This is a study of the role played by a small local newspaper in maintaining linguistic and cultural diversity in a small community, and, more generally, of the benefits of print, and the potential of small local newspapers for linguistic mobilization of communities with endangered languages. Mondo Albanese, the Arbëresh newspaper of Piana degli Albanesi, a community of 7,000 people, most of whom still speak some form of endangered Arbëresh, was successful during the 80s in many ways: it was the first public voice to point out the problems of Arbëresh in its endangered state; the first to start the process of systematic language planning, and to try to use a “repaired” written version of Arbëresh in its own articles; the first to reach the grassroots, and involve different strata of the population in linguistic issues; the first to form a new group of young language activists with the enthusiasm to take on the question of revitalization. Mondo Albanese had a special role in the promotion of Arbëresh language and ethnicity, especially in pointing out that the language was in danger and needed the efforts of the whole community to survive. Mondo Albanese is no longer published; hence, its mobilizing power for the community is absent today. An effort to create an online version of the newspaper a few years ago failed. In relation to this community effort to match the technological demands of the global world, this study further examines the use of print vs. electronic media in communities with the socio-linguistic, economic and cultural dynamics of Piana. Although attempts to deal with the decay of Arbëresh continue at different institutional levels, the direction of work is transferred towards the community elite rather than the grassroots. Hence there is more work being done in meetings of academics and community leaders (international conferences and publications), but less is done in the level of language use in homes, in the streets and other community spaces of linguistic practice. It is there where diversity is maintained and where languages live. In such conditions, media that can reach the grassroots and can affect practical communication in the endangered language, like Mondo Albanese, could make a significant difference for the maintenance of linguistic diversity.
|Keywords:||Linguistic Endangerment, Linguistic Diversity, Arbëresh, Media, Small Local Press, Print vs. Electronics|
Department of Spanish Italian and Portuguese, Media and Cinema Studies, University of Illinois, Champaign, IL, USA