Venturing beyond the heartlands: Creating ‘new speaker’ communities in Upper Brittany and Lower Lusatia

Thematic Section: Biases in research: Who counts as ‘authentic’ bilingual speaker – and how can we tell?

monolingual bias, research practice, bi-/multilingualism research, language ideology, self-reflexivity

Michael Hornsby, Adam-Mickiewicz University Poznan

Lower (western) Brittany and Upper (southern) Lusatia are iconized as the heartlands of the Breton and Sorbian languages, respectively. Higher numbers of speakers of Breton are indeed to be found in Lower Brittany and, even though Lower Sorbian is a separate language from Upper Sorbian, Upper Sorbs do tend to be treated as the ‘core’ (or more ‘authentic’) Sorbian community which influences and even shapes the processes of revitalization in Lower Lusatia. However, smaller communities of speakers are to be found in Upper Brittany and in Lower Lusatia, composed overwhelmingly of new speakers of Breton and Lower Sorbian. Taking the notion of ‘speech community’ much in the sense proposed by Morgan (2014), this paper aims to explore how community members construct ‘a system of interaction and symbols [which] is shared, learned and taught, and […] participants and members are aware they share this system’ (Morgan 2014: 2). In particular, the paper explores theoretically how members discursively construct a ‘sense’ of community (or solidarity) through reference to the domain of interest (i.e. individual interaction with the minority language), through engagement in joint activities and through developing a shared practice via a common repertoire or resources or discourses in Communities of Practice (Wenger 2006). In this way, people intersubjectively construct and negotiate their notion of community (Colombo & Senatore 2005: 52). Through reviewing the literature on both language communities, and also through data collected by the author at the two research sites, this paper interrogates in a comparative way how new speakers of Breton and Sorbian collectively construct an understanding of ‘who they are’, while at the same time recognising that ‘to participate in a speech community is not quite the same as to be a member of it ‘ (Hymes 1974: 50). Overall, an examination of the discourses of belonging and ‘disbelonging’ form the basis of the analytical framework for this paper.