عنوان مقاله [English]
Language vitality is a concept that indicates to how extent a language is used as a communication instrument in different social situations. The highest point of the vitality of a language is when the language is applied in full-scale both at home and outside in the society for all purposes while the lowest point is when no one applies the language for no purpose, that is to say the language is extinct. Nowadays, threats to languages are a global crisis, since the number of children who learn their native languages is remarkably decreasing. Mazandarani is not also excluded from this threat. The aim of this study is to apply UNESCO framework that is a result of a collaboration of an expert group of scholars on endangered languages, to assess the vitality of Mazandarani in urban areas. Analyzing the data resulted from questionnaires, official and library sources and field study indicated that Mazandarani receives the point 2.74, a situation a bit worse than what is defined as “definitely endangered” in UNESCO framework for assessing the vitality and endangerment of languages. Discussion on research variables, gender, education, and age, specified that comparing to women, men totally both have a better and more positive attitude toward Mazandarani language and use it more. As education level rises, the use of Mazandarani decreases and the attitude of speaker society toward this language becomes more negative and pessimistic as well.
Linguistic vitality is a concept that was introduced in the final quarter of the 20th century, when with the growth of communication technology, the world was becoming a desolate. The need for communication forced many communities to leave their native language, and this process caused tremendous language death.
So far, no research has been conducted to determine the amount of danger the Mazandarani language variety might come across and explain its reasons. Therefore, the present study follows two main objectives: determining the linguistic vitality status of Mazandarani and introducing and presenting a scientific framework that can determine the vital status of other Iranian language varieties and provide the language policy-makers with the results.
2. Theoretical Framework
This study was conducted based on the linguistic vitality assessment framework of UNESCO (2003) on endangered languages. UNESCO (2003) has introduced nine factors for assessing language vitality which together are very useful in determining the general sociological status of languages. These factors are: 1) intergenerational transmission of language, 2) Definite number of speakers, 3) Ratio of speakers to the total population, 4) Areas in which language is used, 5) Response to new areas and media, 6) Application in language teaching and literacy, 7) Attitudes and language policies of the government and official authorities, 8) Attitudes of community members towards their language and 9) Quantity and quality of documentation. None of these factors can be used alone, because a language that is in a high position based on one factor may need immediate attention and action based on other factors. For each of the above factors, except for the definite number of speakers, 6 different degrees have been considered, each of which indicates a degree of linguistic life and risk.
The data of this research was culled in Mazandaran province. To collect data, based on the 9 UNESCO factors a closed-ended questionnaire consisting of 22 questions was developed. The validity and reliability of this questionnaire was confirmed by several linguists and sociologists of language.
The status of 6 out of the 9 UNESCO factors was assessed through the data obtained from the questionnaire, and the other 3 factors, namely the definite number of speakers, the use in language teaching and literacy, and the quantity and quality of language documentation based on information and statistical reports, documents in libraries, websites, references to schools, education departments, as well as language teaching institutes and schools.
In order to collect data uniformly and as close as possible to the real situation of Mazandaran language in terms of life and endangerment, researchers divided the province into three geographical areas to distribute the questionnaires in equal numbers.
Based on the Cochran's formula, the sample population of the study was determined 665 people for each area which was a total of 1995 people. 800 questionnaires were distributed in each of the three eastern, central and western regions of Mazandaran province, however, a total of 1601 answered questionnaires returned. The participants of this study were divided into several groups based on three factors: age, gender and level of education.
4. Results & Discussion
For each of the factors, the participants were divided into the following categories: female up to 20 years, female 21 to 40 years, and female 41 years and above, male up to 20 years, male 21 to 40 years and male 41 years and higher.
According to the data of this study, the intergenerational transmission factor is assigned a score of 2.83, which means that the status of this factor is slightly worse than the "definitely at risk" situation. Due to the decreasing trend of the number of speakers, the factor of definite number of speakers has been assigned 3 points, which indicates that the trend of the number of speakers of Mazandarani language also shows a definite danger for this language.
The ratio of Mazandarani language speakers, which is directly related to the number of speakers, received a score of 3 and indicates a definite danger. The domain of language application is given a score of 3.33, which indicates the existence of "gradual reduction of domains" and "existence of multilingualism" together. In terms of responding to new domains and media, this language is completely "inactive" and has received a score of zero.
In terms of application in education and literacy, Mazandarani has gained a score of 2, which means that despite the written materials, there is practically not much use for it. The attitudes and policies of the government and official authorities in Mazandarani have also received a score of 3, which means "passive matching" in the geographical area in which Mazandarani is used. In other words, the situation is such that in practice, the Mazandarani language community is moving towards assimilation. The attitude of the members of Mazandarani linguistic community toward their language has gained a score of 3.50. This score indicates that while most members support the preservation of their language, many are indifferent. The quantity and quality of Mazandarani documentation can be examined in two distinct categories: "audio and video recording" and "grammar, dictionary, texts and literature". A score of 4.00 is given to the quantity and quality of the documentation. Finally, the average of these 9 points, which is equal to 2.74, indicates the status of Mazandarani vitality and its degree of risk: a situation that is close to the "definitely endangered" situation described by UNESCO (2003) but slightly worse.
5. Conclusions & suggestions
This study shows that the Mazandarani language is definitely in danger. The most important factor in the survival of any language is the intergenerational transmission of that language. Therefore, in order to protect Mazandarani language and reduce the dangers that threaten its existence, it is undoubtedly really effective to pay a serious attention to intergenerational transmission. To achieve this, many measures can be taken that require the collective efforts of speakers and the support of the government and official authorities. Linguists and language activists can play an effective role in this case. The first step should be awareness. Due to the large number of speakers of Mazandarani, many people do not even think that this language is endangered and if the situation of intergenerational transmission continues in the same way, this language will become extinct in the not too distant future. Therefore, warning experts in this field and changing attitudes towards the mother tongue will definitely work.
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