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The situation of Valencian as reported in non-institutional sociolinguistic research (1998-2002), by Josep J. Conill


2) Intergenerational language shift was found to be intimately connected with place of residence. The city thus becomes a powerful catalyst in the process of shift to Spanish, such that, even when both parents are Catalan speakers from outside the city, moving to Valencia sets in motion a major process of bilingualisation, which frequently results in Spanish rather than Catalan being transmitted to their offspring..

3) The most influential factors in use of Catalan by young people are: the presence in their speech networks of Catalan speakers, positive academic experience of doing the school subject Valencian, leftwing political orientation, the language attitudes of the parents and, above all, cultural militancy in favour of Catalan.

4) The teaching of Catalan was not seen to have any influence (except possibly a negative one) on the language habits of the students. In contrast, teaching in Valencian was seen to have positive effects and contributed to the student becoming bilingual.

All in all, according to Casesnoves, the existence of two divergent sociolinguistic patterns can be discerned: that of the city of Valencia, with Catalan in an advanced state of recession, and that of the rest of the Valencian Country, where there would seem to be a slight recovery which on occasions may be camouflaging what is happening in the city of Valencia.

2.3 Precarious maintenance: the county of Marina

The picture being outlined until now, taking the form of rapid and drastic language shift in the main urban areas, has to be moderated somewhat when we contrast this with figures from the rural areas of the País Valencià. A recent study by M. Àngels Diéguez and M. Isabel Guardiola entitled Transmissió lingüística intergeneracional a la Marina (2002) will prove paradigmatic here.

The study is based on a survey carried out in 1997 with almost a thousand students and teachers at the county secondary schools of Altea, where the authors interviewed individuals fom throughout the county, having previously divided it up into five zones according to socioeconomic, demographic and linguistic factors. This procedure enabled them to detect greater incidence of Catalan speakers in the most rural areas, with little migration into the area and predominantly agricultural activity.

Bearing in mind that intergenerational transmission is closely correlated with households where both parents are Catalan speakers or Catalan is the language of 50% of mothers and 60% of the fathers, one would expect that it would be spoken by 50% of the students, not more. This turned out to be an accurate prediction of the situation. Some 48% of those questioned claimed to use Catalan habitually, a further 19.7% used it only sporadically and 32.3% never used it, and in fact these percentages indicate a good level of maintenance —with no more than l.1% incidence of language defection— of intergenerational transmission.

The results given above are confirmed by the data on transmission amongst such speakers of Valencian extraction, which emerges as 84.8% percent of the 91.3% of couples who use Catalan as the language used in the relationship. Regarding children of mixed marriages, intergenerational transmission has undergone considerable erosion (25% speak to their children in Valencian, 36% in Spanish and 29% each in their own language), a situation which will get worse when the second generation immigrants —virtually half of the students— reach adult age.

2.4 An overall X-ray picture of the state of the language in the Valencian Country

I have deliberately left until the end, the review of Ernest Querol's contribution, Els valencians i el valencià (2000), both because of its scope, referring to the whole of the Valencian Country, and because of its ambitious theoretical underpinning, based as it is on the formulation of a new and ambitious model for the study of processes of language shift, partially released by the author in earlier publications.

Space does not really allow us to provide much of a description and critique of the complex Querolian theoretical edifice, which in any case has begun to elicit exacting —if positive— appraisal (Calaforra, 2002). At the risk of oversimplifying, let us say that the source of his approach was his dissatisfaction with the unsatisfactory nature of the most usual sociolinguistic models when looking at the factors that determine language use. To overcome the limitations he detected, Querol combined the interlinguistic relations approach of Aracili's model of interposition with trifactorial explanations of language use on the one hand, and the sociological paradigm of social definition (Querol, 2000: 21-43) on the other. That led him to conceive language shift as an (exclusive or hierarchic) choice, the mechanisms of which he illustrates on the analogy of migratory processes and a list of basic antonyms.

Overall, it becomes an attempt to integrate the theory of ethnolinguistic vitality —especially in the version which compares lammergeier or bearded vulture of prey, put forward by Allard and Landry, who developed the questionnaire used (in abbreviated form) by Querol— within the framework of the theory of social representation put forward by Moscovici. The latter is furthermore rounded off by recourse to the juridical institution of legal representation and topological catastrophe theory, with which he establishes a formal analogy that attains isomorphism (Querol, 1997).

The basic hypothesis of the author is that in a process of language shift —defined as "progressive isolation and reduction of the use of a language in its demographic extension, in its geographic extension and in its domains of use and, therefore, in the representation of its possibilities of use" (Querol, 2002b: 73)— the different types of possible linguistic behaviour are the result of the interaction of the social representations that speakers make of the languages in place, of the interpersonal network of communication and of the social reference group.

The empirical part of the research comprises 452 questionnaires (67 more than the minimum necessary), administered in 1998 students of the fourth year of ESO (Compulsory Secondary Education, with students age 16). In order to guarantee greater representativeness of the sample with respect to the whole of the population, one also has to control a series of strategic variables such as, for example, the provincial division, the linguistic area (Valencian-speaking / Spanish-speaking), type of the settlement (lesser / greater than 50,000 habitants) and language of instruction of the school.

The large amount of information obtained for each student (478 items per individual), was submitted to a whole series of statistical treatments: analysis of frequencies and percentages of each variable, crossing of two variables and multivariable analysis (discriminating and multiple regression), as well as application of the new SIPINA technique using induction graphs.

The most interesting results for our purposes are, clearly, those relating to the percentages of speakers of each language. If we only consider the historical Valencian-speaking area, we find that Spanish is overwhelmingly the language most spoken by the younger generation: 72.7% of the students have it as their first language, while Catalan can only manage a desultory 25.2%. In the case of their parents' generation, figures are very similar: 68.3% of parents speak Spanish, while only 28.8% speak Catalan, and taking the mothers only the figure rises to 29.9% while Spanish decreases to 65.1%.

The situation gets no better when we consider intergenerational transmission. Valencian-speaking parents (18.9%) do not transmit Valencian in 11.25% of cases —in contrast, Spanish-speaking couples (63.02%) who do not transmit Spanish do not amount to more than 1.89%. When the couples are mixed, if the mother is Valencian-speaking and the father Spanish-speaking (9.9%) they speak to the child in Valencian in 36.8% of cases, while in the reverse situation (8.3%) the figure drops to 26.5%. In a generation, therefore, the percentage of Valencian speakers has diminished by 4.25%.

But Querol's work does not stop here, since it seeks to explain the determining factors behind the language choice made by speakers, to be able to understand better the processes of language shift / language maintenance. Regarding the three variables under consideration, his results indicate that the use of Valencian correlates above all with social network, that is, the group of Valencian speakers the speaker regularly interacts with, verbally. These results contrast with those obtained by Querol in Catalonia (Querol, 1999, 2001), where the use of the language was linked above all to social representation. They contrast, too, with what he found in the Balearic Islands, where the most important variable, the one that best correlates with language use, is the social representation of Spanish (Querol, 2002a). This is a problematic finding, given that if the social network shrinks progressively in intergenerational transmission, use will be reducing as well.

The consequences are clear: to reverse a process of language shift we need to ensure that the variable that best correlates with language use is social representation and that intergenerational transmission is not negative for the recessive language (Querol, 2000: 196).

3. Final observations

Over and above the diversity of approach, scope and methodology, the earlier studies enable us to sketch the outline of the linguistic situation in the Valencian Country, characterised by the precarious subsistence of the principle cities such as Valencia, Alacant (Alicante) and Castelló de la Plana (Ferrando et al, 1990) —where complete breakdown in the intergenerational transmission of the language has either already occurred or will do so over the next couple of generations. This parallels its generalised maintenance in more rural areas, especially in certain counties such as Safor or Alcoià, a fact which renders them increasingly important with respect to the linguistic community as a whole (Montoya, 2002: 36-43). This is what Vicent Pitarch (1988: 16-20) has called "the rusticity of linguistic domains".

The persistence of the current norms of use, characterised by convergence on Spanish as the common language, increases the danger of massive language shift. Two processes in progress could also contribute to this in a powerful way: the increasing urbanisation of the population and the current flow of newcomers into the area (Morelló, 2002). The latter join others who came earlier, around the middle of the last century, from various parts of the Spanish state, and who in large part did not assimilate linguistically. The sociolinguistic situation described here, therefore, does not in any way support, far from it, the optimism exuded by the official research. Rather we could see it as a clear instance of the failure of "politica lingüística" (language policy) —if we could call it that (Pradilla, 2002)— set in motion, and restricted until now almost exclusively to education and the use of generic-type propaganda.

It would be fair to say that the result of these "policies" has been very modest. While they have contributed to improving attitudes and competence in Catalan among the school population they have not succeeded in halting language shift, or indeed in fostering linguistic integration of second generation immigrants. Worse still: we cannot rule out negative repercussions. This in fact is observable in the form above all of abdication of responsibility for intergenerational transmission of the language observable in some sectors of Catalan-speakers with linguistic habits of undervaluing (Castelló, 2002). The presence of Catalan on the school timetable opens the door to what economists call externalisation of costs, leaving the transmission of the recessive language to the schools —something we have seen for sometime in the case of religious education. Far from being a minor detail, this externalising strategy —complementary, obviously enough, to the internalisation of Spanish— is entirely congruent with a more general social trend which threatens to transform the school system into a kind of drawer for odds and ends, a place in which to stow all that the modernisation of society doesn't have time for. In such a situation, bearing in mind, moreover, how ineffective the school is when it comes to transforming the social order, Boudon (1973), can anyone be surprised at the ineffectiveness of the "normalisation" measures dictated by the Valencian institutions?

As we see it, possible solutions to the challenges posed by the current sociolinguistic situation are neither easy nor can they wait. Perhaps the most pressing need at this time is to call for the design and implementation of specific linguistic policies, adapted to the specific circumstances of each area. It should be quite clear that different situations cannot be tackled in the same way. The main tasks at the present time, as I see it, are to reinforce and increase the existing fullness of use of Catalan in certain rural counties, halt linguistic defection in others, increase the competence of young Spanish speakers and preserve the Catalan-speaking minorities in urban areas. Securing of these objectives goes hand in hand with radical transformation of the current framework for the management of the linguistic diversity of Valencian society. In a paper that may or may not one day see the light I have put forward a self-management model of interlingual relations based on the formula of what I call libertarian liberalism; here, however, I will content myself with stating the need for changes in the current model of education, in terms of the creation of a public network of educational centres in Catalan, and parallel to that the taking of decided steps towards the construction of a new type of forum for communications, shared with the rest of the language community (Gifreu & Corominas, 1991).

Obviously, we cannot hope that these demands will be satisfied by any gracious concession from the powers that be. On the contrary: the élite of Valencian power have always distinguished themselves by their frank hostility to Catalan, and will not respond to anything but decided pressure from people. We are faced, therefore, with the peremptory need to bring together the Catalan speaking population of the Valencian Country, providing them with instruments for the reclaiming of their civil rights in language matters. Rather than a political process, this is a prepolitical process, essential for the emergence of alternative élites to the existing ones and now firmly linked with the replacement of the present political culture of the subject. This culture, with its corollary in nationalism, is dominated by the subjective idea of the benefits that power could contribute to the cause, should (I would argue) be replaced by a participational one, where consciousness of such benefits goes with recognition of the participation habit teamed with indispensable new initiatives for the proper functioning of the political system (Almond & Verba, 1963: 34-36). In my view, the existence of the Federació Escola Valenciana www.fev.org (Valencian School Federation) constitutes a hopeful indication that cultural change is beginning to take place.

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