Katia Pizzi reports on the conference ‘Languages in contact: New challenges for planning and policies’, held in Gorizia, Italy on 19 January 2018
This conference was the fruit of a collaboration between Dr Katia Pizzi (OWRI Cross-Language Dynamics, Translingual communities) and SLORI (Slovenian Research Institute). The impetus was to create a forum of discussion on language education policies in the border region Friuli Venezia Giulia, at the Slovenian-Italian border. Three languages (Italian, Slovenian and Friulian) are spoken in the region, with translanguaging and code switching occurring on a daily basis. Yet the official language of schooling is Italian alone.
Two keynote speakers presented case studies from other parts of Europe mapping onto this region: Prof Janice Carruthers (QUB) used the MEITS project as a springboard to introduce issues of language and identity in Celtic languages, stretching from Breton to Irish. Prof Christian Voss (Berlin Humboldt) discussed the revitalisation of Slavic varieties on the Greek-Slavic border, especially Bulgarian as spoken by the Muslim Pomak community in Western Thrace, following the fall of the Iron Curtain. Papers that followed covered aspects of plurilingualism and contact in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region (Prof Fabiana Fusco), contact-induced change in Slovenian modality (Profs Franc Marusic and Rok Zaucer) and terminology as a device shaping the linguistic landscape of contact border areas (Dr Matejka Grgic). Given the urgency of this theme, the final discussion was vibrant, even heated on occasion. Good practice was shared and a variety of issues relating to history, identity, ethnicity and social class were raised and thrashed out.
The Director of SLORI (Prof Devan Jagodic) and Dr Pizzi gave welcome speeches. Dr Pizzi chaired the proceedings. The audience was mainly composed of school teachers, graduate students, linguists and interested non-academic public. They were extremely attentive and engaged in the topics discussed, raising articulated questions. The conference attracted much media attention and was covered in the Slovenian daily Primorski dnevnik and by the national evening news.
We are currently discussing and pursuing publication venues, in Trieste or London.
Dr Katia Pizzi, Senior Lecturer in Italian Studies, IMLR