On the Open-Ended (Never-Ending) Character (Nature) of Language Politics

Once I aspired to compose a dictionary of language politics, but then I understood that as languages are constructed by people, functions are conferred or imposed on languages by humans and their groups, as well. Apart of the nowadays  usual fare of national, official, state or constitutional languages; such ones as ancestral, interethnic or indigenous languages make an appearance, too. Basically, as many symbolical or function statuses may be attached to languages as humans and their groups desire or find necessary. Hence, the potential variety is endless, limited only by human imagination and the sheer number of human groups.

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Basic Competency in Cyrillic – the EU’s Third Official Alphabet

With the 2007 accession of Bulgaria to the European Union (EU), Cyrillic became another official alphabet in the EU, alongside the most widespread Latin (Roman) script and the Greek alphabet, largely limited to Cyprus and Greece themselves.

The EU is increasingly a common space of economy, social relations culture, research and politics. In Bulgaria, Cyprus and Greece population at large acquires a high competence in the Latin script in order to be able to read road signs with place names and other basic notices elsewhere in Europe, and also to learn other European languages. In other EU countries, especially the old Fifteen, a basic knowledge of the Greek script, allowing for reading road signs with place names and basic notices is widespread.

The Euro banknote with the name of the currency in the three scripts: Latin, Greek and Cyrillic alphabets
The Cyrillic acronym of the European Central Bank in Bulgarian

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Who is Afraid of Speaking in Tongues?

Several years ago, when I was still new to the institutional culture of the University of St Andrews in Scotland, I proposed to the colleagues that we should consider extending an invitation to Daniel Beauvois to deliver a seminar lecture. Professor Beavouis is the French doyen of Eastern European history. He researched and wrote ground-breaking and minutely documented works on the University of Vilna (today’s Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania) and the educational system, which existed between 1803 and 1832 in the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania, then within the borders of the Russian Empire. This university, with the largest number of students out of the empires’ all universities, accounted for roughly a quarter to a third of all Russia’s students at that time.

 

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Potential Research Topics (2)

Advice: Let us not be afraid of languages. The world is a highly multilingual place, with books and periodicals published regularly in over 800 languages, with Wikipedias available in about 300 languages. It is the very reality of globalization. There is no time or chance to master more than 10-20 languages for reading purposes. Life is too short. However, Google Translate offers translation services for 103 languages now (2017) and counting. Copy-paste any text you want to consult in one of these languages, and voilà, you can read it without even knowing the target language. For better or worse, as a rule of thumb, the best quality of translation is available between English and the other languages. And when a given text is scanned, text recognition software comes handy to convert such a text into a form that would be downloadable in Google Translate.

NB: About a third of the topics can be researched on the basis of English-language materials; look for the word ‘None’ in the Requirements line.

Book Collection on Modern Silesia

Silesia is a historical region, which is nowadays located in the Czech Republic, Germany and Poland. In 2013 I passed my collection of about 500 books on modern Silesia to the St Andrews University library. This collection is still being cataloged, but a librarian can show it to interested students and all the books they may need for their own research projects can be promptly cataloged. Most of the publications are in German and Polish, some in Czech and English. Between 1993 and 2013 I used this collection to research and write my own books and articles on Silesia, including the monograph, Silesia and Central European Nationalisms: The Emergence of National and Ethnic Groups in Prussian Silesia and Austrian Silesia, 1848-1918 (2006 Purdue University press). This book was an inspiration for many younger western scholars to study this region and its inhabitants in depth. Their reflections and findings, which they presented in their own monographs, are summarized in the edited volume Creating Nationality in Central Europe, 1880-1950: Modernity, Violence and (Be) Longing in Upper Silesia (2016 Routledge).

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Potential Research Topics (1)

Advice: Let us not be afraid of languages. The world is a highly multilingual place, with books and periodicals published regularly in over 800 languages and Wikipedias available in about 300 languages. It is the very reality of globalization. There is no time or chance to master for reading purposes more than 10-20 languages. Life is too short. But Google Translate offers translation services for 103 languages now (2017) and counting. Copy-paste any text you want to consult in one of these languages and voilà, you can read it without even knowing the target language. For better or worse, as a rule of thumb, the best quality of translation is available between English and the other languages. And when a given text is scanned, text recognition software comes in handy to convert such a text into a form that would be downloadable in Google Translate.

NB: About a third of the topics can be researched on the basis of English-language materials; look for the word ‘None’ in the Requirements line.

Continue reading “Potential Research Topics (1)”

Iran and Bulgaria: The Hubris of Ancient Beginnings

The lavish celebrations of the 1300th Anniversary of the Founding of the so-called First Bulgarian Empire was a curious, very un-socialist matter, steeped in myth and nationalist lore. It appears that an inspiration for this anniversary came directly from the 1971 celebrations of the 2,500th Anniversary of the Founding of the Persian Empire held under Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi’s (1919-1980) auspices in monarchical Iran. The Bulgarian leader, Todor Zhivkov (1911-1998) was invited to Iran on the strength of a hypothetical presence of Turkic-speaking Bulgars in Persia’s Bactria (now in Afghanistan and Tajikistan) during the times of Alexander the Great. But Zhivkov refused to attend, perhaps due to Tehran’s too all intimate relations with the United States. Bulgaria, as a member state of the Soviet bloc, used to pride itself on being the most loyal ally of the Soviet Union. Sending an official delegation could be read at the Kremlin as akin to treason, leading to the swift removal of Zhivkov from the post of the General Secretary of the Bulgarian Communist Party.

 

shumen_monument
Monument to 1300 Years of Bulgaria, Shumen

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