SPAIN IN WAR OF WORDS OVER ANCIENT TONGUES

Posted on in Politica e lingue 4 vedi

SPAIN IN WAR OF WORDS OVER ANCIENT TONGUES

BY MATT SPETALNICK
BILBAO, SPAIN, SEPT 3 (REUTERS) – WHEN AGURTZANE URIARTE WAS A SCHOOLGIRL GROWING UP IN THE 1960S, YOUNG BASQUES IN HER TOWN WERE SOMETIMES BEATEN OR JAILED IF CAUGHT SPEAKING THEIR ANCIENT MOTHER TONGUE.
AT SCHOOL, TEACHERS ADMONISHED URIARTE AND HER CLASSMATES TO "SPEAK CHRISTIAN" — SYNONYMOUS WITH CASTILIAN SPANISH, THE ONLY LANGUAGE OFFICIALLY SANCTIONED UNDER SPANISH DICTATOR FRANCISCO FRANCO.
ANYTHING ELSE WAS STRICTLY FORBIDDEN.
THE BASQUE LANGUAGE EUSKERA, WITH ITS ORIGINS AS OLD AND IMPENETRABLE AS THE REGION’S THICKLY FORESTED HILLS, HAD TO BE TAUGHT IN SECRET, SOMETIMES IN CHURCHES UNDER THE COVER OF CATECHISM CLASSES.
CATALAN — A ROMANCE TONGUE SPOKEN FOR CENTURIES IN MUCH OF WHAT IS NOW NORTHEASTERN SPAIN — WAS KEPT ALIVE THROUGH A RICH ORAL HERITAGE OF STORYTELLING AND FOLK BALLADS.

REGIONS FIND THEIR TONGUES AGAIN
SINCE FRANCO’S DEATH IN 1975, REGIONAL TONGUES HAVE MADE A DRAMATIC COMEBACK, BECOMING POTENT WEAPONS ON ONE OF SPAIN’S MOST PERILOUS POLITICAL BATTLEGROUNDS.
"MANY OF US WERE ROBBED IN OUR YOUTH OF THE RIGHT TO SPEAK OUR MOTHER TONGUE FREELY AND OPENLY. BUT TODAY WE’RE HAVING A RENAISSANCE," SAID URIARTE, WHO NOW HEADS A SCHOOL IN THE BASQUE CITY OF BILBAO DEVOTED TO TEACHING EUSKERA.
AS NATIONALISTS HAVE COME TO POWER IN CATALONIA AND THE BASQUE COUNTRY — SPAIN’S TWO MOST REBELLIOUS REGIONS — PUBLIC FUNDS HAVE POURED INTO LANGUAGE EDUCATION AND NEW LAWS HAVE REQUIRED BROADER USE OF THEIR ANCESTRAL TONGUES.
SOME CRITICS BELIEVE THE CAMPAIGN HAS GONE TOO FAR AND TURNED INTO AN OVER ZEALOUS CRUSADE REMINISCENT OF THE FRANCO ERA. LANGUAGE ACTIVISTS DEFEND THEIR METHODS, SAYING THEY ARE JUST TRYING TO RIGHT THE WRONGS OF DECADES OF LINGUISTIC PERSECUTION.
WHEN SPAIN’S BLOODY CIVIL WAR ENDED IN 1939, FRANCO — INTENT ON PUNISHING CATALONIA AND THE BASQUE PROVINCES FOR FIGHTING ON THE REPUBLICAN SIDE — TRIED TO STAMP OUT THEIR THEIR CHERISHED LANGUAGES AND CULTURES.
FOR MANY YEARS, CATALAN AND EUSKERA WERE BANNED IN TEACHING, PUBLISHING AND GOVERNMENT. TELEPHONE BOOTHS CARRIED SIGNS WARNING CALLERS TO CONDUCT THEIR CONVERSATIONS IN SPANISH. BASQUE BOYS BAPTISED GORKA HAD TO BE CALLED BY THE SPANISH VERSION JORGE.
SINCE THE TRANSITION TO DEMOCRACY, MADRID HAS GRADUALLY LOOSENED ITS CENTRALIST GRIP. BUT LEADERS OF THE COUNTRY’S 17 AUTONOMOUS REGIONS ARE DEMANDING EVEN GREATER POWERS, AND LANGUAGE HAS BECOME CAUGHT UP IN THE POLITICAL TUG-OF-WAR.
EFFORTS TO CHIP AWAY AT THE DOMINANCE OF SPANISH HAVE BEEN STRONGEST IN WEALTHY CATALONIA, WHERE 95 PERCENT OF THE POPULATION NOW UNDERSTAND CATALAN AND 80 PERCENT SPEAK IT.
TAKING ADVANTAGE OF LOOPHOLES IN 1983 BILINGUAL LEGISLATION. CATALAN HAS BECOME THE LANGUAGE OF THE CLASSROOM. ONE TEACHERS’ GROUP SAID CATALONIA’S SCHOOLS HAD REDUCED SPANISH INSTRUCTION TO THE LEVEL OF A FOREIGN LANGUAGE.
THAT HAS UPSET MANY WHO ARE NOT ETHNIC CATALANS AND CONSIDER SPANISH THEIR FIRST LANGUAGE — ABOUT 40 PERCENT OF THE REGION’S POPULATION OF SIX MILLION.
THE LATEST CAMPAIGN BY CATALONIA’S PRESIDENT JORDI PUJOL, A STAUNCH NATIONALIST, TO EXPAND AGGRESSIVELY THE COMPULSORY USE OF CATALAN HAS BROUGHT FRESH COMPLAINTS OF LANGUAGE DISCRIMINATION.
THE DISPUTE CENTRES ON NEW LEGAL REQUIREMENTS FOR CINEMAS TO SCREEN 50 PERCENT OF FILMS AND FOR RADIO STATIONS TO BROADCAST HALF THEIR PROGRAMMING IN CATALAN BY 1999.
THE MEASURE HAS DRAWN PROTESTS NOT ONLY FROM BUSINESS LEADERS BUT FROM A GROUP OF 300 CATALAN WRITERS AND ARTISTS WHO ACCUSE THE REGIONAL GOVERNMENT OF TRAMPLING THE RIGHTS OF NON-CATALANS.
CRITICS CITE ABUSES SUCH AS A BRICKLAYER DENIED WORK FOR BEING UNABLE TO WRITE IN CATALAN, STUDENTS HARASSED FOR SPEAKING SPANISH IN CLASS AND PARENTS THREATENED WITH LOSING THEIR JOBS FOR DEMANDING SPANISH INSTRUCTION FOR THEIR CHILDREN.
PUJOL RECENTLY SHOT BACK AT HIS OPPONENTS, BRANDING THEM ANTI-CATALAN AND TELLING THEM IT WAS TIME TO "ACCEPT REALITY".
ON THE POLITICAL FRONT, THE LANGUAGE WAR HAS STRAINED THE PARLIAMENTARY ALLIANCE BETWEEN PRIME MINISTER JOSE MARIA AZNAR AND PUJOL’S NATIONALIST PARTY, WHICH PROVIDES CRUCIAL VOTES TO PROP UP THE CENTRE-RIGHT MINORITY GOVERNMENT IN MADRID.

ANCIENT LANGUAGE NOW SYMBOL OF NATIONALISM
IN THE BASQUE COUNTRY OF NORTHERN SPAIN, EUSKERA IS SPOKEN BY LESS THAN A THIRD OF THE REGION’S 2.2 MILLION PEOPLE, BUT ITS REVIVAL HAS BECOME A POTENT SYMBOL OF NATIONALISM.
THE BASQUES, WHO STUBBORNLY DEFENDED THEIR INDEPENDENCE AGAINST INVADING ROMANS, MOORS AND VISIGOTHS, ARE PROUD OF THEIR ENIGMATIC, TONGUE-TWISTING LANGUAGE. IT BEARS NO RELATION TO ANY OTHER INDO-EUROPEAN TONGUE, AND SOME EXPERTS HAVE THEORISED THAT IT MAY EVEN DATE BACK TO THE STONE AGE.
LATELY IT HAS RECOVERED LOST GROUND. THE BASQUE GOVERNMENT FUNDS RADIO AND TV STATIONS IN EUSKERA AND SUBSIDISES A NETWORK OF LANGUAGE-IMMERSION SCHOOLS CALLED IKASTOLAS.
SOME CRITICS HAVE ACCUSED THE IKASTOLAS OF SERVING AS BREEDING GROUNDS FOR RECRUITS FOR THE SEPARATIST GUERRILLA GROUP ETA, BUT POLICE SAY THEY HAVE FOUND NO LINKS BETWEEN THE TWO.
ETA TAKES THE HARDLINE VIEW THAT EUSKERA SHOULD NOT ONLY OVERTAKE SPANISH BUT ERADICATE IT.
THAT IS TRANSLATED INTO ACTION EACH NIGHT WHEN RADICAL YOUTHS TAKE TO THE STREETS, CROSSING OUT SPANISH ON SIGNS AND BILLBOARDS AND SPRAY-PAINTING IN THE EUSKERA TRANSLATIONS.
"THE SPANISH STATE OPPRESSES US THROUGH LANGUAGE," SAID JONE GOIRIZELAIA, SPOKESWOMAN FOR ETA’S POLITICAL ARM HERRI BATASUNA.
MAINSTREAM POLITICIANS INSIST THE TWO LANGUAGES MUST COEXIST OR BASQUES WILL END UP ECONOMICALLY ISOLATED.
"WE CAN NEVER FORGET WE ARE PART OF A LARGER COMMUNITY IN WHICH SPANISH IS ESSENTIAL," SAID NICOLAS REDONDO, HEAD OF THE BASQUE BRANCH OF SPAIN’S SOCIALIST PARTY. REUTERS
03/09/98




0 Commenti

Ancora non ci sono commenti
Lasciane uno tu per primo!
You need or account to post comment.