Language Endangerment and Maintenance in the Arbresh of Piana Degli Albanesi
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Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2003.
This dissertation analyzes processes of linguistic obsolescence and efforts for maintenance of the Arbresh language, an Albanian dialect spoken as a native language in Piana degli Albanesi, Sicily, since the 1480's, when Piana was founded by a group of Albanians who migrated to Italy in order to escape Turkish occupation. The main goals of this thesis are: (a) to assess the state of the Arbresh language through the analysis of symptoms of endangerment and vitality; (b) to investigate the processes of institutional and community intervention that are targeting the revitalization of Arbresh, and to determine necessary future steps based on its present state. Language endangerment is examined in two main directions: the analysis of the functional scope of Arbresh, and the investigation of structural vitality and shrinkage phenomena. Functional scope is analyzed through evaluation of the uses of Arbresh and the relations between Arbresh and the other languages of the same repertoire, Italian, Sicilian and Albanian. The state of grammatical structures is evaluated by analysis of certain grammatical categories, the state of the paradigms for these categories, and the state of their maintenance in speakers of different ages. The study of the revitalization process consists of the analysis of the efforts of community leaders to maintain the language, the critical examination of new language policies being implemented in Piana during the last few years, and in the discussion of some future steps suggested to achieve reversal of language shift. Endangerment is analyzed mainly from a sociolinguistic perspective, with additional foci on other matters, like the ethnic characteristics of the community, regional and emigrant minority issues, diaspora problems, matters of diglossia and other phenomena characteristic of language contact situations, dominance and subordination tensions in the linguistic repertoire, and the impact of standardization, education, technology and media in language endangerment and maintenance. I conclude that Arbresh is endangered, and that processes of decay are demonstrated in the progressing limitations of the functions it plays in the community, in advancing reduction and loss at the structural levels, and in the overall shrinkage of the number of speakers and their linguistic competence.