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Minority language standardisation and the role of users

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Abstract

Developing a standard for a minority language is not a neutral process; this has consequences for the status of the language and how the language users relate to the new standard. A potential inherent problem with standardisation is whether the language users themselves will accept and identify with the standard. When standardising minority languages one risks establishing a standard that the users do not identify with, and thus, standardisation which was supposed to empower minority language speakers may create a new form of stigma for those who feel that they cannot live up to the new codified standard (Lane 2011). In order to investigate the role of users in minority language standardisation processes this article analyses language standardisation as a form of technology and draws on theories from Science and Technology Studies (STS), focussing on actors who resist or even reject (aspects of) standardisation. STS has investigated standardisation of technologies (Bowker and Star 2000) and the reflexive relationship between standards and users (Oudshoorn and Pinch 2003). Insights from these investigations are applied to the case of standardisation of Kven, a minority language spoken in Northern Norway, with a particular emphasis on how users of the standard are inscribed and configured (Woolgar 1991), the exclusionary effects of standards (Star 1991; Gal 2006; Lane 2011) and the positions of non-users (Wyatt 2003).

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Correspondence to Pia Lane.

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Lane, P. Minority language standardisation and the role of users. Lang Policy 14, 263–283 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10993-014-9342-y

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Keywords

  • Minority language standardisation
  • Technology
  • Users
  • Critical turn
  • Agency