Sunday, July 10, 2011

Hope for endangered language in Spain

The endangered language Caló is spoken by Romani people in Spain. Yet the future holds promise for the language since there is a great deal of interest in preserving it, for example among young Romanies. This is one conclusion reached in a new doctoral thesis from the University of Gothenburg.

Caló is one of the about 5,400 languages that researchers believe will become extinct before the end of this century. It belongs to a group of languages called Para-Romani, where the vocabulary is mainly from Romani but the grammar, morphology, phonology and syntax, in the case of Caló, come from Spanish.

'In Spain there is considerable interest in reintroducing Caló by letting young Romanies learn the language in school. The potential for success is largely determined by the future speakers' attitudes to the language and its speakers,' says the author of the thesis Pierre Andersson.

Andersson studied the attitudes of both Romanies and non-Romanies to Caló and its speakers – a type of study that has never been conducted before. A total of 230 adolescents aged 14-15 years participated in the study, which was conducted in the Andalusian cities Seville, Jerez de la Frontera and Fuengirola. The subjects for example listened to recordings of voices speaking Spanish and Caló at the same time as they wrote down their impressions of the voices. They also answered a set of questions regarding the voices.

'The results show that the adolescents, who claim to belong to the ethnic group Romanies, have positive attitudes to both Caló and Caló speakers. The same can be said about those who have frequent contact with the language, meaning that it is spoken by somebody in their household.'

Moreover, girls are more positive than boys. The teenagers' knowledge of some Caló words was also tested, and it was found that the most knowledgeable were also the most positive towards the language.

'The fact that young individuals have positive attitudes to Caló and its speakers implies good prospects for a Caló reintroduction project,' says Andersson.

He emphasises the importance of projects where young people get to learn the language, in order to increase the number of speakers.

'These reintroduction projects are very important to minority groups, since they may mark the end of a long history of discrimination and they facilitate appreciation of and respect for these people's ethnic heritage, both among themselves and in other groups in society. In addition, the projects help build bridges between minority and majority groups in countries, leading to improved relations.'

EurekAlert. 2011. "Hope for endangered language in Spain". EurekAlert. Posted: June 27, 2011. Available online:

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