The Nativeness of Breton Speakers and Their Erasure

Mélanie Jouitteau 1
  • 1 Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique / French National Centre for Scientific Research; CNRS, IKER (UMR 5478),

Abstract

I discuss the nativeness of heritage speakers of Breton in the twentieth century. I present a syntactic test designed for Breton that sets apart its native speakers from its late learners, for whom Breton is a second language. Nativeness is revealed by a better tolerance to syntactic overload when sufficient linguistic stress is applied. Both heritage speakers of inherited Breton and early bilinguals whose linguistic input comes exclusively from school answer this test alike, which I take as a sign they are cognitively natives. The syntactic nativeness of children deprived of familial Breton input suggests there is many more young Breton natives among contemporary speakers than previously assumed. Taking stock of these results, I discuss the cultural erasure of Breton native speakers. I compare their cultural treatment with the figure of the ghost. I end by a discussion of the term new speaker.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Adkins, Madeleine. 2013. ‘Will the real Breton please stand up? Language revitalization and the problem of authentic language’, International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 55-70.

  • Bader, Markus & Jana Häussler. 2010. Toward a Model of Grammaticality Judgments, Journal of Linguistics 46:2, 273–330.

  • Broudic, Fañch. 2009. Parler breton au XXIe siècle. Le nouveau sondage de TMORégions. Brest: Emgleo Breiz.

  • Broudic, Fañch. 2010. ‘Breton’, Mélanie Jouitteau (éd.), Entrelangues, https://entrelangues.iker.univ-pau.fr, accessed [11/09/2018].

  • Carrer, Philippe. 1999. ‘Etats limites et champs ethnoculturel’, L’envers du décor, ethnopsychiatrie en Bretagne et autres terres celtes, Coop Breizh, 125-132.

  • COST Action IS1306 - New Speakers in a Multilingual Europe - Opportunities and Challenges,https://www.cost.eu/actions/IS1306 [accessed 27/11/2019].

  • Díaz B, Erdocia K, de Menezes RF, Mueller JL, Sebastián-Gallés N, Laka I. 2016. ‘Electrophysiological Correlates of Second-Language Syntactic Processes Are Related to Native and Second Language Distance Regardless of Age of Acquisition’, Frontiers in Psychology 7: 133.

  • Davalan, Nikolaz. 1999. ‘Interférences linguistiques chez des enfants scolarisés en breton’, Francis Favereau (éd.), Le Bilinguisme précoce en Bretagne, en pays celtiques et en Europe atlantique, Actes du Colloque international de Plésidy (Côtes-d’Armor) octobre 1997, Klask 5, Presses universitaires de Rennes, 97-118.

  • Davies, Alan. 2013. ‘Is the native speaker dead?’, Histoire Épistémologie Langage 35/2: 17-28.

  • Davies-Deacon, Merryn. 2017. ‘The online presence of standard and non-standard Breton’, paper presented at Multilingualism: Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies, University of Durham, 4th July 2017.

  • Dehaene, Stanislas, E. Dupoux, J. Mehler, L. Cohen, E. Paulesu, D. Perani, P. F. Van de Moortele, Stéphane Lehéricy, D. Le Bihan. 1997. ‘Anatomical variability in the cortical representation of first and second language’, NeuroReport, 8 (17), 3809-15, Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins.

  • Dołowy-Rybińska, Nicole. 2017. ‘Language learners or new speakers: the transfer of the Breton Diwan immersion education model to the lower Sorbian Witaj project’, Studia Celtica Posnaniensia 2 (1), 5-26.

  • Drozdova, Polina Aleksandrovna. 2018. The effects of nativeness and background noise on the perceptual learning of voices and ambiguous sounds, PhD. Thesis, U. Neimejen, LOT Publication.

  • Laka, Itziar, Mikel Santesteban, Kepa Erdocia, Adam Zawiszewski. 2012. ‘The Basque language in the minds of native and non-native bilinguals’, The challenge of a bilingual society in the Basque Country, 157-172.

  • Le Dû, Jean. 1997. ‘Le Breton au XX° siècle: renaissance ou création?’, Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie 49-50, 414-431.

  • Goldin-Meadow, Susan. 2003. The resilience of language: What gesture creation in deaf children can tell us about how all children learn language. New York: Psychology Press.

  • Grosjean, François. 1989. ‘Neurolinguists, beware! The bilingual is not two monolinguals in one person’, “Brain Lang”. 36: 3-15.

  • Hopp, Holger. 2009. ‘The syntax-discourse interface in near-native L2 acquisition: off-line and on-line performance’, Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 12 (4), 463-483.

  • Hornsby, Michael. 2014. ‘The “new” and “traditional” speaker dichotomy: bridging the gap’, International Journal of the Sociology of Language 231: 107-125.

  • Hualde, Jose Ignacio. 2015. ‘Basque as an extinct language’, B. Fernández & P. Salaburu (arg.), Ibon Sarasola, gorazarre, Bilbo, UPV/EHU, 319-326.

  • Jakez, Fulup. 2018. ‘Niver ar vrezhonegerien : stabil or not stabil ?’, http://www.dispak.bzh/niver-ar-vrezhonegerien-stabil-or-not-stabil/, oct 9, [retrieved oct 12].

  • Jones, Mari C. 1995. ‘At what price language maintenance? Standardization in Modern Breton’, French Studies 49 (4): 424-438.

  • Jones, Mari C. 1998. ‘Death of a Language, Birth of an Identity: Brittany and the Bretons’, Language Problems and Language Planning 22 (2), 129-142.

  • Jones, Samuel Kyle. 2018. ‘Using the Welsh language as a measure of neural resistance to cognitive decline and Dementia’, presentation at the 3rd Celtic conference in Poznan, July 2018.

  • Jouitteau, Mélanie. 2018. ‘Children Prefer Natives, a study on the transmission of a heritage language; Standard Breton, Neo-Breton and traditional dialects’, Maria Bloch and Mark Ó Fionnáin (eds.), Centres and Peripheries in Celtic Linguistics, Lublin, Peter Lang, 75-108. https://ling.auf.net/lingbuzz/003988.

  • Jouitteau, Mélanie. 2019. ‘Standard Breton, Traditional Dialects and How They Differ Syntactically’, Journal of Celtic Linguistics 21, 29-74.

  • Kasstan, Jonathan. 2019. ‘Emergent sociolinguistic variation in severe language endangerment’, Language and Society, Cambridge University Press, 1-36.

  • Kennard, Holly J., 2014. ‘The persistence of verb second in negative utterances in Breton’, Journal of Historical Linguistics 4(1), 1-39.

  • Kennard, Holly J. 2018. ‘Non-Negative Word Order In Breton: Maintaining Verb-Second’, Transactions of the Philological Society, 1-26.

  • Kim, Karl H. S., Norman R. Relkin, Kyoung-Min Lee, Joy Hirsch. 1997. Distinct cortical areas associated with native and second languages, Nature 388, 171-174.

  • Kroll, Judith F., Paola E. Dussias, Kinsey Bice & Lauren Perrotti. 2015. ‘Bilingualism, Mind, and Brain’, Annual Review of Linguistics 1: 377-394.

  • Lenneberg, Eric H. 1967. Biological foundations of language, New-York, Wiley.

  • McLeod, W. & O’Rourke, B. (2015). ‘“New speakers” of Gaelic: Perceptions of linguistic authenticity and appropriateness’, Applied Linguistics Review, 6, 151-172.

  • Makin, Simon. 2015. ‘Debate Rages over Whether Speaking a Second Language Improves Cognition’, Scientific American, Dec 30.

  • Mayberry, Rachel. 1993. ‘First language acquisition after childhood differs from second-language acquisition: The case of American Sign Language’, Journal of Speech and Hearing research 36: 1258-70.

  • McDonald, Janet L. 2006. ‘Beyond the critical period: processing-based explanations for poor grammaticality judgement performance by late second language learners’, Journal of Memory and Language 55, 381-401.

  • Mermet, Michel. 2006. Informatique et maîtrise de l’oral en maternelle bilingue breton-français: modèle de l’élève dans le dialogue enfant-ordinateur et ergonomie de la parole en breton, unpublished PhD ms. U. Roazhon.

  • Moal, Stefan. 2016. ‘Locuteurs traditionnels et nouveaux locuteurs de langue bretonne : un auto-odi peut en cacher un autre’, Carmen Alén Garabato & Romain Colonna (éds.), Auto-odi. La “haine de soi” en sociolinguistique, Paris, L’Harmattan, coll “Sociolinguistique”, 119-144.

  • Moal, Stefan. 2017. ‘Traditional and new speakers of Breton : the transmission challenge’, Europäisches Journal für Minderheitenfragen / European Journal of Minority Studies, EJM, Vol. 10: 3-4, 208-230.

  • Moal Stefan, Ó Murchadha Noel & Walsh John. 2018. ‘New speakers and language in the media: Audience design in Breton and Irish broadcast media’, Smith-Christmas, Cassie, Noel P. Ó Murchadha, Michael Hornsby, Máiréad Moriarty (eds.), New Speakers and Minority Languages: Linguistic Ideologies and Practices, Basingstokes, Palgrave-Macmillan.

  • Nance, Claire. 2015. ‘‘New’ Scottish Gaelic speakers in Glasgow: A phonetic study of language revitalisation’, Language in Society, 44, 553-579.

  • OPAB, Ofis Publik ar Brezhoneg. ‘Marc’had al labour’, http://www.brezhoneg.bzh/73-marchad-al-labour.htm [accessed 27/11/2019].

  • OPAB, Ofis Publik ar Brezhoneg. 2014. Enquête d’initiative locale sur la pratique du breton à Carhaix. http://www.fr.brezhoneg.

  • OPAB, Ofis Publik ar Brezhoneg. 2017. La langue bretonne dans le secteur de l’accueil du jeune enfant en 2016. http://www.fr.brezhoneg.

  • O’Rourke, Bernadette and Joan Pujolar. 2013. ‘From native speakers to “new speakers” – problematizing nativeness in language revitalization contexts’, Histoire Épistémologie Langage 35: 2, 47-67.

  • O’Rourke, Bernadette, Joan Pujolar and Fernando Ramallo. 2015. ‘New speakers of minority languages: the challenging opportunity – Foreword’, International Journal of the Sociology of Language 231, 1-20.

  • Le Pelleter, Stéphanie. 2018. ‘Ar magourioù dre soubidigezh’, Al Lanv, meurzh 2018, 27-34.

  • Le Pelleter, Stéphanie. 2017. ‘Breton et petite enfance: vingt ans d’actions’, Le Peuple Breton, 1p.

  • Penfield, Wilder and Lamar Roberts. 1959. Speech and Brain Mechanisms, Princeton: Princeton University Press.

  • Pierce, Lara J., Jen-Kai Chen, Audrey Delcenserie, Fred Genesee and Denise Klein. 2015. ‘Past experience shapes ongoing neural patterns for language’, Nature Communications 6: 10073.

  • Rampton, M. Ben. 1990. Displacing the ‘native speaker’: Expertise, affiliation, and inheritance. ELT Journal 44: 2, 97-101.

  • Rondal, Jean A. 1995. Exceptional Language Development in Down Syndrome, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

  • Rybková, Hana. 2012. Le breton et son influence sur le français local. Situation linguistique dans le Finistère, undergraduate thesis, University of Brno.

  • Schutter, John-Sebastian. 2013. An investigation into near-nativeness at the syntax-lexicon interface: evidence from Dutch learners of English, PhD ms, U. Edinburgh.

  • Smith-Christmas, Cassie, Noel P. Ó Murchadha, Michael Hornsby, Máiréad Moriarty (eds.). 2018. New speakers of minority languages, Linguistic ideologies and practices, Basingstokes, Palgrave-Macmillan.

  • Smith, Neil. 2002. Language, Bananas & Bonobos; Linguistic Problems, Puzzles and Polemics, Blackwell Publishers.

  • Stephens, Janig. 2000. ‘The development of grammatical structures in the Breton of nursery school children’, Ikastaria 12, 123-142.

  • Sprouse, Jon, and Almeida, Diogo. 2012. Assessing the reliability of textbook data in syntax: Adger’s “Core Syntax”, Journal of Linguistics, 48: 3, 609-652.

  • TMO Régions. 2018. Enquête sociolinguistique sur le breton et le gallo, Communiqué de presse sur les résultats [4 octobre 2018].

  • TMO Régions. 2007. results as reported in Broudic (2009).

  • Tovena, Lucia M. and Alain Kihm. 2008. ‘Event internal pluractional verbs in some Romance languages’, Recherches linguistiques de Vincennes 37, http://journals.openedition.org/rlv/1687 ; DOI : 10.4000/rlv.1687

  • UBAPAR, Union Bretonne pour l’Animation des Pays Ruraux, ‘Kinnigoù labour’, https://www.ubapar.bzh/spip.php?rubrique9&lang=br [accessed 27/11/2019].

  • Vargha-Khadem, Faraneh, Lucinda J. Carr, Elisabeth Isaacs, Edward Brett, Christopher Adams, and Mortimer Mishkin. 1997. ‘Onset of speech after left hemispherectomy in a nine-year-old boy’, Brain 120: 159-82.

  • Wattendorf, Elise., Brigit Westermann, Daniela Zappatore, Rita Franceschini and Georges Lüdi. 2001. ‘Different languages activate different subfields in Broca area’, NeuroImage 6 (13), 624.

OPEN ACCESS

Journal + Issues

Search