Ausgabe 83/2018 – Abstracts

Minderheitensprachen zählen! Über Sprachzählungen und Minderheiten(-sprachen)

Katharina Prochazka

Minority languages are often reduced to their quantity: There are only speakers left, the number of speakers is declining, and the language disappears. Speaker numbers offer a seemingly simple and objective way to quantify the development of a language. However, there is not one fail-safe way of counting languages or speakers. This paper reviews the possibilities to count languages (and speakers) and the difficulties involved when reviewing the data. Using examples from minority languages in Austria, it is shown that the resulting numbers are far from objective because they heavily depend on the way the survey is conducted: Who asks whom and how? Moreover, the definition of a ‘minority language’ itself is examined: When is a language considered a minority language? As the paper shows, the two concepts ‘minority’ (in the sense of ethnic group) and ‘minority language’ are heavily interwoven and the lines often get blurred—especially when it comes to passing laws which grant rights to minority groups. For these laws, the results of language surveys are frequently used to measure how many members of a minority group live in an area. This means that language surveys are not just a linguistic tool, but have farreaching consequences, particularly for members of a minority group.

Schlagwörter: Minderheitensprache, Sprachzählung, Volkszählung