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«Dieter W. Halwachs ROMA AND ROMANI IN AUSTRIA* The Austrian Roma and Austrian Romani can be seen as paradigmatic of the social and linguistic ...»

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The Kalderaš and Arlije, from which only the subgroup from Prilep/Macedonia is mentioned in this table, are paradigmatic of other groups that came from the Balkans, such as the Gurbet whose linguistic repertoire is similar to that of the Kalderaš.

Generally speaking, this table shows the following: the younger the speakers and the more public the communicative situation, the more German diatypes dominate. With the ex­ ception of the repertoire of the older members of the recently immigrated Kalderaš and Arli­ je, German alone is the acrolectal diatype; in other words, German is the primary variety of language used in the public sphere. The fact that the older generations of Kalderaš and Arli­ je still use the language of their country of origin in an acrolectal function is connected pri­ marily with the intact links to Serbia and Macedonia, and the ensuing contact with these countries‘ authorities.3

–  –  –

With the Sinti, Burgenland-Roma and Lovara of both generations and the younger genera­ tion of the Arlije, German diatypes are dominant in their whole repertoire; German varieties are the primary or single diatype in the repertoire strata and thus in all linguistic domains.

This is linked to the individual groups‘ or subgroups length of stay in the German-speaking area, but also to the relatively high degree of assimilation (particularly true for the Lovara who immigrated in 1956 and for the younger generation of the Arlije), which is not only ex­ pressed by the domain-specific use of language. The index of assimilation is the German dominance in the basilect and its use as intimate variety in their social microcosm.

The reason for the linguistic assimilation is, of course, the German-speaking surround­ ing: kindergarden, school, place of work, semi-public life – shopping, free time activities etc.

– and the media – newspaper, radio, TV etc. – are "German". Another important factor is the attitude of some parents who think it would be better to talk only in German with their chil­ dren in order to "simplify their journey through life". Behind this attitude are mainly economic considerations: only a high competence of the majority language makes education and thus being part of the affluent society possible. Using the stigmatized intimate variety, Romani, makes climbing the social ladder more difficult.

If one considers the "self-ordained forced assimilation" of the Burgenland-Roma, their "no longer wanting to be Roma" – caused by the negative experiences during the World Wars and after them – it becomes clear why the attitude towards language outline earlier – Romani will only be a hindrance for their children’s future lives – is most clearly pronounced in this group.

The mesolect which comprises the diatypes of the social macrocosm of the semi-public sphere – work, shopping, communication with acquaintances etc. – displays (with the excep­ tion of the Sinti) a high degree of multilingualism in all groups.

The Burgenland-Roma are sometimes competent speakers of other Burgenland minority languages. The significance of Hungarian and Croatian diatypes in their repertoire has de­ creased over the decades, correlating with the decreasing use within the Hungarian and Croatian minorities themselves. Only older Roma which are living in Hungarian or Croatian towns or linguistic enclaves still have full competence. The younger generations only have, if at all, passive partial competences in Hungarian and Croatian. In the acro- and basilect of the Burgenland-Roma’s repertoire the language of other ethnic groups have almost no sig­ nificance anymore.4 The same is true for the Hungarian language in the Lovara’s repertoire: Hungarian vari­ eties function neither as basilectal nor as acrolectal diatypes. Also, it has mesolectal function only for the older generations of the subgroup which immigrated in 1956, and only if families or individual people still or again have contact with their relatives and friends in Hungary.

Contrary to the Burgenland-Roma and Lovara, both mesolect and basilect of the Kalder­ aš and Arlije are trilingual. With the Kalderaš, Serbian is losing its importance for the younger people, which can also be seen in its sparing use as mesolectal diatype. The rea­ son for this development is the young ones‘ weaker bond with their parents‘ country of origin.

The older people use Serbian with other close friends and acquaintances that also came from the Balkans as immigrant workers, but also with the Gadže in their country of origin.

Because of these contacts Serbian varieties function as both meso- and acrolectal diatypes.

For the Arlije, the Macedonian language is not only a means of communication with other immigrant workers and Gadže in the country of origin, but also functions as a "linguistic link" between the generations. Hence the basilectal function of Macedonian, which has taken the place of Romani as intimate variety – in the Prilep subgroup, as has already been said. The younger the speakers, the more Romani loses its significance in the repertoire. Macedonian is the common language of all generations and a group-building factor. Romani is generally used only as internal means of communication of the older generations, and, partly, for the contact with other Roma from or in the country of origin.

With the Kalderaš, the internal communication is dominated by Romani. It is the primary basilectal diatype and also functions as mesolectal diatype in the contact with other groups of Kalderaš and Vlax-Roma. The reason for this is the – above-mentioned – generally intact socio-structure and the cohesion within the families and clans which knows no boundaries.





Family cohesion and intact social structures are the primary parameters for the use of Romani for the Lovara who immigrated in 1956. Families that have such a cohesion and where traditional conventions of living together are still valid also use Romani as intimate va­ riety. If this cohesion doesn’t exist, Romani is little or not used for internal communication.

Things are similar with the Lovara who immigrated in the previous century, the Burgen­ land-Roma, and the Sinti, too. Wherever they managed to overcome the caesura caused by genocide – the loss of their socio-structure because the grandparents‘ generation, so impor­ tant for the preservation of cultural and linguistic tradition, was murdered – and to re-estab­ lish the former structure, Romani is still used as an equal basilectal diatype along with Ger­ man. For the Sinti and Lovara who are living in the vast majority in urban areas, the situation differs from family to family, from subgroup to subgroup. Those Burgenland-Roma who stayed in the rural area, in Burgenland, have a few linguistic enclaves in which BurgenlandRomani is used along with German as equal basilectal diatype.

As mesolectal diatype, Romani is used by older rather than younger speakers. Romani is important during the mobile summer period, when Sinti come into contact with other, domes­ tic or foreign, groups. The Lovara use their variety of Romani in the contact with other Lo­ vara or Vlax-Roma groups. Burgenland-Romani is very rarely used as mesolectal diatype, and if it is used, only for the contact with linguistically related groups in Slovenia, Hungary and Slovakia that also speak Southern Central varieties. However, contact with members of these groups is quite rare because of the Burgenland-Roma’s isolation within the European Roma society.

The table of repertoires above does not include the acrolectal function of individual Ro­ mani varieties which have only been added recently. Because of its use in the media and the internet, Romani is nowadays also used in a public-official context. However, this is a use which could be called "domain-reduced": in acrolectal domains – education, politics, eco­ nomics, law – Romani is still not used. Besides, the medial use is restricted to "elites" and is partially determined by "non-Roma". This is the reason why this function has not been added to the description of the collective repertoires of the individual groups of speakers. The same is true for the use of Romani varieties in church, at public functions and in the internationalpolitical context; these are all situations which are restricted to a few representatives of indi­ vidual groups, and are thus not to be added to the collective repertoire. Concerning the new acrolectal functions, caused by political changes – self-organization, acknowledgement as ethnic group, organization on an international level – it remains yet to be seen whether Ro­ mani will be able to assert itself in these domains. It would be very desirable if this extension in the dimension of functions in the acrolectal domains would help to stop – or even better – to invert the declining use of Romani in mesolectal and basilectal domains.

2.3 Romani in Education Romani has absolutely no function or tradition as language in which lessons are conducted or as language of education. The main reason for this is the lack of a written tradition, which is a result of the Roma’s existence as fringe groups: stigmatized and marginalized groups do not have the necessary political power at their disposal which is the indispensable basis for the development of economic or cultural centers, which in turn are the prerequisite for build­ ing a linguistic standard and, as result, a functioning educational system.

Things are similar for Romani as subject in school. Stigmatized like its speakers, it was for a long time perceived as autonomous language only by scientific outsiders and phi­ lantropist philologists. With only a few exceptions, Romani is regarded an obstacle to educa­ tion rather than as a part of education. It was only in the course of the self-organization, a re­ sult of the Roma’s quest for emancipation and of the multilingualism and intercultural aware­ ness which became more important in the second half of the 20th century as a reaction to migratory movements, that Romani was perceived integratively – if only in a peripheral way – by the educational establishment.

As far as Austria is concerned, this development is reflected only in the 1998 amendment to the law protecting the minorities in Burgenland, passed in 1994, which has a "constitution­

al character":

Section 6: Particular linguistic instruction § 14. (1) In Burgenland, an additional instruction in Croatian and Hungarian should be made possible according to demand for Austrian citizens of Croatian and Hungarian descent, also in these types of school not mentioned in section 2 to 4. Similarly, an additional instruction in Romanes is to be made possible for the Burgenland Roma.

Section 7: Administration § 15. The Landesschulrat for Burgenland (administration for education) has to set up an own division for the matters of [...] 4. teaching Croatian, Hungarian and Romanes in other schools. (Source: http://www.bka.gv.at/bka/dokumente/MSGburgenland.pdf) These two mentions of Roma and Romanes have to be seen as emblematic rather than "touching upon reality".5 Apart from the fact that these passages explicitly talk about the Bur­ genland-Roma only, a minority within the ethnic group, there are no regulations on how to carry out these ideas, no starting points, or linguistic-political activities on behalf of the re­ sponsible provincial authorities which take the socio-linguistic situation of Romani in general and Burgenland-Romani in particular into account.

Thanks to the initiative and the efforts of individual people from the ethnic group and from the educational system, Burgenland-Romani is now taught as "unverbindliche Übung" (op­ tional supplementary subject) in elementary schools in the Oberwart area. Together, it was possible to overcome both juridical and administrative obstacles; obstacles caused by the fact that there are no people (yet) who acknowledge themselves as members of the ethnic group who have both the necessary linguistic competence and fulfill the formal criteria de­ manded by the educational authorities – a result of a margialization that lasted for centuries.

The supplementary lessons in elementary schools in the Oberwart area, which share the emblematic character of all judicial dealings with Romani, have up to this day remained iso­ lated cases; Romani isn’t taught at all in other Austrian schools.

Extra-curricular activities, such as adult training courses in Romani, which are offered by the Volkshochschule (adult training center) of the Burgenland-Roma in Oberwart and Eisen­ stadt are also singular cases sponsored from federal funds, just like the courses in Burgen­ land-Romani and Kalderaš-Romani offered by the university of Graz. To mention all Austrian activities concerning the teaching of Romani, only the courses in Kalderaš-Romani at the University of Innsbruck and the sporadically held language courses by the Viennese organi­ zation Romano Centro have to be enumerated.

Compared to the state of ten years ago, this could be seen as a success. Compared to what would be absolutely necessary to preserve the language, the emblematic-symbolic character of these activities becomes clear. Even though the emancipation of Romani from the official language German is utopian, a stronger approximation to the status of the lan­ guages of other ethnic groups should be possible even if one takes the lacking written tradi­ tion and the non-existing status of official language in any country – which the other ethnic groups can claim – into account.



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