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Regional Library of Bizkaia, Bilbo (Bilbao), Bizkaia
Regional Library of Bizkaia, Bilbo (Bilbao), Bizkaia. Photo by Mary Linn, Smithsonian

Languages are integral to our identity, our heritage, and our humanity. With most of the world’s languages endangered to some degree, thousands of language communities have committed to revitalization efforts, from documentation and renewal to revitalization and maintenance. These efforts respond to the urgency of the situation in the absence of robust comparative research.

Sustained efforts in language revitalization and the accumulated literature on these efforts are at a point where larger-scaled comparative analysis and synthesis are possible. To address this need, the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage has developed an interdisciplinary research program, Sustaining Minoritized Languages in Europe (SMiLE), that seeks to examine autochthonous (native to a place where found) or minoritized language revitalization initiatives in Europe.

Collaborative Research Awards

Based on research at the Center and proceedings from an international workshop in Barcelona in 2016, the project offered competitive awards in November 2017 to six teams of researchers working collaboratively in language revitalization in Europe. From January 2018 until July 2019, they will produce ethnographic case studies focusing on the process of revitalization in their communities, including how programs build on motivational responses to social, cultural, political, and economic factors. In order to produce comparable profiles, each team will minimally answer a set of research questions (found under program materials).

The case studies will lead to more generalizable data, which in turn can be applicable to other languages. The research teams and advisory board will work together to analyze the data and present the results to the originating communities, other minoritized or endangered language communities, and academic audiences. 

The awardees consist of researchers embedded in Galician, Greko and Griko, Irish, North Frisian, Occitan, and Upper and Lower Sorbian communities. Read more about each of these case studies and the principle researchers below.

SMiLE Research Awards are sponsored by the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage with funding from Ferring Pharmaceutics Inc.

Case Study Communities

SMiLE research and case studies will be completed in summer 2019. Below you can explore the case study communities and research teams. Each profile is in both English and the focus language(s) or variations. The following information is included in each language profile.

Endonyms are names people give to themselves and their languages, as opposed to exonyms which are used by people outside of that group. For example, the language spoken in the Netherlands is called Dutch in English and holandés in Spanish, but their own name for their language is Nederlands.
ISO codes (ISO 639-2 Language Codes) are international standards that represent the names of languages. The codes help to disambiguate multiple language names and spellings when conducting research in archives, libraries, or online.
Current speakers include native and new speakers. Numbers cannot reflect actual usage or pressures from the majority language(s). These numbers are provided by the research teams and are meant only to give a general idea of the speaker base.
  • Semente, Santiago de Compostela
    Photo by Marcos López Pena
    • Endonym: Galego
    • ISO Code: glg
    • Current Speakers: 2,400,000
  • “Attraversando il Griko” event in Corigliano d’Otranto, August 2016.

    Photo by Manuela Tommasi
    • Greko
    • Endonym: to greko, i glossa greka, ta chorìa greka, i Area Grekanika
    • ISO Code: none (considered a dialect of Greek: gre)
    • Current Speakers: unknown
    • Griko
    • Endonym: 'o griko, i glossa grika, ta chorìa grika, i Grecìa Salentina
    • ISO Code: none (considered a dialect of Greek: gre)
    • Current Speakers: unknown
  • Children show off artwork created at Casadh na Gráige.
    Photo courtesy of OChD
    • Endonym: Gaeilge (variants: Gaelainn, Gaoluinn)
    • ISO Code: gle
    • Current Speakers: <80,000
  • Dancing at the Fering Inj (or “Frisian Evening,” loosely translated) of the Föhr Association in February 2018.
    Photo courtesy of Nils Langer
    • Endonym: Friisk (variants: Frasch, Fräisk, Fräisch, Freesk, Fering, Sölring, Halunder, Öömrang)
    • ISO Code: frr
    • Current Speakers: 5,000–7,000
  • A pro-Occitan language demonstration in Béziers, France, in 2007.
    Photo by Ana-Maria Poggio
    • Endonym: Los occitans
    • ISO Code: oci
    • Current Speakers: 600,000–3,000,000
  • Photo courtesy of researchers
    • Upper Sorbian
    • Endonym: Serbja
    • ISO Code: hsb
    • Current Speakers: 15,000
    • Lower Sorbian
    • Endonym: Serby
    • ISO Code: dsb
    • Current Speakers: <4,000

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