Basque Country

Sociolinguistic transformation processes in the Basque context: speakers, practices and agency

New speakers of Basque are considered to be a strategic group for the normalization of Basque, as well as for the consolidation of Basque society as a bilingual community. However, previous studies have shown that learning the language has not necessarily brought about that these speakers truly incorporate Basque into their daily communicative practices, nor active participation in Basque speaking activities and social networks.

This is the case even among young people, most of whom have learnt Basque in early immersion at school, and this is regarded with surprise and great worry in Basque society. Previous studies have shown little use of Basque is a result of a number of interrelated factors. Among them the few opportunities of use that many new speakers who live in highly Spanish speaking areas is understandably prominent, but so is the poor self-concept that many have of themselves as “good” speakers of Basque.

The analysis of this poor self-concept has revealed the existence of a myriad of ideologies present in Basque society about who the legitimate speaker of Basque is considered to be. These ideologies are to a great extent related to evaluations of the Basque variety speakers use, the strength of the native/non-native speaker dichotomy, and to the Basque speaker profiles fixed in Basque society, showing that these are not judged as equal. Nevertheless, these ideologies are being contested by many who feel legitimate speakers and actively participate in, and indeed create, opportunities to use Basque, on equal terms to “traditional” speakers.

EquiLing-Basq seeks to gain a deeper understanding of the practices new speakers of Basque implement in order to perform, become or define themselves as Basque speakers, as well as the types of agencies and subjectivities these practices reveal, with the aim of identifying those that favour the active use of the minority language. This analysis will help us discover forms of contestation and resistance towards dominant language ideologies that are advantageous to the hegemonic language.

In order to achieve these objectives this study will use participatory research-action (PAL) methodology with two distinct types of subjects: University students in Bilbao and teenagers and youngsters leisure activities. With the focus on epistemological communities or communities of Practice (CoP), participatory methodology techniques will be used. Subjects will become co-researchers and will involve in process of individual and group reflection on their own linguistic practices, their linguistic identity, and the type of agency they want to develop in order to use the minority language in their everyday life.

Thus, participatory tools will be designed in order to increase critical sociolinguistic awareness. These tools will in turn inform the design of transformative educational strategies used to accompany students in processes of reflection on their identity and their linguistic practices. As well as to contribute to social transformation, the study also seeks to identify ways to help young people live their bilingualism in a satisfactory manner.

EquiLing-Basq makes a theoretical (agency types, speaker profiles, speakerhood) and methodological (PAR) contribution to Basque sociolinguistics, and hopes to assist in the consolidation of Basque society as a bilingual and egalitarian society.

We study practices that new Basque speakers resort to in order to be, become and define themselves as Basque speakers and the type of agency and subjectivities that these practices entail. To do this, we will use a participatory action research (PAR) methodology with two groups of new Basque speakers: university students in Bilbao and young people in leisure-time groups.

Reference number: Proyecto I+D, ref.  PID2019-105676RB-C42/AEI/10.13039/501100011033