2019 International year of indigenous languages

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Antea
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2019 International year of indigenous languages

Postby Antea » 2018-12-30, 16:24

What is exactly an indigenous language? Is there a list of indigenous languages? And are you planning to learn one of these languages next year, as a challenge?

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Re: 2019 International year of indigenous languages

Postby vijayjohn » 2018-12-30, 20:53

My understanding of the term "indigenous languages" is essentially the oldest languages known to be spoken within a particular geographical area. In a lot of cases, we know those languages no longer have any native speakers and have little to no records of them. At least in the Americas, some of these languages are associated with groups of people who are still very much alive, and I have read a statement from a member of one of these groups IIRC objecting to the use of words like "dead" or "extinct" to refer to his language on the grounds that this suggests that the people who used to speak this language and the associated culture are also dead (unfortunately, I can't seem to find it anymore).

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Re: 2019 International year of indigenous languages

Postby IpseDixit » 2018-12-30, 21:38

vijayjohn wrote:My understanding of the term "indigenous languages" is essentially the oldest languages known to be spoken within a particular geographical area. In a lot of cases, we know those languages no longer have any native speakers and have little to no records of them


Even if this language has been completely dead for millenia? I would find it a bit weird to say that Etruscan is the indigenous language of Tuscany.

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Re: 2019 International year of indigenous languages

Postby voron » 2018-12-30, 21:55

I'd say that this term doesn't apply well to Europe.

What are the indigenous languages of Belarus? As far as I know there aren't records of any other language spoken here besides Slavic.

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Re: 2019 International year of indigenous languages

Postby vijayjohn » 2018-12-30, 22:08

IpseDixit wrote:Even if this language has been completely dead for millenia?

I don't see why not...
I would find it a bit weird to say that Etruscan is the indigenous language of Tuscany.

Why?
voron wrote:What are the indigenous languages of Belarus?

Belarusian?

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Re: 2019 International year of indigenous languages

Postby IpseDixit » 2018-12-30, 22:13

vijayjohn wrote:
I would find it a bit weird to say that Etruscan is the indigenous language of Tuscany.

Why?


Because Latin and then Italian have been the two languages spoken here for millenia. I don't see why they should be somehow considered less indigenous than Etruscan.

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Re: 2019 International year of indigenous languages

Postby vijayjohn » 2018-12-30, 22:34

IpseDixit wrote:
vijayjohn wrote:
I would find it a bit weird to say that Etruscan is the indigenous language of Tuscany.

Why?


Because Latin and then Italian have been the two languages spoken here for millenia. I don't see why they should be somehow considered less indigenous than Etruscan.

I'm not sure the term "indigenous language" has to be equally relevant for all parts of the world. I don't see how that's possible, really; I don't see the harm in saying Malayalam is indigenous to Kerala and that Tonkawa is indigenous to Central Texas, but the relevance of each of those languages being indigenous is different because the histories of those areas are different. If I'm not much mistaken, Etruscan is the oldest language we specifically know was spoken in Tuscany, but at least IMO, calling it indigenous doesn't have to mean that it's somehow more relevant to the history of Tuscany than Latin or Italian is.

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Re: 2019 International year of indigenous languages

Postby Linguaphile » 2018-12-31, 1:01

Trying to find a "United Nations" definition of the term, I came across this, apparently last updated in 2010. I don't know if any formal definitions have been created since then, but this one sounds reasonable to me:
United Nations-system body has never adopted a definition of the concept of “indigenous peoples”. The prevailing view today is that no formal universal definition of the term is necessary, given that a single definition will inevitably be either over- or under-inclusive, making sense in some societies but not in others. For practical purposes, the commonly accepted understanding of the term is that provided in the Jose R. Martinez Cobo’s Study on the Problem of Discrimination against Indigenous Populations. The working definition reads as follows:

Indigenous communities, peoples and nations are those which, having a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies that developed on their territories, consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the societies now prevailing on those territories, or parts of them. They form at present non-dominant sectors of society and are determined to preserve, develop and transmit to future generations their ancestral territories, and their ethnic identity, as the basis of their continued existence as peoples, in accordance with their own cultural patterns, social institutions and legal system. Full quote here

I interpret that to mean more or less that it includes any community that has a long history in a given territory (usually, but I assume not always, long enough to be considered among the "original inhabitants" of the place) but that it is also (1) not the dominant language and/or culture of that territory today and (2) still exists today in some form. A more succinct way to say it might be to say that indigenous languages are those spoken by non-immigrant minority groups. With that definition, Etruscan doesn't fit because it is not "at present a non-dominate sector of society determined to preserve, develop and transmit... cultural patterns" and so on. Likewise, Belarusian and Italian wouldn't be considered indigenous according to that definition because speakers of those languages don't generally "consider them distinct from other sectors of the societies now prevailing on those territories" (assuming by "those territories" we mean Belarus and Italy).

Also, the International Year of Indigenous Languages website states that 90 countries have indigenous communities, which seems to fit with the above definition - i.e. that not every country necessarily has indigenous communities or indigenous languages. For example, Belarus probably doesn't by this definition. This makes me think they are probably using a definition like the one above. They are not using a definition in which every country has an indigenous community by default.

But I think the first line that I quoted above is probably the most significant one: "No formal universal definition of the term is necessary, given that a single definition will inevitably be either over- or under-inclusive, making sense in some societies but not in others." I would tend to agree with that.

There is also this slightly circuitous statement (circuitous because although it gives indigenous peoples the right to determine their own identity, it gives that right only to indigenous peoples, which implies that there are groups that don't have that right, which implies that someone other than the indigenous peoples could determine which groups those are....) Anyway it allows for various definitions set by the communities themselves:
Article 33 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to determine their own identity or membership in accordance with their customs and traditions.

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Re: 2019 International year of indigenous languages

Postby md0 » 2018-12-31, 7:22

voron wrote:I'd say that this term doesn't apply well to Europe.

I more or less agree with you.
The term makes such more sense in the rest of the world which was colonised by Europe, and especially in settler colonies where there were/are systematic culture eradication programmes in place.
It doesn't even really apply to Cyprus, which was a colony, but where the British didn't really feel the need to "civilise" us like they did in other parts of the world. I don't think the term applies to the British and French mandate countries of the Middle East either.

I think this term leaves out languages like Cypriot Maronite Arabic, which is probably the second oldest* still-used language in Cyprus.

*as in, it was the first ethnolinguistic group to establish significant presence through migration on the island after the Greek migration and subsequent Hellenisation.
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Re: 2019 International year of indigenous languages

Postby Car » 2018-12-31, 10:24

md0 wrote:
voron wrote:I'd say that this term doesn't apply well to Europe.

I more or less agree with you.
The term makes such more sense in the rest of the world which was colonised by Europe, and especially in settler colonies where there were/are systematic culture eradication programmes in place.


I've mostly seen it used for the New World. Although I wonder if it shouldn't be applied to the Basque?
Please correct my mistakes!

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Re: 2019 International year of indigenous languages

Postby md0 » 2018-12-31, 11:08

I was thinking to what extend it can be applied to France and its linguistic oppression.
There's something about European-style Nationalism that feels qualitatively different than colonialism outside Europe.
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Re: 2019 International year of indigenous languages

Postby IpseDixit » 2018-12-31, 12:32

md0 wrote:I was thinking to what extend it can be applied to France and its linguistic oppression.


I think pretty much any major European nation state was at some point in time involved in some kind of linguistic oppression. That's an inevitable consequence when you decide that your nation is going to have just one national language.

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Re: 2019 International year of indigenous languages

Postby md0 » 2018-12-31, 14:03

IpseDixit wrote:
md0 wrote:I was thinking to what extend it can be applied to France and its linguistic oppression.


I think pretty much any major European nation state was at some point in time involved in some kind of linguistic oppression. That's an inevitable consequence when you decide that your nation is going to have just one national language.

That's true. Not only major ones, even tiny communities like the Turkish Cypriot community or the Armenian Cypriot community engaged in linguistic oppression within their own ethnic group.

France is kind for a shorthand for this way of linguistic oppression based on forging a national identity, because they are the codifier of this practice.

I guess that's the main difference: in Europe, you oppressed the linguistic diversity within the group you believed is your own. In the colonies, they never believed those people where part of their group, or they didn't even believe that those people were people.
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Re: 2019 International year of indigenous languages

Postby Antea » 2018-12-31, 14:38

After reflecting about it, I think that the term “indigenous “ is possibly a little bit racist. Because maybe they’re referring to languages spoken by “Indians”, I mean not from India, but as the autochthonous population living in the territories object of conquest. But why is the autochthonous populations are called “Indians” with “Indigenous languages” and not the other way round? :hmm: Maybe because of racism... :roll:

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Re: 2019 International year of indigenous languages

Postby IpseDixit » 2018-12-31, 15:08

md0 wrote:I guess that's the main difference: in Europe, you oppressed the linguistic diversity within the group you believed is your own. In the colonies, they never believed those people where part of their group, or they didn't even believe that those people were people.


Yeah, I mean, I have little doubt that Europe's linguistic minorities fared way better than non-European peoples in the overseas colonies, however none of this is really mentioned explicitely in the aforementioned definition so I kind of feel we're making up this distinction just because we feel there should be such distinction.

Antea wrote:After reflecting about it, I think that the term “indigenous “ is possibly a little bit racist. Because maybe they’re referring to languages spoken by “Indians”, I mean not from India, but as the autochthonous population living in the territories object of conquest. But why is the autochthonous populations are called “Indians” with “Indigenous languages” and not the other way round? :hmm: Maybe because of racism... :roll:


I'm not sure I understand what you mean but the word "indigenous" has nothing to do with the word "Indian". "Indigenous" comes from Latin and it means "generated from within".

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Re: 2019 International year of indigenous languages

Postby Antea » 2018-12-31, 15:33

IpseDixit wrote:I'm not sure I understand what you mean but the word "indigenous" has nothing to do with the word "Indian". "Indigenous" comes from Latin and it means "generated from within".


Ah, Ok. I didn’t now about it’s origin.

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Re: 2019 International year of indigenous languages

Postby Antea » 2018-12-31, 15:47

But still, I don’t understand very well the difference between indigenous and non indigenous languages :roll:

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Re: 2019 International year of indigenous languages

Postby Luís » 2018-12-31, 15:49

IpseDixit wrote:"Indigenous" comes from Latin and it means "generated from within".


I just realized "indigenous" and "endogenous" basically mean the same thing in the original Latin/Greek.
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Re: 2019 International year of indigenous languages

Postby IpseDixit » 2018-12-31, 16:42

Antea wrote:But still, I don’t understand very well the difference between indigenous and non indigenous languages :roll:


It seems that none of us really does :lol:

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Re: 2019 International year of indigenous languages

Postby Linguaphile » 2018-12-31, 17:55

IpseDixit wrote:none of this is really mentioned explicitely in the aforementioned definition so I kind of feel we're making up this distinction just because we feel there should be such distinction.

Yes, I think so too. I think the definition above can apply equally to, for example (to list a few that I'm familiar with from various regions) the languages spoken the Muskogee, Mixtec, and Aymara communities of the Americas; the Hmong, Ainu, and Assyrians of Asia; the Saami, Seto, and Basque communities of Europe; the Maasai, Tuareg, and Ga communities of Africa; the Pintupi, Djabugay, and Yolngu communities of Australia; and so on. (I have just mentioned three from each region at random here; of course there many others.) My point is just that I think the definition above can fit any of these languages. The definition does mention "pre-invasion or pre-colonial," but I guess I understood that to mean any sort of migration into a territory by people who weren't the first people there, not only colonialism. Basically, any culture that was marginalized or minoritized in its native country. The fact that there are differences in the historical contexts and current situations of the communities in different regions, and the fact that some are much better off than others (however you define that), doesn't make any of them "less" indigenous than the others. To discuss those differences among them, I think we'd have to use a different term besides "indigenous". :?:


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