Language: system, means of communication and symbol: identity and ideology among Slovenians in Italy

Research project in collaboration with the Slovenian education consortium(Slovenski izobraževalni konzorcij – SLOVIK)

Project manager: dr. Matejka Grgič
Project implementation period: 2013-2016

In scientific and technical literature, at least since the beginning of the 20th century, three dominant epistemologies emerge, which define language as a system (structure) of signs, as a means of communication and as an identity symbol. These definitions are not ideologically neutral; each one of them reflects a certain “approach” to language or a “representation” or “image” of the language, which is not (exclusively) scientific, but (originally) ideological. In Slovenian linguistics, particularly in the 70s and 80s, the definition of language as a “system of signs” has gained ground; at the same time, however, in the Slovenian cultural space, language is an identity symbol of the ethnic group, of the nation and of the individual as a member of this ethnic group or nation. Beyond the border of Slovenia (among members of the Slovenian national community in Italy), where the sociolinguistic position of Slovenian language is more at risk, this “symbolic” value of the language is specific. The hypothesis of the research is that the linguistic ideology which has developed in this environment due to the specific position of the Slovenian language, has influenced the general, divulgative and scientific discourse regarding language. The need of identification has brought to a clear, even extreme emphasizing of the symbolic function of the language, while the other two aspects (as a system and a means) have been put aside or, with respect to the dominant Slovenian linguistics, “elaborated” for the specific needs of this space.

The work will be carried out by analyzing the discourse in several articles (columns, divulgative texts, reportages) published by the newspapers Primorski dnevnik and Novi glas on the language topic. With the method of discourse analysis, the research verifies how the language concept is thematized in the selected texts, which are the declarative and interpretative processes, which the relationships between the actors emerging within the »language« thematization and, finally, which are the potential functions (aims) of such a representation of the language. In this, we will consider texts that are primarily intended for the Slovenian minority in Italy and whose authors are (or is to be expected they are) members of this community. The texts selection is temporally limited to a one year period (12 months). The method is expressively qualitative. The marginal quantitative analysis is only an integration with a merely explanatory function.

In 2015 we prepared the theoretical base of the research and performed the analysis of the discourse of the selected articles. The results of the research will be gathered in a scientific monographic book, edited by SLORI and Slov.I.K., which it was published and publically presented at the beginning of 2016.

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