Planning language practices and representations of identity within the Gallo community in Brittany : a case of language maintenance

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Date

2010-12

Authors

Rey, Cécile Hélène Christiane

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Abstract

This study focuses on the representations of the Gallo language spoken in the Eastern part of Brittany among elder native speakers (group 1) and students of Gallo (group 2). Jones & Singh (2005) and Williams (2000) both stress the importance of an asserted community identity for language transmission and the active involvement of community members in the revitalization process. In light of these two studies and the revitalization models proposed by Grenoble & Whaley (2005), the present research establishes that, in order to obtain a more appropriate and possibly successful revitalization program, it is necessary to consult and probe the approval of native speakers of Gallo. Informants from both groups show little involvement in language planning activities; in contrast, revitalization efforts in the last decades have increased within associative and militant groups. Based on the findings of Jones & Singh (2005) and Williams (2000) on Jersey Norman French and Welsh respectively, this study provides evidence that Gallo is on the verge of achieving a different status. The framework used for the fieldwork was adapted from Boas TGPD project on Texas German (2001). Most of the interviews were conducted in a private setting. Two groups of individuals were involved in this study: older, native speakers (41) and students (17), and half of the respondents participated in a follow-up interview (1-2 hours). The results of field research on language attitudes show a positive Gallo identity: 50% of the native speakers answered that Gallo was part of their identity as much as French and 78.6% of the students selected the same statement. Only 20% of group 1 and 21.4% of group 2 declared that Gallo was not an important part of their identity. In the same set of questions on identity and representations, 90% of group 1 and 85.7% of group 2 expressed positive linguistic attitudes when asked whether or not speaking and/or understanding Gallo was valuable. Overall, above 80% of the informants think that the knowledge of Gallo is an advantage. This research demonstrates that the speech community expresses a more positive Gallo identity than expected, one of the main factors necessary to secure language maintenance.

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