language normalization

language normalization
   The constitution of 1978 establishes the framework for significant language planning activities, particularly in autonomous communities where minority languages are spoken. This framework has been further defined in the Statutes of Autonomy of certain regions, with specific language articles and, in a few specific cases, with laws of linguistic normalization. The concept "normalization" (normalización) is peculiarly Spanish. It appears originally to have been used by Catalan sociolinguists, as the result of their direct translation of the similar French term, which, however, was being used to convey the English idea of "standardization". The Catalan writers (such as Aracil, Ninyoles and Vallverdú) extended its meaning to encompass goals which include both status and corpus language planning. Some argued that this inevitably requires a certain political sovereignty and right to self-determination. They stress that normalization involves putting languages on an equal footing with one another, neither higher nor lower, by developing the language both in its corpus elaboration and in its use and ultimate spread. Cobarrubias (1987) elaborates on the difference between normalization and standardization, known as normativización in the Spanish context. According to Cobarrubias, normalization entails functional, demographic and geographic spread of a language.
   This interpretation of normalization has formed the basis of the goals of language planning in Catalonia, the Basque country, Galicia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands. Besides implying the promotion of Catalan, Basque and Galician to equal status with Spanish, "normal" is also understood to refer to their previous historical status. This is especially true for Catalan, a high-prestige language in the Middle Ages and widely-used during the 1930s. In this way, then, normalization encompasses both the idea of linguistic equality for minority Spanish languages, and their role as identity markers for their communities.
   However, there is a certain degree of ambiguity about the meaning of this term, reflecting both its origin and the tensions which he under the surface of current language planning in Spain. For example, La Ley de la Normalización del Uso de Euskera is translated by the Basques themselves as "The Law of the Standardization of the Use of Basque". The Catalans and Galicians translate their laws by "normalization". This may reflect the fact that of the three languages, the one still most in need of dialectal standardization at the time of these laws was Basque.
   Similarly, the emphasis on normativización as a part of the normalization process has been far more apparent in Galicia where the term has, above all, been used to define orthographic rules for the use and teaching of Galician. This in turn arises from the significant debate which continues to take place over whether Galician is, and therefore should be written as, a separate language, or is a variety of Portuguese, with Portuguese spelling. Arguably the most important effect that the linguistic normalization law has had in Galicia has been the publication by its local government of the norms of orthography to be followed in the use of Galician.
   The programmes that have been followed in the different linguistic minority communities vary in terms of emphasis, level of participation and funding, and overall success. However, the model is basically the same. The Catalans, as the largest and wealthiest of the linguistic minorities, have led the way with the fullest programme and, undeni-ably, with the greatest success. The normalization programmes are run by a department of the region's local government, usually a language policy directorate. Most language issues in school-age education are addressed by departments of education, but in close liaison with the language planners. A major part of the work is to promote the language by active campaigns of consciousness-raising, creating positive images and attitudes to the language. If the languages are to be promoted and revived the local administrations of these regions must lead the way in using the local language. All local civil servants must be competent bilinguals. The degree to which local government debates, internal memos, public enquiries, etc. are dealt with in the regional language varies enormously across the three minority language communities. While in the Basque country the use of Spanish is frequent, in Catalonia it is rare to hear Spanish spoken in the offices of the Generalitat.
   Besides this official use, the language planners are targeting sectors such as trade unions and professional associations to persuade them to promote the local language in their documents and discussions. Banks, restaurants, and commerce in general are encouraged to use the local language in dealings with the public and in their publications. Public notices, and particularly road signs and transport information, are in the local language.
   The media is a particularly important area for language planners, both for the use of the language —on television, radio and the press—and as a vehicle of propaganda and persuasion. The increased used of the local languages on television is considered one of the most productive ways of encouraging its acceptance and improving competence in it. Given the lower levels of literacy in the regional languages than oral use (particularly in the case of Basque), the written press plays a smaller role.
   However, the written language is promoted through the efforts of the section of the language planning departments which elaborates and develops vocabulary and corpora of terminology. Particularly in Catalonia, this has often consisted of the production of posters and signs to be displayed in the relevant establishments using appropriate terms and phrases for different activities and sectors of society. Campaigns take place to persuade people to say things "correctly" in their local language. In areas where Castilian-speaking immigration is high, adult education classes are also available to teach the local languages.
   By far the most influential area of language planning is without doubt the education system. The teaching of the regional languages in the schools and colleges of their communities is viewed as the prime target. In all regions where languages other than Spanish are spoken, there is a basic entitlement of three hours" teaching of the regional language, plus one hour when the regional language is used as the medium of instruction for another curricular subject. This applies equally to Spanish in the event of the language of the school being predominantly the regional language. Different models of language provision in the schools have emerged, with the most radical being the Immersion method, largely promoted in Catalonia. Here, children whose mother-tongue is Spanish are immersed in the target regional language for the first few years of their schooling, with little or no contact with Spanish until they are seven or eight. The overall aim of all the education programmes is to allow children to have an equal command of both community languages by the time they finish their compulsory schooling. The results so far are patchy, with, once again, the greatest success in Catalonia.
   The normalization programmes have, inevitably, encountered mixed success to date. In general, attitudes are more positive to the minority languages and the use of them has increased. Such programmes, however, are expensive, raising political and moral questions over the prioritizing of these languages, above all as markers of identity, given that the other function of language, that of communication, is clearly catered for through the use of Spanish.
   - Cobarrubias, J. (1987) "Models of Language Planning for Minority Languages", Bulletin of the CAAL, 47–70 (this is the most comprehensive discussion of the concept of "normalization").

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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