Reversing Language Shift: Lessons from 3 Success Stories

[The following is excerpted from “Reversing Language Shift” by Joshua A. Fishman, one of the world’s foremost sociolinguists and a founding father of that discipline.  He is Distinguished University Research Professor, Social Sciences, Emeritus, at Yeshiva University (New York City), a former Fellow of the social science and humanities ‘think tanks’ at Stanford, Honolulu, Princeton, Wassenaar (Netherlands) and Jerusalem. Fishman has written over 1000 articles and monographs on multilingualism, bilingual education and minority education, the sociology and history of the Yiddish language, language planning, reversing language shift, language revival, ‘language and nationalism‘, ‘language and religion’, and ‘language and ethnicity‘. Fishman is also the founder and editor of the International Journal of the Sociology of Language and the Contributions to the Sociology of Language (Mouton de Gruyter) book series.]

Three Success Stories (More or Less):
Modern Hebrew, French in Quebec
and Catalan in Spain

by Joshua A. Fishman

Joshua A. Fishman

As has been our practice thus far, in our discussion of problematic cases, we will pick our success cases from different parts of the world, one from the Near East (Hebrew), one from the Americas (French Quebec) and one from Europe (Catalan), although as we will soon see, all three cases have been strongly influenced by European thinking, values, methods and developments.  This is an inevitable state of affairs, to the extent that RLS (Reversing Language Shift)-efforts are often a reflection of late or reactive nationalism and modernization, worldwide processes that are overwhelmingly characterized by dynamics that have their origins and their mainsprings in Europe.  Even the return to ultra-Orthodoxy can be partially characterized in this fashion, overtly and consciously rejective of modernization though it be, since it too has learned that the modern world can be held at bay and an essentially authentic minority ethnicity can be maintained with respect to its language-and-culture nexus, only if some of modernity’s techniques and methods are selectively and carefully borrowed and even more carefully controlled.

However, similar though these three cases may be in several respects, two errors must be guarded against in discussing their successful RLS-efforts.  One is the error of post hoc ergo propter hoc reasoning, an error which leads to the mistaken assumption that these three cases could not possibly have failed, i.e., that ‘somehow’ they ‘obviously’ had ‘success written into their futures’ from the very outset because they were never ‘really’ threatened at all.  Were this to be true, there would be nothing to be gained – in so far as building a more generalizable theory and practice of RLS – from examining them.  But we must not allow ourselves to be misled by the dubious wisdom of hindsight.  Each of these three cases could have turned out differently, far less happily, and, indeed, there are still today individuals and organized groups who believe that RLS has not yet fully succeeded in connection with each of them and who worry that the language that is of greatest concern to them is by no means yet ‘free’ and ‘clear’.

Another, equally misleading error, would be to assume that these are the only three success cases that could have been discussed because there are no others.  This is patently untrue.  The past century is full of success cases, although the roster of failures is not only longer (because RLS is after all difficult to attain and too few have paused to consider, in conceptually integrated terms, what exactly the nature of the difficulty may be or how best to overcome it) but it is also better known (because untrammeled modernization trumpets the failure of RLS, considering such failures to be a vindication of the vulgar myth of modernization as uniformation pure and simple).  From the promotion of Guarani to the standardization and defense of Faroeses, from the intellectual and elitist revernacularization of Czech to the intellectual modernization and repertoire expansion of Ukrainian, from the unification and dignification of Landsmal to the planned maintenance and cultivation of Sorbian, from the elaboration and functional implementation of Papiamentu to the formation and popular vernacularization of Indonesian, and, more generally, from the rescue of manifold ‘doomed’ peasant vernaculars to their establishment as languages of literacy and governmental or co-governmental functions, the list is long and distinguished and a testimony to human ingenuity and determination.  Successful RLS is part of the pursuit of meaningful identity and the attainment of a cultural future related to one’s own cultural past and in accord with one’s own definition of what the relationship between the past and the future should be.  There is much more successful RLS than smugly provincial modern world knows or cares to know.

The three success cases that will now be presented are presented precisely because there is much to learn from them in connection with RLS-efforts more generally, as well as particularly, encompassing as they do efforts on behalf of a language that was no longer spoken, a language that was still generally spoken but that was no longer literacy, related, and a language generally still widely spoken and read but faced by an opponent contextually very much stronger than it in the world of social mobility, worldwide econotechnical power and modern youth culture.

Historical Background (Prior to the Beginning of RLS-Efforts)

The ‘miraculous’ case of Hebrew

Prior to the beginning of focused efforts on behalf of its vernacularization, toward the very end of the nineteenth century, Hebrew had been successfully passed along generation after generation, for over 2,000 years, as the chief language of formal Jewish prayer, of sacred texts, of rabbinic responsa and of other erudite writing.  The degree of facility in textual Hebrew acquired by the typical, traditional Jewish male during all of this time varied with social class (the Jewish poor – constituting the vast bulk of the population – could not generally afford, or be afforded, the luxury of devoting the endless time to textual study from the age of four or five onward, that such mastery required), sex (as a rule, females were either not provided with entré into the textual world of Hebrew at all, or, at most, they were assured only the rudiments of rote prayer-book recitation), and Orthodoxy (in those communities, primarily in Western Europe, that experienced early modernization, most educated males typically lost, within the period of a generation or two, their familiarity with, rather than only their devotion to, the vast body of Hebrew-Aramic sacred texts and their accompanying two millenia’s worth of worldwide rabbinic commentaries and responsa).

While it is true that the most adept (generally rabbis and other males who had studied through to the level of actual or potential rabbinic ordination) could read and write Hebrew freely within the bounds of traditional subject matter, and that, in the nineteenth century, a few generations of the more modernized among them could use the language in a variety of modern literary genres (secular poetry, essays, journalistic reporting, short stories and novels), it is also true that even they could not and did not converse in that language about the normal rounds and concerns of everyday life.  Of course, there were rare occasions when strained conversation utilizing spoken-Hebrew-as-a-lingua-franca did occur, when two Jews met who share neither a Jewish nor a non-Jewish vernacular (e.g., a Jew from Fez and a Jew from Odessa), but such occasions were both exceedingly rare and exceedingly trying.  Indeed, even among the late nineteenth-century modernists and Zionists who agitated on behalf of the spread of modern Hebrew for secular purposes, there were many (including the most illustrious among them, such as Nathan Birnbaum and Theodore Herzl in Western Europe and Moshe-Leyb Lilienblum, Perets Smolenskin and Akhad Ha-am in Eastern Europe) who did not believe that the vernacularization of Hebrew was readily possible, or who believed that its accomplishment was likely only in the distant future, or who were opposed to it in principle.  Within the heartland of unreconstructed Orthodoxy itself, the opposition to vernacularization was well-nigh unanimous into the twentieth century proper, that is, through to the time that the language had already begun to be revernacularized under modern, Eastern European-derived, secularist auspices among Zionist settlers in Palestine; and, indeed, it is still opposed in some of these circles to this very day.

Thus the RLS problem for Hebrew was one of revernacularizing a language of sanctity and/or literacy.  For this largely unprecedented goal to be attained a modern, European-derived and deeply Herderian-influenced language-and-nationality movement had to be formed, one pursuing vital political goals above and beyond language but uncompromisingly opposed to the vibrant Jewish vernaculars then spoken in the diaspora (first and foremost among them Yiddish), as well as to the prestigious world languages familiar to the diaspora Jewish world, a movement which could tear people away from their prior habitual life-patterns and speech-patterns and establish separate settlements in which the old-new language could be consensually vernacularized, not only by those who had no prior vernacular (the very young) but, more essentially, by multilingual adults who had the mettle to persuade themselves and one another to increasingly set their other, very lively vernaculars aside in favor of a still rather stilted Hebrew.

Viewed in this light, what was required, and what was ultimately accomplished, was not some ‘miraculous’ intervention of the spirit of Jewish election or exceptionality, but, rather, the rare and largely fortuitous co-occurrence of language-and-nationality ideology, disciplined collective will and sufficient societal dislocation from other competing influences to make possible a relatively rapid and clean break with prior norms of verbal interaction, both with respect to Hebrew as well as with respect to all other languages in the community’s speech repertoire, Jewish and non-Jewish alike.  What was ultimately accomplished was not merely the vernacularization of Hebrew but also its re-standardization, its secularization and its association with the entire life-experience of both sexes, rather than only those of males along.  Given the rampant detraditionalization (indeed, anti-clericalism and secular modernization) of the time and of the subsequent half-century, and given the Holocaust that occurred within that period, anything less than all of the above startling co-occurrences would have left Hebrew as merely the literacy-bound language of an exotic elite, rather than as the language of a modern and varied nationality and its nation-state.

French in Quebec and Catalan in the Autonomous Catalan Community

The spectre that haunts francophone Quebec

French in Quebec and Catalan in the Autonomous Catalan may be seen as characterized by differing degrees of what are fundamentally the same threatening circumstances:  the in-migration of politically more powerfully-connected speakers of languages of broader econotechnical opportunities, on the one hand, and the struggle to engage in RLS-efforts over the opposition of the larger political entity in which they themselves are but a minority.  In both instances, the languages in question not only have considerable prestige in their own right and in connection with the highest cultural functions but, at the time that their most recent RLS phase got underway, they had successfully continued to be the spoken, everyday tongues of the bulk of their ethnonational populations.  Thus, it was no longer the threat of spoken or even written replacement that threatened them, but, rather, their growing functional displacement in the most statusful pursuits and symbols of government, economy and modern, international mass culture, on the one hand, and the inability to make them co-vernaculars of their respective immigrants, on the other hand.

When Quebec-French RLS-efforts got seriously underway in the late 60s and early 70s, francophones were still over 90% of the total population of the province.  Although no disabling legislation had ever been passed against French, nevertheless, only 64% of the francophone labour-force was working at entirely French-speaking jobs.  In addition, the more specialized, higher paying, prestigious work sphere was even more disproportionately in English.  To some extent, this was a reflection of the fact that only 7% of francophones had completed university education, whereas over 20% of Anglophones in the province had done so.  However, even with the same education, Anglophones also secured better jobs than francophones did and received better salaries for the same jobs.  Indeed, it was totally unimportant for Anglophones to learn French at work; it simply didn’t result in any wage differential for them.  However, a francophone who mastered English and became English-speaking at work immediately earned a sizeable bonus as a result.  All in all, the income discrepancy between francophones and Anglophones was not only sizeable but it was growing, and francophones were increasingly convinced that unless they could have a government that could tip the scales in their favor economically and culturally, unless they became ‘the masters of their own house’, they would wind up increasingly disadvantaged socially, economically and culturally in a province in which they were historically and demographically the huge majority.  The ultimate francophone language shift horror was not hard to imagine; francophone parents were becoming more concerned about their children’s master of English than their master of French.  (sounds familiar in Ilocandia?)

How had such a sad state of affairs come into being?  An increasing number of French-speaking Quebecers had become convinced, during the 60s, that this was due to conscious exploitation and connivance by American and Anglophone-Canadian economic and political leaders, on the one hand, and by the dereliction of their own traditional francophone leaders, on the other hand (both of which were interpreted as long-standing grievances or disadvantages).  The Catholic church that had traditionally provided the cultural leadership of Quebec’s French-speaking society had emphasized the traditional virtues of family, community and agricultural life, to such an extent that the urban economy was left in Anglophone hands, even though the politicians elected to office were themselves primarily francophones.  The provincial government of Quebec and the city government of its major metropolis, Montreal, lacked any semblance of a cultural policy and seemed unperturbed at the secondary roles of francophones in economic and even in cultural life at either level.  The small separatist parties, receiving no more than 6% of the vote in 1966 and perhaps with no more than twice that number of sympathizers, nevertheless found wide and rapidly growing sympathy for their view that the cards were hopelessly stacked against Quebec in an anglo-dominated Canada (and North America) and that francophones were little more than ‘the White Niggers of America’ (a popular expression which captures all of the nuances of ‘internal colonization’), laughed at, looked down upon, exploited and headed for cultural annihilation in their own region.  Although there were francophone leaders who cautioned that unbridled nationalism would only exacerbate the economic plight of under-industrialized French Canada and that its cultural authenticity could be safeguarded and fostered without interethnic confrontation and cultural politics, both of the latter developments increasingly came to the fore.  At least three factors contributed pervasively and recurringly to the alarm of the Quebecois:  the decline of francophone society in the rest of Canada, making Quebec the last possible major line of defense for French in all of Canada and, indeed, in all of North America, the growing preference for English among non-anglophone immigrants to Quebec (requiring some governmental regulation in the realms of school and work if it was to be reversed, particularly in the light of the falling francophone birthrate in the province) and, finally, the galloping Anglophone domination of Quebec’s economic activity (fostering a transfer to English, in this domain, among francophones aspiring to social mobility).  In each of these connections French increasingly became the symbol and the medium of francophone self-regulatory needs and aspirations, eliciting, in the process, much Anglophone opposition, anguish and alarm.

Ever since Federal troops were used to arrest and imprison several hundred independentist ‘terrorists’ in 1970 (almost all of whom were ultimately released on suspended charges or on lesser charges), and although the vote for separation has never risen above 40% or so, the sentiment for a ‘separate (francophone) society’ in Quebec, regulating and fostering its own cultural and economic destiny in an openly francophone direction, has continued to attract overwhelming francophone support.  One of the major planks in this program is the francization of Quebec’s educational, cultural and economic life so as to guarantee that French language and culture will dominate in the province, as befits its historical and its demographic importance there.  The model of political independence is latent in the ethnocultural and linguistic solutions that are sought and adopted, not only by the ‘Parti quebecois’ but by almost all other major parties seeking large and stable constituencies in Quebec.  The image of a threat to the dominance of the French language in Quebec, surrounded as it is by a sea of English from within and from without Canada, is the constant spectre that animates these solutions at the grass-roots level and that obtains massive popular support for them.  In this context, French, the home, neighborhood and community continuity of which were most probably never really objectively threatened to begin with, has clearly taken center stage, at least emotionally and symbolically, and has become the major rallying call on the Quebec scene, definitely appealing to all those who strive to francicize the most powerful networks and functions of the life of the Province.

The dilemma that confounds Catalonia:  distinguishing between Spanish pressure without and Spanish pressure within

It is frequently forgotten (or entirely unrecognized) that, after the Soviet Union, Spain constitutes the most populous economically developed multilingual country in the world and the oldest multilingual state in the world, predating even the Swiss confederation in that respect.  Similarly forgotten or overlooked, is the fact that the Catalan contribution to both of these circumstances is and has long been the major one.  Catalonia (today’s Autonomous Catalan Community) has far outdistanced the Autonomous Basque Community in its RLS-efforts and in the success of its language emphases more generally.  Indeed, the absence of any headlines about terrorism and a penchant for quiet, unpublicized but effective efforts, have generally obscured from the world at large the fact that Catalan was once (from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century) the language of a considerable Mediterranean empire and that, outside of Catalonia proper, it is still substantially spoken today (and also co-official) in the Autonomous Valencian Community, in the Balearic Islands, in the French Department of Pyrenees-Orientales (often referred to as the French Roussillon), and in Andorra (where it is the official language) and in the city of l’Alguer in Sardinia.

RLS-efforts in contemporary Catalonia are substantially motivated by the long and proud historical record of undoubted cultural, political and commercial-industrial accomplishments associated with the Catalan language during prior centuries.  Catalan was standardized in grammar and in spelling as far back as the medieval period and its earliest surviving texts, significantly enough, pertain to non-fictional prose, reflecting the fact that as early as the thirteenth century almost all governmental units had set aside Latin and, instead, utilized Catalan as their language of official record.  The first European feudal code in a vernacular, the oldest European maritime code, the first Romance language to be used in science and philosophy, all of these distinctions pertain to Catalan, a language which also enjoyed an uninterrupted record of solid middle- and upper middle-class vernacular use, even during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, when Spanish (usually referred to as Castilian) finally made serious inroads into all formal domains.  In fact, by the twentieth century Catalan has become such an established and beloved symbol of local self-sufficiency (even regional superiority in commerce and industry) and regional resistance to central (Madridian) regulation and obstructionism, that the beleaguered Second Spanish Republic found it advantageous to grant Catalan co-official status (1932), when Catalonia itself was granted a Statute of Autonomy.  Little wonder then that Catalonia became a bulwark of the Republic (along with the Basque Country), against the Franco-led rightist insurrection of 1936-1939 which aspired to reestablish a strongly centralized Spanish rule.

Immediately following upon its Civil War victory the Franco-government instituted policies that deprived Catalonia, its culture and its language of any public semblance of their prior independence and recognition.  Catalonia’s autonomy was annulled and the region itself was administered from Madrid as four separate provinces.  All public use of Catalan was prohibited; Catalan names and toponyms were banned and replaced by Spanish counterparts; Catalan publications, street signs and advertisements or notices were not only discontinued but any disobedience with respect to these prohibitions was punishable (and punished!) by fine, dismissal, arrest and the closing of offending publications, institutions or agencies.  The anti-Catalan campaign was so extreme that even ordinary conversational use of the language among ordinary folk could prove to be dangerous, if overheard.  The formerly proud language was officially humbled by being declared a ‘mere dialect’ and those who use it were described in official propaganda as either ‘barking like dogs’ or as ‘non-Christian’.  Only after 20 years of such abuse did the situation begin to ease slowly, as minor, grudging concessions began to be made to the strong popular support and quasi-legal use (particularly in the Church and in the political songs movement known as Nova Cançó Catalana) that the language nevertheless enjoyed ‘off the record’.  Nevertheless, there was as much foot-dragging as possible even in this respect and the implementation of a 1970 education law which once again permitted the teaching of (but still not the teaching in) Catalan to children (the teaching of Catalan to adults having already been permitted, in a very few carefully circumscribed settings, during the 60s) was delayed until 1975, the year in which Franco died.

While the repressive policy of the central authorities had an undeniably negative impact on Catalan use and even on Catalan competence (e.g., an entire generation went through school without any opportunity to acquire or polish Catalan literacy, a limitation that has very recognizable consequences to this very day among most older Catalans), an indirect development of those same years had had even more massive and more devastating consequences for the language.  Catalonia had long been one of the most economically advanced areas of Spain and, as a result, its cities (most particularly Barcelona) had long attracted unemployed Spaniards from the rest of the country.  These immigrants came in numbers that did not demographically swamp the indigenous (or indigenized) Catalans, and within a generation or more the latest newcomers too were recurringly Catalanized.  Indeed, this was part of the uniqueness of Catalonia’s relationship with the Castilian ‘center’.  For generations, the Catalan ‘periphery’ continued to be economically more advanced than the ‘center’ and, accordingly, it not only attracted manpower from all over the country (but, particularly, from the impoverished agricultural south of Spain) but it ethnolinguistically transformed those immigrants into its own image.  However, the immigration that transpired between 1950 and 1975 was so huge, relative to Catalonia’s absorptive capacity, that the rather effortless and rapid ethnolinguistic transformation of its members that had formerly been the rule was no longer possible.

The economic consequences of the rapid addition of nearly one and a half million unskilled immigrants to the previous two and a half million ‘native Catalans’ were not seriously problematic ones for the host population.  Indeed, as the newcomers filled the plentiful lower order positions that the booming economy provided, the old-timers quickly moved up into better-paying technical or administrative positions.  However, the cultural and intercultural consequences became doubly problematic as social class differences compounded the ethnolinguistic differences separating the two populations. Even now, decades after the end of massive immigration (an immigration that would have been even larger had not whole trainloads of newcomers been turned back prior to their arrival) only slightly more than half of the adult population of Catalonia habitually speaks Catalan, a percentage which is halved again in the immigrant ‘industrial belt’ surrounding Barcelona where Spanish-speaking newcomers and their children, many of the latter born in Catalonia, are overwhelmingly concentrated.  Only some 40% pupils attending primary public schools in Barcelona are native speakers of Catalan; however, in the private schools of the area such speakers are the overwhelming majority.  Barcelona proper (as distinct from its ‘factory belt’) continues to boast one of the highest standards of living in Spain, but those immigrants who are least satisfied economically also have the highest birthrate and are the most likely to cling to Spanish as the medium of their everyday life and, therefore, also as the medium of their dissatisfaction with their lot in life.

Catalan RLS-efforts began in earnest with the granting of autonomy by the post-Franco government in 1979.  It is three pronged.  One of its goals is to attain the symbolic promotion and the functional institutionalization of Catalan in connection with all of the most influential and powerful arenas of modern life.  Another of its goals is to overcome the legacy of mother-tongue illiteracy and inferiority that many native, middle-class Catalans have inherited from the Franco years and which even today makes them disinclined to read much in Catalan, to use it with strangers (or even with each other when strangers are present) or with officials.  Finally, they aim at activating the passive Catalan that Spanish speakers quickly acquire, due to the basic similarity between the two languages, and at fostering among these speakers a fondness for and an identification with Catalan.  In the latter connection, RLS-efforts also seek to counteract any feelings that Spanish speakers may harbor to the effect that Spanish, the nationwide official language (‘the language of the Spanish state’) and a language which is also specifically protected in that state’s very grant of autonomy to Catalonia, is being slighted or subordinated.  Of the three success cases that we are considering in this chapter, the revernacularization of Hebrew may have been the most difficult and improbable feat to achieve (considering that it depended on voluntary efforts on a meager demographic base and without any governmental authority at all behind it), but the triple balancing act of Catalan RLS-efforts is, today, as these words are being written, undoubtedly the most difficult one of all.

The Major RLS-efforts That Were Undertaken on Behalf of Hebrew, French in Quebec and Catalan During the Initial Period of the Gravest Threat to Them


The initial problem faced by those few that sought to revernacularize Hebrew was a complex one in that daily conversational use of Hebrew could not occur unless traditional Jewish multilingualism could be overcome, on the one hand, and unless the Hebrew language itself could be modernized and standardized, on the other hand.  Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the widely acclaimed ‘father of the revival of Hebrew’ probably contributed more to the solution of the latter corpus-planning problem than to the solution of the former, more fundamental status-planning issue.  Even in connection with corpus planning, the extent of Ben-Yehuda’s effective contributions has probably been greatly exaggerated.  His dictionary came out in alphabetic bits and drabs over a period of decades and was liberally sprinkled with esoteric neologisms that found little favor in the eyes of the actual or prospective community of Hebrew speakers.  His Hebrew Language Committee, out of which the illustrious Hebrew Language Academy later developed, was long dormant or inoperative during the very heart of the revernacularization period and, even when active, was excruciatingly slow, pedantic, indecisive and argumentative in its operation.  Both his Complete Dictionary of Ancient and Modern Hebrew (gathered together from the original newspaper entries in which it had originally appeared over a long period of years and, belatedly, published in book format from 1940 to 1953, such publication coming two full generations after revernacularization had been clearly accomplished) and the Academy were better suited to their roles of post hoc symbols of the revernacularization, rather than to functioning as active ingredients, much less causes, of the vernacularization proper, even in the limited corpus-planning area to which they pertain.

If Ben-Yehuda was an ineffective corpus-planner, he was an absolute disaster as a status-planner.  A rather eccentric and acerbic character, who rather isolated himself from the new, young, Zionist settlers by living in ultra-religious and linguistically heterogeneous Jerusalem, he was doubly removed from the daily trials and tribulations of modern, secular, Zionist cultural life as it was developing in the new, more homogeneous agricultural settlements in the plains, closer to the Mediterranean coast.  His own view of the revernacularization was, understandably, egocentric and revealed no real understanding at all on his part of the social or societal dynamics that were involved and had to be cultivated for revernacularization to occur.  He did, however, become the personal symbol of Hebrew as a modern, secular language, a language that defined a modern, secular people.

The teachers and the schools of the new Zionist settlements established during the very first years of this century, twenty-some years after Ben-Yehuda’s arrival in Palestine, have also been nominated for the role of prime-movers-and-shakers of the revernacularization of Hebrew.  Their ideological commitment, personal example, and pedagogical success (particularly in teaching Hebrew itself as well as all other school subjects via Hebrew, for the first time after two millennia of Hebrew study via other media of instruction) purportedly carried the day, persuading their charges to speak only Hebrew to each other within the four walls of the school and enabling them soon to do so outside of the school itself.  Once the pupils carried the language outside of the school, into their after-school life with each other, it was presumably merely a step for them to bring it home and to teach it to their parents.  Finally, when these pupils later married one another they then raised the first modern children for whom revernacularized Hebrew was the mother tongue.

Although there is much to be said for the above-reconstructed scenario, particularly its focus on stages 6 and 4, it is obviously a gross simplification and idealization of a more complex and a more multi-directional process.  If the teachers were really the first to break with the norms which had required Yiddish (or another vernacular) as the language of school instruction, they could hardly be considered free agents in this respect.  They were the instructional and the child-rearing agents of a very highly ideologized community of pro-Hebrew settlers who generally strongly approved of such action on the part of the teachers and who were actively engaged in Hebrew language learning themselves.  A good proportion of these particular settlers constituted the renowned ‘second aliyah’, whose members arrived in 1903-1904 and particularly from 1905 to World War I, and who came voluntarily, without being driven out by Czarist pogroms.  Many of them had begun speaking Hebrew to each other (usually only occasionally and haltingly, but in some cases with real facility) even while they were still in Russia, prior to their departure for Palestine.  They were, of course, very eager to speak Hebrew in Palestine proper and to raise and educate their children in that language, and they made sure to appoint specialists to assist with and to supervise child-rearing in Hebrew from the very earliest days of their children’s lives.

Thus, there were clearly many settlers who not only applauded and reinforced the vernacularization undertaken by their children in and out of school, and many families exerted themselves to use Hebrew with their own and with other children much before the latter married and produced children of their own.  Finally, subsequent children born to parents whose prior child(ren) had been among the original vernacularizers, almost certainly encountered spoken Hebrew at home, before coming to school and much before the older siblings were of marriageable age.  Thus, what was undoubtedly involved was a family – ‘children’s home’ – settlement interaction, all going on under rather unified and intense ideological and motivational circumstances, in appreciably self-contained settings that had little interaction with or admiration for their surrounding non-Zionist environments, whether Jewish or gentile, or whether relatively nearby or in far-off Jerusalem.  However, if the process of revernacularization within the new settlements of young and committed ‘true believers’ was a relatively rapid and generally unconflicted one, the process of influencing the rest of Jewish Palestine, particularly the heterogeneous urban centers with their urgent need for an immediately operational and expressive lingua franca, with their ideologically different belief systems, some of them (the ultra-Orthodox in particular) strongly opposed to Zionism as well as to the vernacularization of Hebrew, and with their constant influx of refugees coming for asylum rather than Zionist-Hebraist ideological conviction, was a rather long, tedious and often bitter one.  However, by the late teens or mid-twenties of this century at the very latest, the revernacularization of Hebrew in the settlements was generally completed (except among the very oldest residents, some of whom never acquired fluency in Hebrew) and the more difficult and far slower task of vernacularizing Hebrew among Jewish Palestine’s urban population began to come to the fore.

French in Quebec

The (Quebec) Liberal Party that was swept into power in 1960 was the standard-bearer of a ‘Quiet Revolution’ pursuing modernization, secularization, industrialization and urbanization.  These goals aimed at overcoming the economic backwardness of French Quebec and its entrenched sense of grievance and powerlessness over not being taken seriously or handled fairly by the nine English-speaking provinces of Canada.  The ‘Quiet Revolution’ accomplished much along objective lines, but still left most francophone intellectuals and many ordinary laymen distinctly uneasy and dissatisfied on many fronts.  Most of industry and real power in Montreal was still English-controlled.  Furthermore, and most crucially insofar as RLS is concerned, the very processes championed by the ‘Quiet Revolution’ tended to weaken and undermine the distinctive cultural character of French Quebecois life and threatened to make it indistinguishable from the Anglophone society which dominated it.  Immigrants from Europe and the Third World, sensing the underlying Anglophone control of the local opportunity system and its links to the USA (and, therefore, to the language of the USA), elected English as the language of their own social mobility and of their children’s education.  De Gaulle’s provocative salutation, during his 1967 visit to Montreal world’s fair, ‘Vive le Quebec libre’, elicited an enthusiastic response from the crowd that had come to greet him, but it was far from clear what ‘libre’ might imply or how to go about achieving that status.  The crisis of a hitherto largely rural-based and traditionally religious French culture in confrontation with a galloping modernization, a process which was not under appreciable francophone direction or control, inevitably highlighted language as the flexible, all-encompassing symbol of the combined authenticity, modernization and self-direction that appeared to be necessary for the crisis to be solved.

Although Italian immigrants in Montreal were among the most francized ‘new Canadians’ in Montreal, they nevertheless overwhelmingly elected English or bilingual (English and French) education for their children.  When the trustees of the Saint Leonard School Board tried to reverse this trend by adopting a resolution making French the only language of schooling within its district (1968), a serious riot developed in the streets of Montreal between Italian Canadians and francophone Montrealers.  The bitterness of the latter at being rejected, not only by the Anglophones but even by lowly recent arrivals many of whom lived in francophone areas and competed with francophones for employment, was not really assuaged by a 1969 law (Bill 63) which made a few symbolic overtures toward the francophones (e.g., French was declared to be an obligatory second language in non-francophone schools and the soon to be famous or infamous, depending on one’s point of view ‘Office de la langue francaise’ was created to be the watchdog in this connection as well as in connection with the Bill’s rather unspecified intentions to ‘promote French as a language of work’).  More basically, however, Bill 63 disappointed many francophones grievously, as far as their altercation with the ‘new Canadians’ and their fears for the anglification of francophones were concerned, by establishing freedom of language choice in education.

Francophone efforts to improve their control over their own lives, culturally, politically and economically, began to be more holistic in the 70s.  Although the relatively new and independentis ‘Parti quebecois’ obtained an astounding 24% of the vote in 1970 (a huge turnout for a party constituted only two years earlier), the major event of the year was the kidnapping and murder of Quebec’s Labour Minister by the Front de Libération du Québec, a miniscule group modeled after the urban guerrillas in Latin America and other Third World locales.  The (Canadian) Prime Minister’s implementation of the War Measures Act in Quebec (with its suspension of civil rights, the ‘occupation’ of Montreal by the Canadian Army, and the ultimate negotiations for the release of a second governmental kidnap victim in exchange for safe passage to Cuba for the kidnappers) did more to promote the cause of Quebec independence than anything else that the minority movement on behalf of such independence had accomplished on its own.  Before leaving power, the Liberal-Party-dominated provincial government did pass one bi8ll that gratified francophone cultural aspirations.  Bill 22 (1974), a replacement for he earlier Bill 63 (1969), made French the official language of Quebec (rather than merely the frequently overlooked co-official language that it had been since long before) and required immigrant children to prove that they were English-dominant before they could claim the right to English schooling that indigenous Anglophone children had always had.  With the coming to power of the pro-independence ‘Parti quebecois’ in 1976, by attracting fully 40% of the votes cast, the stage was set for the next round in the struggle ‘to safeguard the French nature of Quebec’.

In retrospect, it seems clear why in a province with a huge francophone majority and where the family-home-community nexus was already safely French, the struggle of that majority on behalf of the community’s language and culture would immediately be waged in the political arena pertaining to the work sphere, mass media and governmental operations.  The political arena was one that francophones had always controlled numerically anyway, even before their concerns for governmental intervention on behalf of fostering the dominance and direction of their own modernization-and-culture had come to the fore.  Intellectuals would argue, and still do, as to whether there was really any productive solution to ‘the French problem’, i.e., as to whether modernization under any auspices wouldn’t inevitably lead to increased interaction with anglo-Canada, with the USA and with the English-language-dominated modern world economy as a whole, a world economy in which no fully distinctive ethnocultures were presumably possible; whether francophone attempts to safeguard their language and culture were not really disguises used by self-seeking intellectuals and an upcoming francophone econotechnical elite in order to stampede the francophone electorate into ever-more extreme nationalist postures aimed at wresting economic control away from a variety of anglo sources of power.  Many francophones might even grant some of the above arguments, but they would still generally opt for the promotion of local enterprises controlled by francophones, for the displacement of an Anglophone bureaucracy by a francophone one, for greater francophone control over communications and over the mass diffusion of art and culture, and for francophone symbolic domination of all avenues of cultural and economic life in ‘their own province’.  As that mood became over more dominant, whether out of resignation vis-à-vis the cultural outcomes of the modernization dilemma or out of genuine hope and anticipation for a more francophone reality for themselves and their children, additional steps on behalf of French and in curtailment of English were obviously in the offing as the initial period of greatest danger was left behind and new goals, going beyond mere ‘survival in the surround ocean of English’, were set.


Forty years of repression and degradation by the Franco regime left Autonomous Catalonia with an immediate RLS agenda:  the elevation of Catalan and its rightful restoration to all of the most powerful and symbolic functions and processes of modern society.  The first and immediate interpretation of RLS was a full-fledged effort to restore Catalan to its old glories as a language of education, of the print and non-print media and of the uppermost reaches of regional government.  Book production, which had slowly crept upward during the Franco years (as that regime’s originally uncompromising strictures were slowly, very slowly, worn away at the edges), quickly jumped over 300% (from 579 volumes in 1974 to 2,149 in 1981). ‘[Linguistic] recycling’ courses were set up for civil servants, free translations, from Spanish into Catalan, of all public documents were provided, terminologies were prepared in many administrative fields and recuperacio (= recovery) of Catalan’s earlier ‘normal’ roles in public domains became the order of the day.  Although the de facto implementation of Catalan in education proceeded slowly (due to ever so many practical problems pertaining to teachers, texts and curricula) the de jure declaration of Catalan as compulsory in primary and secondary education came immediately.  Similarly, time on television and radio, space in periodicals (particularly dailies) and presence in cinema films initially increased only slowly, if at all, primarily because most of the major outlets in each of these media were nationwide in scope or in sponsorship.  However, progress began to be made in these respects as well, and the founding of all-Catalan or partly Catalan counterpart outlets slowly took effect and, ultimately, vastly speeded up the entire momentum of RLS.

A ‘Charter of the Catalan Language’ (also known as the ‘Law of Linguistic Normalization’) was adopted in 1983 and established parity for Catalan and Spanish in all governmentally encumbered domains, and, in addition, provided specifically for a separate governmental institution dedicated to fostering the use and knowledge of Catalan, the ‘Directorate General of Language Policy’.  All in all, the first interpretation of ‘normalization’ required a massive ‘operation catch-up’ for Catalan insofar as public functions were concerned.  This interpretation sought to overcome among native Catalans the deleterious effects of the diglossic pattern that had begun under ‘central’ (Madridian) economic and cultural pressure well before Franco and that had become even further ingrained during the fascist regime, a pattern that normatively assigned Spanish to literacy, formality and status, and Catalan to little more than domestic and intimate use.

However, even before major decisive victories could be gained in connection with ‘normalization of the first kind’, a second set of priorities vis-à-vis ‘normalization’ of another kind was not long in coming to the fore.  In this connection it came to be recognized that the huge number of Spanish-speaking immigrants could legally exercise their constitutional rights to remain such permanently, utilizing little or no Catalan in their daily lives, thereby, providing Catalan with a constant built-in rival, competitor and threat within the very heart of Catalonia, a threat that exerted a mighty influence on native Catalans themselves and their ability or inclination to pursue ‘normalization of the first kind’.  The goal of ‘normalization of the second kind’, therefore, was to encourage Spanish speakers to activate their passive Catalan, so as to speak, read and write it more, primarily by building on their good will toward Catalan and Catalonia as a former opponent of the fascist state and their desire to identify with and feel at home among Catalans.  There were now too many of these newcomers, and they were too concentrated residentially and too marked by social class distinctions to be able to count on exogamy or social mobility per se as providing foreseeable solutions to their meager use of Catalan.  Accordingly, at the same time that ‘normalization of the first kind’ might persuade Catalans to use more Catalan with one another and with the immigrants and their children, special efforts were instituted to help more of these same immigrants to actively and affectively adopt Catalan as their own language.

In 1982, a ’man in the street’ normalization campaign, aimed primarily at reversing Catalan backsliding and immigrant reticence, adopted the slogan ‘El catala, cosa de tots’ (‘Catalan belongs to everyone’).  This sentiment was personified, in poster, newspaper ads and in radio and TV spot commercials, by a winsome ten-year cartoon character, ‘Norma’ (for ‘normalization’) who, by a constant, good natured and even humorous repetition of this slogan, cajoled, motivated and instructed her audience to speak more and better Catalan.  The campaign was quite successful, but, as might have been expected, it did not pass without the question being asked ‘To whom does Spanish belong [in Catalonia]?’ and why couldn’t Catalan be fostered, as provided for by the Constitution, as ‘Catalonia’s lengua propia’ (own or proper language, the exact meaning being somewhat ambiguous), while at the same time Spanish speakers, also taking advantage of their constitutional rights, were served by parallel Spanish language institutions that could be supported via public funds to be specially earmarked for Spanish ethnolinguistic activities of various kinds.  Indeed, a ‘Manifesto for the Equality of Language Rights’, calling for the establishment of permanent and fully official bilingualism in Catalonia, had been signed by 2,300 individuals some two years before (1981).  While the chairperson of the Directorate General of Language Policy had quickly declared then that there could be no legitimate charge of discrimination against Spanish when ‘all the people of Catalonia unanimously support normalization’, great care was obviously exercised in 1983 not to overly intensify the new normalization campaign in order to avoid another massive protest like the one of 1981.  However, as it became clear that careful progress was, indeed, being made with both types of normalization, it also became evident to some members of the Directorate General that further careful steps not only had to be could be taken in support of more demanding goals for RLS in Catalonia.

Relations with the Competitor(s):  Diglossia or Displacement?


In the modern world, all languages have implicit or explicit competitors, whether externally, in the world of international commercial and diplomatic relations, or internally, within their own ethnocultural communities.  This is even more true of threatened languages.  The very need and drive to engage in RLS-efforts is an indication of worrisome relationships with competitors, particularly and most urgently of the latter (the internal) kind.  For Hebrew, there had always been such competitors, even when Jews were still primarily concentrated in ancient Palestine, ‘a bridge between continents’, part of the Fertile Crescent, the royal road between Africa and Asia.  If this was true even in pre-diaspora Palestine (viz. the foreign influences against which the prophets preached and the Aramaization, Hellenization and Romanization of the court, the nobility and much of the intelligentsia during the Second Commonwealth), it was all the more so in the diaspora, both before and after the destruction of the Second Temple.

Not only has Jewish multilingualism been the rule, rather than the exception, during all of Jewish history, but in this process, a large number of new Jewish vernaculars were created, born out of the superposition of Jewish cultural imperatives and gentile persecution and expulsion upon the co-territorial languages that Jews learned in the various countries of exile in which they found themselves at different periods of their painful, pariah history.  While Hebrew (actually Hebrew/Judeo-Aramaic or leshon ha-kodesh) was almost always retained for ritual, worship and the study of sacred texts and rabbinic commentaries, Jewish communities in the diaspora commonly utilized a vernacular of their own for internal daily communication and a non-Jewish vernacular for external contacts.  This, triglossia was the norm for at least many adult males, and women and children approached this norm as closely as their roles, age and personal history permitted.  Had modern Zionism been an outgrowth of Jewish traditional life, it might or might not have revernacularized Hebrew, but, even had it done so, it would have almost certainly viewed Hebrew as an intercommunal lingua franca, rather than as the one and only legitimate mother tongue and language of daily life of an independent Jewish Palestine.

However, modern (‘political) Zionism was not a direct outgrowth from traditional life, but, rather, on the one hand, sprang from substantially assimilated Western European Jewish exasperation with continued post-emancipation anti-Semitism, and, on the other hand, from strident Eastern European Jewish secular nationalism, under the strong influence of the other late nationalisms and national-state aspirations of that part of the world.  Like these others, therefore, modern Zionism generally envisaged an internally unified, culturally modernized and homogenized, ‘reborn’ people, in its old homeland and not only speaking its old language, but speaking only its old language, insofar as its internal life was concerned.  Leading Western Zionists were somewhat slow to adopt this view (even Herzl initially foresaw a Jewish State in which the elite spoken Russian or German and the ‘masses’, primarily Yiddish), and some Eastern European Zionist groupings also interceded for ‘Yiddish too’, whether on a temporary or on a more permanent basis, but the monolingual Hebrew bias of most Eastern European Zionists was adamant and only tactically compromising (in line with the adamancy of Polish nationalists, Ukrainian nationalists, Lithuanian nationalists, etc., on behalf of their respective national languages).  For most, there could be no question but that only Hebrew could rekindle the Jewish ‘national soul’ and lead it back to the towering moral and cultural grandeur (albeit in a modern way’) of the classical Jewish past.  To import an established diaspora Jewish language into Zion struck them as tantamount to ‘introducing a pagan idol into the Holy Temple’, i.e., polluting and destroying the very promise that a reborn homeland stood for.

Toward the end of the nineteenth century, when the modern Zionist movement began to take shape and to become an active force, the bulk of the Jews whom it sought to enlist on behalf of resettlement in Palestine were from Eastern and East-Central Europe.  Their mother tongue was almost invariably Yiddish, then a language of some ten million speakers, and, accordingly, Yiddish was the most usual vernacular that they brought with them to the new settlements and the old and new towns and cities of Palestine.  Yiddish too had recently become a vehicle of modern, secular culture, as had Hebrew, and was held in high regard not only be some Eastern European Zionists but by various other contemporary Eastern European Jewish movements, non-Zionist as well as anti-Zionist, religious as well as secular.  As a language of everyday life, and even as a language of modern, secular prose, Yiddish could have immediately functioned as the language of Jewish Palestine, many Jews who had come there from North Africa, the Balkans and the Middle-East (with other Jewish vernaculars of their own), whether well before, in anticipation of, or immediately after the beginnings of the Zionist movement, having learned it by dint of interaction with the numerically and culturally dominant Eastern Europeans.  Indeed, Yiddish was much more fully developed then for all modern purposes than was Hebrew and it could easily have become the language of the Yishuv (the entire Jewish community in Palestine, Zionist and non-Zionist alike) had not steps been taken to suppress it and to besmirch it.

The campaign waged by Hebraists against Yiddish was bitter and relentless.  Yiddish was declared to be loathsome, vulgar, backward and, indeed, a jargon rather than a language at all.  Many of these designations had been used before Zionism arrived on the scene, by Eastern and Western European advocates of several distinct varieties of Jewish modernization, but Zionism added to them the epithet of ‘galuti’ (diaspora-related, i.e., subservient, weak-kneed, boot-licking) and piled upon the edifice of epithets a storm of physical abuse and hooliganism against the speakers, the organization, the events and the publications that dared to use Yiddish in public in Palestine.  The Zionist object to Yiddish was, in part, like their objection to Jewish use of any other language for internal purposes in Palestine (indeed, German and French also occasionally suffered from similar outpourings of wrath).  Mainstream Zionism could never accept a diglossic arrangement vis-à-vis Hebrew, least of all for internal purposes.

However, in many ways the prohibitions against Yiddish were more stringent and the struggle against it more bitter and unrelenting than those that applied to any other language.  This was doubtlessly because Yiddish was initially (and even up until World War II) the only other Jewish vernacular that could possibly have been a serious rival to Hebrew, but it was also because virtually all of the revernacularizers of Hebrew spoke Yiddish themselves and, therefore, they had to wrench it out of their own tongues, block it from their own emotions and disconnect it from their own most intimate personal ties.  Fifty to sixty years later, another competitor appeared on the scene English, first and foremost as a vital link to Jews in Anglophone countries and in the West as a whole.  With the near-demise of secular Yiddish (the coup de grace was dealt by the Nazi-conducted holocaust rather than by Zionist Hebraism), English, rather than Hebrew, has stepped in to give Jews all over the world – and in Israel too – whatever semblance of a common vernacular they now have.  As we will see, below, English does not rival Hebrew as a mother tongue of Jews in Israel, but it does compete with it increasingly in many highly statusful and symbolic functions, does so, it should be added, at a time when Hebrew itself is no longer surrounded by the soul-stirring passions that protected it during the earliest decades of this century.  Thus, Jewish bilingualism remains a widespread fact of daily life, no matter how much the early Zionists railed against it, but the ‘companion language’ is now a mighty giant on the world scene, rather than a folksy member of the family of Jewish languages.

French in Quebec

The struggle for Hebrew had to be waged from the speakers’ rostrum, in the press, by voluntary associations and by the organized as well as the spontaneous violence of Hebraists and their followers; the Jews in Palestine had no government of their own upon which to fall back in order to champion the language that represented their aspiration for modern, secular statehood, symbolic continuity with the distant past and cross-communal unity.  But the French Quebecois, the undoubted majority in the province which they controlled politically, could and did turn to stronger tactics and instruments, namely to their government.  The government itself became the chief ‘gardien de la langue’.

As mentioned before, when the ‘Parti quebecois’ returned to power in 1976 it set out not only to fill the gaps in the Liberal Party’s Bill 22 of 1974 but to go considerably further, further perhaps than any language legislation anywhere in the free world.  Its Bill 101, more than a year in the planning and discussion stage, became a landmark measure that not only spelled out an all-encompassing language policy but that defined and fostered the relationship between Quebec and the rest of Canada in an adversarial and anti-diglossic direction.

In the Parti’s 1977 declaration on language policy (Livre blanc), while the Bill was still under debate, it was declared unacceptable to confine the French language ‘to a bilingual collective life… the results of which would be to reduce it to the level of folklore’.  Indeed, even familiarity with English as a second language would have to be carefully regulated because ‘only when the survival of the French language is assured… will the English language cease to be the pervasive symbol of perpetual economic and cultural domination’ that it still was.  Until that far-off date (likened by the opposition to the date of the ‘withering away of the state’ in communist theory) it was the destiny of the French language to ‘accompany, symbolize and support a reconquest by the French-speaking majority in Quebec of that control over the economy which it ought to have.  There will no longer be any question of a bilingual Quebec.’  It would be the ultimate purpose of Bill 101, the chief architect of that Bill subsequently declared, to help counteract the ‘crippling Canadian presence… that imposes restrictions on Quebec which are as shackles in its attempts to develop its own values and culture’.

The Bill itself was a compendium of measures covering the var8ous domains of modern life.  It established a ‘Commission de toponymic’ to replace English names of towns, rivers and mountains.  It required all non-francophone professionals who wished to practice in Quebec to pass French proficiency examinations.  It restricted attendance at English-medium schools to those Anglophone children at least one of whose parents had attended such schools in Quebec, thereby effectively disqualifying most of the children of ‘new Canadians’ as well as children of ‘old Anglo-Canadians’ who had come to Quebec from other parts of Canada (until the latter provision was rescinded under pressure in 1983).  It required all commercial advertising and public signs to be ‘solely in the official language’, while permitting the signs of government offices or services to be bilingual, provided the French portion predominated (leading to the elimination from the Montreal telephone book of all English language listings of provincial government services).  It required the dubbing or sub-titling in French of all non-French films ‘if more than one copy of the film was to be exhibited to the public’.  It required that the courts and the legislatures operate entirely in French and all municipalities (even English ones) were required to keep their minutes in French and conduct their official correspondence in French.  It declared that only the French version of all Quebec laws was official (a provision later declared to be unconstitutional by the Canadian Supreme Court).  But above all, it represented a governmental program for the francization of the workplace.

All businesses had to acquire French names and to use those names alone inside Quebe3c.  Any commercial enterprise with 50 or more employees was required to obtain a francization certificate to prove that it conducted all internal business in French (regardless of whether or not it employed any francophone staff).  Regular government inspections were instituted of all businesses with respect to their francization and internal francization committees were required, operating independently of the ownership or management, with whom the government inspectors could meet during their francization inspections.  Firms failing, after due warnings, to obtain francization certificates, could be heavily fined and, ultimately, closed.  Quotas of francophones were set for every level of administration, up to and including the top administration.  The director of the ‘Office de la langue francaise’, an agency that was given vast new powers and responsibilities in connection with the francization of the workplace, was quite correct in saying that Bill 101 went beyond anything previously undertaken in connection with either corpus planning status planning.  Indeed, Bill 101 entered full-force into the new pursuit of ‘labor market planning’.

As can be imagined, there was a great deal of Anglophone anguish and protest against Bill 101, anguish and protest which have at the time of writing gone on for more than a decade and to little avail.  Some of the provisions of Bill 101 have been declared unconstitutional by the Canadian Supreme Court, but fewer have been amended.  Quebec governments, whether Liberal or Parti quebecois, have, in effect, taken the position that Canadian courts have no jurisdiction in Quebec because Quebec, though still part of Canada, is both ‘a separate society’ and a co-founder of Canada, and, therefore, it cannot be overruled by its own creation.  Well over 100 major ‘head-offices’, 15,000 existing positions and 100,000 residents have left the province (including over 12% of the total Anglo population of Montreal), but the predominant francophone attitude remains one of ‘Ne touches pas la loi 101’.  Indeed, in subsequent years some of the provisions of the Bill have been tightened up and few indeed have been loosened without Federal intervention, and even that has not usually helped.

Clearly, francophone Quebec (like the early Zionists in Palestine) has rejected a policy of widespread bilingualism, let along of diglossia.  It may sound extreme to claim that ‘for Quebec, bilingualism is a dangerous menace; only traitors and utopians wish to ignore this’, but this claim is supported by pointing to the fate of shrinking francophonie in the rest of Canada, where francophones are (or were) almost always bilingual.  To the charge that Quebec is being cruel toward its Anglophones and behaving in an unseemly fashion by ‘humbling them (as was claimed by the Commissioner of Official Languages in his 1988 annual report) the answer is given that Anglophones in Quebec are still better off linguistically than are francophones outside of Quebec, that ‘the French character of the province is not yet guaranteed’ and that ‘Francophones need more time to build a sense of security’.  However, the longer the attainment of such security in delayed, the clearer it becomes that even though the independentists lost the 1980 referendum re negotiating a new ‘sovereignty-association’ with the rest of Canada (by a vote of 60% to 40%), Quebec’s ethnolinguistic policy often proceeds as if just such an association had actually been approved.  As a culturally sovereign entity, Quebec has neither a need nor a wish for a societal bilingual accommodation with the fathomless sea of English round about it.


We have seen that in their period of greatest weakness both Hebrew and French in Quebec functioned in bilingual/diglossic contexts.  These contexts provided safe functions for these languages, functions that sheltered them from the types of societal competition for which they were not yet sufficiently accepted.  Subsequently, the substantial successes of their RLS-efforts (efforts that were fully integrated within larger ethnopolitical movements, and successes that were experienced prior to the attainment of independent statehood in the case of Hebrew and without any such attainment [thus far] on the part of Quebec), fundamentally altered the earlier bilingual/diglossic arrangements and fostered, in their place, the dream and, increasingly, the reality of a far more internally monolingual society, with their own languages clearly and quite consensually in the dominant position.  There is definite evidence that Catalan too is being pulled in that same direction, but it is also evident that in this case it will be ‘a long haul’ and, ultimately, not as clearly or as consensually a successful one.

With the granting of autonomy, there was no longer any danger that Catalan would have to struggle even to maintain its rightful place in intra-societal communication.  Indeed, in 1979 the goal of RLS-efforts became the attainment of full societal bilingualism in which Catalans could use Catalan for any and every societal and symbolic function, from the most plebian to the most elevated.  From that initial post-Franco stage, matters have clearly progressed to a stage that is somewhat ‘mixed’ at the moment.  On the one hand, there is a definite preference for Catalan in the very highest and most powerful societal functions and decisions, e.g., in the Generalitat, the Parliament and the town councils, although the official posture, in accord with the Constitution, is one of ‘official bilingualism’.  On the other hand, the repertoire breadth of most native Catalans is still not what it ‘should be’, from the point of view of the Directorate of Language Policy (i.e., their literacy and formality behavior is still to frequently in Spanish, as is their interaction with non-Catalans), and the active use of conversational Catalan by the bulk of immigrants and their children is far too low.  While there has been progress in both of these connections, it has been slow progress at best.

Setting aside the constitutional issue, there are a number of reasons why the struggle against Spanish cannot be conducted more aggressively in Catalonia.  Attempts to discredit Spanish among Catalans would have negative repercussions with respect to fostering both the sense of being accepted and a Catalan self-concept among the very considerable Spanish-speaking ‘minority’ (which, in some demographic and function context, actually constitutes a local majority).  It is difficult to oppose Spanish, on the one hand, and to appear accepting and attractive to the Spanish-speaking, on the other hand.  It is even difficult to foster a Catalan identity among the resident Spanish speakers and, at the same time, to agitate among native Catalans that only someone who uses Catalan in all communications and with everyone is a true and local Catalan.  Compromises obviously have to be made and the time for maximalist solutions has not (or not yet) arrived.

Catalans who are familiar with the French Quebecois case often point out the Quebecois objections to bilingual education in that context.  A well-known Catalan language activist has recently featured the Quebecois view that ‘Bilingual education can function in an environment where the mother tongue is not threatened.  If the mother tongue is in a position of weakness, then bilingual schooling will deliver the final coup de grace.’  This is a worrisome realization in a setting where most schools are bilingual and where Catalan immersion schools are still relatively few and far between.  Where only slow progress is the best that can be hoped for, particularly in connection with Catalanizing the huge mass of Spanish-speaking immigrants and their children, the ultimate goal of a ‘territorial solution’ in which Catalonia, like every ‘normal nation’, will have its own language as the clearly dominant one in its own region and where Spanish will merely be a second language, used for interactions with other regions of Spain, seems far-off indeed.  No wonder, then, that there are some who feel disheartened and who, looking excessively at the empty half of the glass, feel that ‘the linguistic situation has deteriorated too far for such a goal [the ‘normal’ goal of the territorial principle, as realized, e.g., in Quebec] to be reached.

This is probably an overly pessimistic conclusion, particularly since some pro9gress toward Catalanization is being made constantly, both with the immigrant and with the native Catalan population.  Perhaps, however, before the ultimate goal can be attained, a new ‘reverse diglossia’ will have to be at least transitionally attained, with Catalan H and Spanish L.

The Current Situation:  ‘Success’ and its Residual Problems


Hebrew has become, in the course of this century, the mother tongue and major spoken language of the vast bulk of the native-born Jewish population of a reborn Jewish state.  Its former diglossic relationships with other Jewish vernaculars has been set aside.  And yet, some old problems continue, at a much reduced level of intensity, and new ones have appeared on the horizon that need to be watched.

As a haven for persecuted Jews, whether they are committed or alienated, the world over, Israel is constantly experiencing Jewish immigration and, indeed, actively courting such immigration.  One result of this immigration, however, is the fact that non-Hebrew-speaking Jews are constantly present in sufficient numbers to require special services and communications in their respective mother tongues, particularly for their adult members,  many of who will never acquire complete proficiency in Hebrew.  As long as the ‘ingathering of exiles’ continues, however, the uniformationist Zionist dream of complete hebraization will remain unattainable and a portion of the country’s elite will feel unfulfilled, as a result.  The magnitude of this problem is usually understated.  The census regularly undercounts the speakers of languages other than Hebrew, and shamelessly does so by as much as 100% in the cases of a large number of diaspora-derived Jewish vernaculars that are ‘not supposed to continue to exist’ more than two-thirds of a century after the revernacularization of Hebrew occurred.  At this point in time, Yiddish is undercounted by as much as 50%, by ignoring the ultra-Orthodox who continue to speak it and whole relations with the secular state are ‘strained’ (to put it mildly), while Mugrabi/Yahudic (= Judeo-Arabic), Parsic (Judeo-Persian), Judezmo (Judeo-Spanish) and others are ignored completely as separate entities.  Although there has been some lip service about more positive attitudes toward the various Jewish languages and their respective cultural heritages, it is generally limited to a few radio programs and sanctimonious kitsch for residents of old-age homes.

Although the competition from Yiddish has shrunk to clearly insignificant proportions, it has not disappeared entirely and, with the recent demographic explosion of ultra-Orthodoxy in the Jerusalem area, it has, on occasion, again assumed embarrassing dimensions.  There is still a major ultra-Orthodox grouping that is completely and intergenerationally Yiddish-speaking and that refuses to recognize the State of Israel in any way and who considers the vernacularization of the Holy Tongue to be sinful.  Other, politically more cooperative ultra-Orthodox groupings are also primarily Yiddish-speaking and all ultra-Orthodox groups continue to utilize Yiddish as their major medium of education, particularly for boys.  New, essentially Yiddish-speaking, ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods have mushroomed in the environs of Jerusalem to cope with the high ultra-Orthodox birthrate.  Given the dead-heat between the two major secular political groupings in the country. Likud and Maarach, the small ultra-Orthodox parties are constantly being courted in order to form rather shaky parliamentary majorities with their help.  The shakiness of these coalitions makes the support of the small ultra-Orthodox parties even more valuable and enables these small parties to extract major concessions from the major parties that require their support.  This surprising state of affairs has recently caused a major Israeli political figure to exclaim in utter horror:  ‘The future of this country is in the hands of people who speak Yiddish!’

Much more important, however, is the massive use of English, on the one hand, and the massive ignorance of Arabic, on the other hand, among Jews in Israel.  Studying English has become a nationwide preoccupation, very much like the preoccupation with learning Hebrew in former generations, and some degree of facility in English is a sine qua non for graduation from high school, admission to the university and academic success there, scientific or advanced technological careers, political leadership within Israel itself (it is unthinkable to have a Prime Minister who cannot converse with the President of America or with American Jewish leaders), commercial pursuits with any sort of international connections (either for sales or for purchases), travel abroad, contact with world Jewry and just plain ‘being with it’, snob appeal and status-signaling among the young and the would-be-young.  This is not to say that Hebrew is in any danger whatsoever of being replaced as the mother tongue of almost all native-born Israelis or as the symbol of Jewish independence, but it has suddenly become provincialized and peripheralized in the eyes of many of its speakers, particularly in the eyes of the younger generation and of the intellectuals.  It is not so much that English represents a more believable image of modernity than does Hebrew (as English does relative to Arabic among young Israeli Arabs), but that Hebrew is simply no longer ‘the heart of the matter’ for the younger generation, and the older generation’s concern and travail on behalf of Hebrew now seem quaint, if not outright funny, to a good portion of the young who have moved on to more pressing substantive concerns.

Perhaps it should not surprise us the Hebrew now has little sentiment attached to its use.  Indeed, as is the case with English in most English mother tongue countries, Hebrew is now so widely and effortlessly used that it is destined to be little loved, unless, of course, it should somehow become endangered again.  When the President of Israel proclaimed the Hebrew year 5750 (equivalent to the last quarter of 1989 and the first three quarters of 1990) as ‘the year of the Hebrew language’, in honor of the centenary of Ben-Yehuda’s founding of the ‘Hebrew Language Committee’ (later renamed ‘The Academy of the Hebrew Language’), the Minister of Education publicly bemoaned the infiltration of ‘foreignisms’ (actually, almost always Englishisms) into modern Hebrew (‘actuali, banali, combinatsia, dominanti, finansim, moderni, normali, personali, relativi’, etc., etc.), and concluded with the lament ‘If only we loved Hebrew as much as Yiddishists love Yiddish or Ladinoists love Ladino’.  The Minister of Education grew up in an environment that spoke (and, on occasion, he himself still speaks) both Judezmo and Yahudic.  Although he often also calls for preserving the few phonological distinctions between ‘Ashkenazi’ and ‘Sefardi’ Hebrew, distinctions that the Minister himself takes pains to maintain via their ‘Sefardi’ realization only when he is speaking on formal occasions, his own Hebrew ‘is full of phonological, grammatical, lexical, semantic, stylistic and paralinguistic Yiddishisms’, as is that of most other native speakers of Hebrew today.  This may be no more than one sign among dozens of others that Hebrew is totally at home and fully relaxed in the mouths of its current speakers and that it is impossible to achieve in connection with a language that is spoken by one and all the very same standards of purity and affection as those that apply to sacred, written, threatened classical tongues, on the one hand, or threatened vernaculars, on the other.

French in Quebec

If Hebrew in Israel is not clearly beyond the ‘white heat stage’ of nationalist fears and aspirations, so far beyond, indeed, that most of the sentimental and ideological attachment to the language has dissipated, the same cannot be said about the state of French in Quebec.  Here the argument that the French language and culture will disappear unless the government takes special steps to protect them and to give them advantages over their English counterparts is still frequently heard and widely believed.  Bill 101, and the various legal and political maneuvers that it has prompted for over a dozen years after its adoption, provides the best indication of this state of affairs.  Indeed, French Quebec adamancy in continued support of Bill 101 is sufficiently great to endanger the continuation of the current association of Quebec with Canada and, if further indications are needed of the seriousness with which any threat to French hegemony in Quebec is regarded, this danger to the association with Canada is fully recognized by the pro-French forces without this recognition resulting in any tempering of the views or postures involved on either side.  A united Canada may ‘muddle through’ again, most people believe, but it will not be Quebec that will cave in so as to make that possible.

The British North America Act of 1867, the Constitution of Canada, as it were, could be amended only by an act of the British Parliament, the body which had adopted it in the first place, and since many issues had come up during the ensuing 120 years or more to make amendments to the Constitution desirable, the Canadian Federal government prevailed on Britain (in 1982) to allow it to ‘bring the constitution home’ and to revise it.  Although this ‘patriation of the constitution’ was accomplished without Quebec’s consent or participation, due largely to the exasperation of the Federal Government and the other provinces with Quebec’s insistence on doing things its own way and putting its own needs first, it became clear within a few years that unless Quebec’s consent was obtained to a new Canadian constitution that it could accept, Quebec would merely continue along the path of considering itself de facto independent, even though no de jure declaration to that effect was adopted.  Federal force could not overcome this problem; indeed, Federal force would merely exacerbate it beyond the bounds of any Federally enforceable solution whatsoever.  This realization led to the Lake Meech constitutional accord in 1987.

In return for Quebec’s acceptance of the 1982 constitution, a delicate balance was found between French Quebec and the other nine (either predominantly or almost exclusively English) provinces that had a clear majority in the Federal government.  The others recognized Quebec as ‘a distinct society’ and the Federal Government surrendered some of its powers to the provinces.  This accord required the ratification of all ten provincial legislatures within a two-year waiting period, in order to take effect.  Although Quebec leaders argued that they could ask for nothing less, if they were to obtain Quebec consent to the accord, and although such consent was finally obtained (notwithstanding the protests of Quebec Anglophones, who complained that their rights were being sacrificed) and notwithstanding the even more vociferous complaints of French nationalists (that the very future of the French language itself was being compromised), subsequent Quebec actions definitively limiting the use of English in the province in accord with the spirit of Bill 101 (as detailed by Bill 178 [1988]) have led two other provinces to withhold their approval of the Lake Meech accord and the two-year waiting period is now about to expire.

When the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 1989 that Quebec could not legally prohibit English commercial signage on the streets of Quebec, the very same Prime Minister of Quebec who had originally campaigned on a promise to abide by the court’s decision suddenly opted to disregard it, at least insofar as permitting ‘externally visable’ English signage was concerned.  In supporting its decision, the provincial government cited the Lake Meech accord itself, interpreting it as giving the Province new powers to protect French language and culture via provincial laws favoring the use of French (technically: recognizing the role of the Quebec government in ‘preserving and promoting the distinct identity of Quebec’), even if these laws were in conflict with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Is it really germane to question the sincerity of French-Quebec’s trepidations for the future of the French language within its borders, as English advocates always do?  Probably not, since a concern remains a concern, whether it is justified or not, and self-interest is no more a francophone habit than an Anglophone one.  Underlying the francophone insistence on as ‘English-free’ an environment in Quebec as possible is the conviction that the history of Canada, both prior to and after the British North America Act of 1867, is riddled with innumerable betrayals of the most fundamental promise of all, namely, that made by the Quebec Act of 1771 which guaranteed the protection of French culture in the province.  This sense of betrayal, and the constantly self-renewing memory of betrayal, is fed by the awareness that although almost all of the Anglophone children in Quebec are currently being provided with public education in English, even though they are a distinct minority there and this education must be subsidized by francophone taxes, only half of the francophone children in the rest of Canada, where they are also a distinct minority, are enabled to attend French schools.  From the francophone perspective this is an even more basic denial of rights than is the prohibition against English commercial signs in Quebec.  It implies that French in Canada depends entirely on the steadfastness of Quebec, where the French birthrate is slightly lower (12.7/1,000) than it is in Anglo-Canada (14.4/1,000) and where the rate of immigration from abroad is higher while the assimilation of immigrants into French culture is lower.  Francophones claim to fear that, if current trends continue, they will become a minority in their own province.

Such fears may demonstrate the supremacy of emotion over reason, particularly when ethnolinguistic issues are on the agenda, as many Anglophones claim.  Pointing out that the Census of Canada data pertaining to the early 80s indicate that 99.1% of French mother tongue residents of Quebec actually spoke French at home, whereas only 53.1% of English mother tongue residents of Quebec still spoke English at home, 46.6% of them having switched to French at home by the early 80s [as opposed to only 28.7% having done so in 1971], doesn’t seem to answer at all to the French fears, suspicions and concerns for the future.  Indeed, the latter respond much more spontaneously to efforts to cultivate economic and cultural relations with the rest of the francophone world, on one hand, and to insistence on unrelenting, politically protected francization as the best guarantee of a durable francization.  Thus, though it may very well be that ‘the French enjoy making the English suffer’ (francophones would add: ‘the way the French long suffered under English domination’), this would confirm our initial contention:  French in Quebec has not yet arrived at the stage of effortless and ‘taken for granted’ existence already reached decades ago by Hebrew in Israel.


If there is some doubt as to the justifiability of the ‘sense of endangerment’ in connection with French in Quebec, there is no such doubt in connection with Catalan.  In fact, the situation is still so ‘delicate’ there that supporters of RLS need to keep reminding themselves that considerable progress has been made, particularly in the past five years, and that there is, indeed, a silver lining to the ethnolinguistic cloud hanging over Catalan.  Of course, ‘total Catalanization’, even along the far from complete lines of ‘total hebraization’ or ‘total francization’, is still an impossible dream, but progress in connection with active Catalan use among Catalans themselves and among Spanish-speaking immigrants and their children is definitely being made.  The 1986 census reported that 60% of the population claimed that it ‘can speak Catalan’ and that among children this proportion rose to 64%, with 55% claiming to do so daily.  Even in the Barcelona area, with its high density Spanish-speaking ‘industrial belt’, the great majority of residents have a ‘working knowledge’ of Catalan in terms of their work and other minimal daily routines.  Given that Catalan speakers continue to predominate as workplace managers, as shop owners and as residents of the best neighborhoods, there is obviously a strongly positive economic aura about their language and a strong incentive for others to become more proficient in it, as least as long as the region’s economic ascendancy continues.  This sentiment is being bolstered by RLS-efforts, via both formal and informal means.

In the educational arena, the number of schools in which Catalan is the main medium of instruction is constantly growing, particularly in the Barcelona industrial best where over 600 such schools have been established and are achieving encouraging results vis-à-vis attaining early bilingual competence.  However, problems still abound in this connection, among them the ubiquitous shortage of trained teachers (something we have discovered in so many other RLS-settings the world over), administrative fragmentation, inability of the out-of-school social environments to reinforce the pupils’ school attainments, and, finally, also outcroppings of parental concern (a concern not limited to Spanish-speaking parents) that their children’s Spanish not suffer in the process of Catalanization.  While there is evidence that this concern is not really justified, it is nevertheless an understandable aspect of the total problem.

Catalanization is also moving ahead at the university level, with two of the three universities within Barcelona proper now offering most of their courses in Catalan and all those outside of Barcelona being almost entirely Catalanized.  The university picture is bleakest in connection with textbooks and mimeographed notes, in general, and with science and technology, in particular, although there are, of course, some scientific journals in Catalan as well as an interuniversity effort to prepare Catalan textbooks at least in the introductory liberal arts subjects that nearly all students study.  There can be no doubt that, all in all, education is making some contribution to the overall RLS goals.

The mass media are currently still somewhat more problematic, but there too noteworthy progress has been made during the past few years.  Barcelona, still a worldwide center of Spanish book publication, now publishes many thousands of Catalan books annually on virtually all topics and in all genres.  The daily Barcelona press, on the other hand, as well as the region-wide press circulated throughout Catalonia are both very largely Spanish (commanding over three quarters of the total circulation), although there are two smallish Catalan dailies in Barcelona, as well as weekly supplements or columns in Catalan in the local editions of two of the largest national Spanish dailies.  The Catalan press clearly predominates only in connection with distinctly local and regional publications.  The government has a program of subsidies for publications in Catalan, but it is clear that the road ahead will be a long and difficult one due to the undiminished power of the national print media.

The radio situation is somewhat better than that of the press, given that there are some 220 radio stations that broadcast mainly or entirely in Catalan.  Most of these are local (municipal) stations and, in general, most stations are of the FM variety and are devoted mainly to music.  Although the large commercial stations (some 15 in all) are mainly Spanish-using, there is certainly ample Catalan on the radio.  The TV situation is not quite as good, but it has lately shown signs of significant improvement, with one (out of three) channels now being Catalan Government-sponsored and completely in Catalan, and with two new such channels, one sponsored by the Catalan Government and the other by the Spanish authorities, scheduled for the near future.  Many programs of foreign language provenance (e.g., ‘Dallas’, ‘Sesame Street’, ‘Batman’) are regularly dubbed in Catalan, but this is not yet done for Spanish programs and that, of course, is where the bulk of the competition is located.

Nevertheless, as we have argued throughout this volume, the institutional arenas are not good measures of RLS progress for languages in which the intergenerational transmission system is still in need of the most serious attention.  It is in this subtle but crucial area that the picture vis-à-vis Catalan is clearly changing for the better, both because Catalan speakers increasingly feel that they have the right to express themselves in Catalan, even in ‘mixed company’ (particularly since the Spanish speakers present have an increasingly adequate passive and even active control of Catalan), and because Spanish speakers who do not actually indicate a preference for Spanish are correctly assumed to be willing to be communicated with in Catalan.  The latter represents a particularly noteworthy change.  While both Catalan speakers and Spanish speakers probably still prefer to receive messages in their own native languages, the latter no longer react unfavorably (neither via ridicule nor via reduced solidarity) to non-Catalans who utilize Catalan as a vehicle of communication.  Non-native Catalan is, indeed, being heard more and more, by both population sub-groups, and some of those who use it are prestigious and popular figures, including teachers, politicians, radio and television announcers and performers, etc.  Slowly but surely, Catalan is ceasing to be merely a cliquish ‘in-group thing’ and is competing more effectively as the preferred local language of intergroup communication.

What is recognized as still missing for the largest group of young and young-adult Spanish speakers in and around Barcelona is the opportunity to interact with Catalan speakers in informal, everyday, unthreatening ways.  This is hard to arrange, due to the residential segregation that separates the bulk of ordinary Catalan speakers from the bulk of Spanish speakers, both at work and in neighborhood life.  A number of interesting and innovative efforts have been launched to help overcome this problem.  In Moncada i Reixac, a predominantly Spanish-speaking town of 26,000 in the Barcelona industrial belt, three-day ‘immersion colonies’ have been organized for four- to seven-year-olds, thanks to Catalan Government funds for this purpose.  All of the pre-schoolers in this town are now enrolled in Catalan immersion schools but the ‘colonies enable the children of the town to spend some time with an equal number of Catalan-speaking age-peers from all over Catalonia.  A teacher and an assistant are assigned to supervise every five children and the total number of children annually receiving the benefit of this experience is now only about 1,000.  Obviously, this program merely represents the experimental beginning of something that must grow a thousand-fold before it can really have societal impact.

Another such pioneering effort is that of the town of l’Hospitalet de Liobregat, a newly mushroomed city in the Barcelona industrial best which now has some 300,000(!) predominantly Spanish-speaking inhabitants.  A voluntary association of shops has been organized there whose owners and staff have committed themselves to speak Catalan to their customers in order to assist the latter in activating their passive command of the language.  All pupils in adult classes in Catalan (more about these, below) receive a list of these shops (all of the shops are also identified by emblems on their doors), so that they can more easily do their shopping and activate their Catalan at the same time.  As for special Catalan conversation groups for Spanish-speaking adults, these have been organized by the provincial government and various local councils.  Even here a modicum of ingenuity can be found since the groups are invariably small and led by trained teachers who have specialized in methods of activating a passive knowledge of Catalan.

All of these approaches, and others too, aim at breaking neighborhood habits of intragroup Spanish communication within the industrial zone, thereby greatly shortening the amount of time that is ordinarily needed for the activation of Catalan to take effect, and to make sure that such activation occurs among adults too, rather than only among children.  Nevertheless, promising though all of these special efforts are, they are currently merely a drop in the bucket in comparison with what is needed if these goals are to be widely attained in the reasonably near future.

More general ‘atmosphere-creating efforts’ have also been undertaken in Catalonia.  An intensive mass-media campaign aimed at shopkeepers (1986-1987), costing approximately $400,000 in all, encouraged this target group to change their shop signs to Catalan.  Some 2,000 signs were changed and sign-painters gave special discounts, in addition to the subsidies, loans and lower interest rates made avai8lable by the government for this purpose.  Furthermore, restaurants, cafeterias and bars have been assisted to prepare Catalan price lists and menus, an effort that was also backed up by an extensive mass media campaign.  Publicity campaigns have also featured Spanish speakers, speaking in broken Catalan, asking their co-workers to help them improve their spoken Catalan.  This is a sign that Spanish speakers are no longer afraid, as they were only a few years ago, of being laughed at for speaking Catalan poorly.  This too is a sign of progress toward activation.  More generally, radio and television interviewers speaking to Spanish speakers have begun to stick adamantly to Catalan, even though their interlocutors still continue in Spanish.  This is a widespread signal of a basic intra-Catalan change in the interlocutor-based switching which only a few years ago was considered to be the implicit norm.

On the whole, Catalan RLS activists are far from having arrived at widely implemented solutions to their major problems with Catalans and non-Catalans alike.  Even the lower courts and the neighborhood police stations are still not fully Catalanized in practice.  Nevertheless, the hardest problems are being tackled and slow progress is being made.  Those who believe that the situation is hopeless, that no full normalization of Catalan is possible because Spanish speakers are protected by the Central Government and by the Constitution and have every right to remain Spanish speakers and only Spanish speakers for ever, if they so choose.  But Catalan per se is no longer diminishing in users or in uses and, indeed, there is good reason to conclude that it is moving ahead on both fronts and in both of the target groups that it must keep in mind.  Its ultimate success, if by that we mean the Catalanization of public life in Catalonia, is not a foregone conclusion, but neither was that of Hebrew some 90 years ago nor that of French in Quebec some 30 years ago.  Given the continuation and amplification of the intelligent and ample support currently available for RLS-efforts on behalf of Catalan, there is every reason to hope that they will be equally successful by a quarter century from now, as well as considerably less punitive in reaching their goals.


What can we conclude from these three relatively successful cases?  First of all, that success vis-à-vis intergenerational mother tongue continuity is attainable even if, as in the case of Hebrew, no vernacular speech community remains in the language.  The vernacularization of Hebrew started at stage 7 and went on to stages 6, 5 (particularly for adults) and 4, in fairly rapid but far from inevitable succession.  The schools that vernacularized Hebrew among their pupils were closely linked to prior homes, families and settlements that fully supported this goal and attempted, less spectacularly perhaps, but no less crucially, to parallel it in a slowly but surely increasing number of pursuits at the adult level. The higher domains (particularly work sphere outside of the new settlements, mass media and quasi-governmental or symbolic agencies) became vernacularized only substantially later and contributed to the entire process of intergenerational transmission of the new mother tongue only to the extent that this process of intergenerational transmission of the new mother tongue only to the extent that this process had safe and sure foundations at stages 6, 5 and 4.  Indeed. Ben-Yehuda, whose premature and overly formalized and institutionalized societal efforts tried to turn this progression on its head, by starting at the top and working downwards, was a miserable failure insofar as societally integrative vernacularization and intergenerational mother tongue transmission were concerned.

The French Quebec and Catalan cases crossed over the continental divide more rapidly, as far as focusing on stages 4, 3, 2 and 1 were concerned, because they never lost control of stage 6.  Once their ideological clarification had been attained, and given that the French demographic preponderance in Quebec made the Anglophone presence non-problematic for stages 6 through 4a, a new breed of francophone leaders in Quebec quickly realized that they could go on the offensive with regard to the francization of stages 3, 2 and 1.  However, the close demographic balance in Catalonia made (and still makes) it necessary for RLS leaders there to take a much more long-term view and approach.  Nevertheless their aim is fargoing Catalanization, at least in public life and in intergroup communication within Xland, just as it is in Quebec for French and in Israel for Hebrew.

The diglossic emphases that are necessary for self-preservation when RLS-efforts are still concentrated on the weak-side (stages 8 to 5) are counterproductive when circumstances permit these efforts to be concentrated on the strong side.  When the worm turns, it can look upward.  The Catalan case demonstrates that this can be done far less invidiously than the records of the Hebrew or French Quebec cases reveals.  In the end, however, each language remains confronted by a language of wider communication on the world scene, primarily for intergroup communication but, also and inevitably, for certain intragroup processes that are far more than merely metaphorical.

In a sense, the struggle for RLS never ends, particularly at the subjective level, because almost all languages, even those that were never threatened within their own acceptable territorial or functional domains, ultimately encounter contextually stronger competitors.  If continental French itself is concerned about fostering the use of French within the borders of France, is there any wonder that francophone Quebec has this concern vis-à-vis French in Quebec?  It should similarly not surprise us that RLS may be of genuine concern to a whole host of smaller ethnonational languages, not because their very existence is threatened or, more often than not, exposed to patterned avoidance.  Accordingly, Hebrew, French in Quebec and Catalan have been only partially successful in their RLS-efforts, buffeted as they are by gigantic languages round about them and annoyed as they may well be by smaller languages within their very midst.

Indeed, the theory and practice of avoiding, counteracting and reversing language shift may well be of interest to all language communities.  Such theory and practice constitute aspects of language status planning which have been overlooked for far too long and which have a distinct contribution to make to the larger sociolinguistic enterprise, theoretical and applied, throughout the world.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s