Joined: Jan. 2006
|Quote (Alan Fox @ Mar. 10 2007,12:35)|
|Quote (Arden Chatfield @ Mar. 10 2007,07:18)|
|Quote (Alan Fox @ Mar. 10 2007,12:12)|
|BTW Arden, if you are still interested, I heard a report on French Radio a few days ago that there are still around 300,000 Breton speakers.|
Funny you should mention that. Jeannot lives in Brittany and a few months ago I asked him how much Breton was still spoken there, and he said 'it's almost gone'. Tho maybe he just doesn't live in one of the parts of Brittany where there are still speakers.
For 20 years now, the reports I've heard about Breton have been pretty pessimistic. 300,000 sounds like a nice number (as endangered Celtic languages go), but the real question is, how old are most of those speakers? If 95% of those are people in their sixties and over, and almost none children, the language is in big trouble indeed.
So to really make sense of that number, you'd need to hear a breakdown by age. I don't happen to know what the facts are, tho I'm not too optimistic. Minority languages are dying like flies all over the world, and Europe is no exception.
I suspect not too many (or any) are monolingual in Breton. I wonder if the situation is similar to Welsh, where there is a positive effort to retain and revive the language through education and the media. Amongst the Welsh, it is a point of pride to be able to speak the language, but almost everyone is bilingual these days. I recall the last woman who could speak Cornish died in the eighteenth century. But, with no one to speak to, how would they know :) ?
It is claimed there are over a million Occitan speakers, but everyone speaks French too, so I don't hear it spoken unless overhearing locals talking amongst themselves. The problem is the older ones who grew up speaking Occitan as a first language were never taught how to write it, and the attempt to revive the language revolves around teaching it as a written language. We do get the local TV news in Occitan though.
I suspect extremely few are monolingual in Breton -- if there are any, it's probably just 95-year-old ladies way out in remote villages.
Welsh is a different case entirely. Welsh has very few monolinguals, too, but kids are still learning the language. A LOT of people still speak it. Welsh is in a situation of what's called 'stable bilingualism', where multiple generations keep learning both languages. It's a very positive aspect of Welsh Nationalism to speak it, and the Welsh/British government has had a benign attitude toward Welsh for a long time.
This is in contrast to France, which has pretty aggressively repressed all of its minority languages for many decades. In 1940 it's estimated that there were a million Breton speakers, many of them monolingual. Now there's 300,000, and I'd bet the great majority are elderly bilinguals. The French government came down pretty hard on Breton and Basque after WW2.
In Ireland, I'm told that children quit learning Irish 20 years ago in what had previously been the last strongholds of the Gaeltacht, such as Donegal. So Irish is in big trouble, too.
In contrast, when I was in north Wales several years ago, I heard teenagers in small towns speaking it, there were loads of Welsh-language radio & TV broadcasts, and Welsh newspapers and books. A year or so ago I even bumped into a Welsh-language blog about the Simpsons. Good signs. The language will never again have millions of speakers or many monolinguals, but it's not in immediate danger of dying out.
As far as I know, however, no other Celtic language has managed to acheive this kind of stable bilingualism. It's pretty much agreed that Welsh will probably outlast all the other Celtic languages.
"Rich is just mad because he thought all titties had fur on them until last week when a shorn transvestite ruined his childhood dreams by jumping out of a spider man cake and man boobing him in the face lips." - Erasmus