Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

 

Perceptions of language change : a case study in Veneto Public Deposited

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  • The purpose of this thesis is to explore the current linguistic situation of the Venetian language (a minority language spoken in the northeastern Italian region of Veneto) and its relationship with Italian, the official language of Italy. This is a study of Venetian people and how they are reacting to the changes occurring to their language. To research the situation, I traveled to Italy, to the region of Veneto. My objective was to investigate and determine whether or not Venetian is, in fact, a language. If it is, is it on the verge of disappearing, or is there a chance that it might be maintained? Will Venetians shift completely from speaking their vernaculars to using only Italian? To gather data, I used qualitative research including participant observation, open-ended unstructured interviews with consultants, as well as internet and archival research in order to be able to glimpse the situation as seen by those who live it. Because I speak Italian and have relatives in the region, I was allowed to take part in many situations where I was able to observe familial language use, as well as the public attitudes concerning Venetian. I analyzed the Venetian situation by examining the ways in which we look at the words "language" and "dialect" from the linguistic, political and sociolinguistic perspectives, I looked at the situation through anthropological and socio-psychological theories of language choice, and how we understand the indicators of language loss, ethnicity, ethnic group strategies, and changes in identity as they relate to language shift. Although Venetian is a dialect in the political sense, subordinate to the official language, Italian, I found that the Venetian language is not derived from Italian, and so does not fit the linguistic definition of a dialect. However, it has been labeled a dialect and is understood as such by most Italians, including Venetians. This labelization has encouraged negative stereotyping and a measure of disuse. However, the recent secessionist movement has highlighted some of the linguistic issues, and brought more attention to the possibility of preserving Venetian. I recommend changes that alter the negative attitudes towards Venetian and other vernaculars, changes that include focusing on encouraging new and innovative utilization of local languages (art, literature and plays, etc.) and establishing and implementing curricula in the educational system that emphasizes the regional history and its contribution to the present day Italy. Changes such as those mentioned should encourage more acceptance of others and encourage the usage of local languages as well as increase peoples' pride in their ethnic heritage.
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