"Things seem to decline..." - Language, ethnicity and identity illustrated by material from a former Swedish colony in Misiones, Argentina and dialect material from Bjurholm, Sweden
Nowadays there is a universal tendency towards convergence and simplification in several official European languages, the existence of non-codified languages is threatened and dialectal varieties are subject to levelling. If minority languages and intralinguistic varieties are to survive, this depends to a great extent on the identity of the individual speaker and the values and attitudes attached to his/her variety and speech behaviour. Besides, it is also due to the size of the language group, sharing the same values, and its cultural activities, forming part of its tradition. For that reason I have selected material from two threatened speech communities: one from a former Swedish colony in Misiones, Argentina, the other from Bjurholm, a small dialect-speaking community in the interior of Västerbotten, Sweden, in order to study the mechanisms causing the preservation or loss of the linguistic varieties as well as the cultural boundaries.
This study consists of three parts and is divided into eleven chapters. The first part consists of chapter 1-4. Initially concepts of ethnicity, identity and culture are discussed in the light of different sciences, i.e. social anthropology (Barth 1969; Hylland Eriksen 1998), ethnology, the sociology of language (Fishman 1989) and sociolinguistics (Edwards 1985). In the following chapter emigrant material (narratives, letters, local history) forms part of the historical dimension: from the cultural contacts of individuals arriving in Brazil to the later Swedish settlement in Misiones, where it is appropriate to talk about an ethnic group, its collective history and Swedishness. In chapter 3 the continuity of the cultural heritage is illustrated by onomastic material (personal names) from three generations of Swedish descendants. Chapter 4 is a report of investigations carried out in the 1990's. In 1999, the Swedish language had been maintained among 20 of the 32 informants of Swedish descent, each one representing one family network.
Their identity is hyphenated: they are all Argentine but of Swedish descent, and constitute an ethnic group. 24 of them had grown up with Swedish as their first language. Language attitudes had become more positive since 1988, when a similar investigation took place. Lately a new denomination has appeared: Los Nordicos, and it is discussed whether it is ethnic or not.
Part two consists of chapter 5-10 and is the result of the project Dialects in change. The principal questions in this pilot study concern dialect boundaries: are they still maintained or subject to levelling? Which dialectal items are used as boundary markers and which are substituted by standard forms? A dialect boundary implies that dialects are still used in fairly genuine forms and that a local norm is prevailing, which seems to be the case in Bjurholm. Via three types of data, including inquiries, two tests: on dialectal vocabulary (50 lexical items) and translation of twelve standard sentences into dialect versions, besides type recordings of authentic speech, the author has tried to describe the local norm, based on individual micro data. In chapter 9 criteria for dialect variables used in quantitative studies are discussed. Based on this material there is evidence for dialect boundaries towards Lappland as well as towards the neighbour parish of Vindeln (former Degerfors). This material has to be extended to serve as a base for general conclusions and methods must be refined for further investigations. This will be possible, as the old dialects are still in use among the two oldest generations of adults. If they are to be used in the future depends on the younger generation (25-^4-0 years).
In the final chapter data from the bilingual Swedish speakers in Misiones and the dialect speakers of Bjurholm are summarized, discussed and compared. For linguistic survival three key concepts are important: contact, prestige and identification, which can be related to ethnicity on a group level and identity on an individual level. There are striking similarities between them. In both cases there are boundaries between "us" and "them", but these are more subtle in an intralinguistic perspective. Both categories are using spoken varieties in a transitional stage, as Misiones Swedish soon will be extinct and the genuine Bjurholm dialect subject to levelling. Both varieties are also informal and diglossie in function, although codes are not always strictly kept apart. While the use of Misiones Swedish is reduced to the family sphere, the Bjurholm dialect can be extended to a wider range of domains. The great difference seems to concern the history of the varieties and the size of the group of speakers: the Bjurholm dialect can be traced back to at least 1750, maybe even to dialect splitting in the medieval time, while Misiones Swedish has been used for about 100 years by three generations of speakers, nowadays reduced to a number of approximately 150 persons.
Umeå: forskningsprogrammet Kulturgräns norr , 2002. , 334 p.
Svenskar-- Argentina, Språk och identitet-- Sverige -- Västerbotten, Språk och identitet-- Argentina, Misiones, Bjurholm
Med sammanfattningar på engelska och spanska. "Las cosas parecen decaer" - La lengua, lo étnico y la identidad puestos de relieve por el material de una antigua colonia sueca en Misiones (Argentina) y el material dialectal de Bjurholm (Suecia).