Most of these groups of speakers in the passing of the centuries have created their own diasporas (the Old Diasporas) around the Mediterranean and the world. Almost all of the surviving languages of these old diaspora communities are minority and minoritized languages that today have an endangered status, like Arbëresh, Arvanitika, Arbanasi, Judaeo-Spanish (Ladin), Griko, Slavo-molisano, Algherese, and Istriot, to mention just a few. The Balkan linguistic repertoire also includes endangered non-territorial languages, like different varieties of Rromani.

c) The conference is close to a critical problem in the Balkan countries that needs to be investigated from a linguistic endangerment perspective as well: the particular role the more recent diaspora communities (new diasporas) have today for Albania, and for the region of the Western Balkans in general. As an example, just in the last three decades (after the fall of Communism), between one third to half of the whole Albanian population has left Albania in search of a better life. The country still today has one of the world’s highest emigration rates. These trends are common in all the Western Balkans and are becoming increasingly recurrent in other Mediterranean countries. The high outwards mobility of the population, especially of younger generations, has often resulted in phenomena of language contact and language loss in the new countries, as well as in efforts to maintain these languages.