So it seems - a question of identity
by Mia Lindström
"A Finland-Swede is a person who spends a lot of time thinking about what it is like being one."
There is no single criterion that provides a necessary basis for identity, and neither is there a threshold, a critical mass of sufficient conditions. It's impossible to make up a definition which covers all that there is about identity. The experiences and memories are mainly on the personal level, the question is; are there any common memories and experiences for all? The physical environment (rural or urban) and the cultural environment together with the language aspect form an ongoing historical process. Nostalgia and knowledge of the past are key words when identity is the subject.
Bo Lönnqvist, Professor of Finland's folklore, defines identity as a feeling of agreement between the self and the community, the environment. Identity on the personal level is created by name, age, language; and identity on the public level by native country, feeling of nationality, ideologies, culture, which all together form a collective identity. Thus identity has a social dimension that must be communicated, inherited, practised and symbolized - flags, speeches, events, exhibitions, sport, music, institutions). Identity isn't a static state, a point where it is fully developed doesn't exist. We continue to build our identity throughout life, by changing jobs, environment, looks and style. When ethnic minority identity is in question, one has to consider the lingual, cultural, historical, traditional and geographical dimensions, and also what values and attitudes influence and how. Therefore it is impossible to pinpoint any specific criterias or details which make up the general identity of the Swedish-speaking, except language, which is one of the few common features that the scattered Swedish population in Finland have - without it, what would we be? All the mentioned issues are important, but nobody can tell, which one is the most important, and why? And are they equally important to all the Swedish speakers in Finland? Does such a different ethnic minority identity as this Swedsh-speaking identity really exist? Is it an "exaggerated" identity, something created out of a need, an urge for some things there could be in common, no matter where we live?
The Swedish-speaking in Finland - a question of bilinguality
The Swedish speaking population is a fully integrated sub-sector of Finnish National Identity as such. The Swedish-speakers take part in every aspect of the daily life in Finland, working in big companies, in municipalities, making important desicions. The two language groups comprise a symbiotic complementary partnership in the geographical area of Finland. It could be said here that the relationship between the two groups has always been fairly good, not counting the exception of the Language Riots in the '30s. Finland-Swedes tend to fit in and mix very well with the Finnish society in general, we share culture to a very large extent but, besides that, we have traditions of our own.
Nowadays it's very difficult to point out which people really are Swedish-speaking, unless we use the language. Most of us are bilingual, which is also a big identity factor in the identity of these days. One would be tempted to draw the conclusion that the only important difference would be the language, but Swedish-speakers themselves claim that there's something more to it, "there is a difference!" But what? This is a very intriguing question, because there doesn't seem to be an easy and easy proven difference, just a common feeling of being different in some ways. Again the answers form people living in different parts of the Swedish-speaking area, would be very different from each other, due to the differences in circumstances - and also, to the extent that the environment is bilingual or unilingually Swedish. In the Helsinki region, the most populated area in Finland, bilinguality plays an important role, due to the mix of the two different language groups. There, the Swedish speaking population is in a minority position and it is essential for their daily life and working carreers that they are fluent in Finnish. So, out of necessity they learn it and use it frequently, to some, Swedish even becomes a weaker language. Then again, when asking a farmer up in Ostrobothnia or a fisherman on the Åland Islands, the important and diverting features would be very different. These people are living in areas where Swedish is the majority language, bilinguality doesn't play such an important role, and thus they are facing a different language reality.
For Swedish-speaking Finns, bilinguality is very much an everyday issue and a reality. In order to define the intriguing differences involved in the term, we should know what is considered a mothertongue and on the basis of which criteria can you be called bilingual? On what basis can you claim that your mothertongue is Swedish? This has also to do with the feeling of belonging. A person can be raised in a Swedish home, but still have a weak feeling of being a Finlands-Swede, because he or she has identified with the majority group and its culture, maybe due to his or her friends, the environment in general - and, of course, the emotional context and connotations. Some claim that it's impossible to be completely bilingual, one of the languages will always dominate. A person can be more fluent in one language in one context, being able to use terminology and necessary phrases in that language better than in the other. This usually depends on the language in which the subject has been introduced and taught to him or her. Easily, the mothertongue could be defined as the language we spontaneously use, the one we feel most comfortable in, when making love, quarreling... but it's the choice of the free individual. In chosing their identification models, there are major differences among young people within the minority, the Finnish influence being quite strong and considered "cooler".
Historical and cultural bonds
So, in spite of certain periods of tension, the two language groups have managed to live side by side in Finland. Most of the time our common aggressions have been pointed outwards, for historical reasons mainly to the East. The Cold War, the Iron Curtain are things that for a long time made Finland's situation as The Soviet Union's closest Western neighbour, a little tense from time to time, creating an extra consciousness and care concerning the eastbound relation. A similar attitude has never been found in the relations to the other Nordic countries, although the Swedes and the Finns have a friendly argument going on...
Finland has strong cultural roots to Sweden, due to the historical fact that the piece of land nowadays known as Finland, was the Eastern part of the Swedish realm for 600 years, thus developing much of the Western culture and traditions. At that time the administration and the Government was handled by Swedish speaking noblesse, creating an "upper class" of administrators and civil servants, who all spoke Swedish. Finnish was used in churches and in court, it had a certain official status as being the majority language of the country. However, to get a good position in society, it was essential to learn Swedish. From this period, two kinds of Swedish-speakers can be recognized - those who descend from the Swedish settlers, living around the coast in the Swedish-speaking areas, and those who became Swedish-speaking because of its official status (sons of peasants, ordinary Finnish people). Some tension between these two groups existed; farmers, fishers in rural areas versus more educated, urban people, who were more interested in integration with the Finnish group. They also had ideological differences; rural people stressed ethnicity, being genetically related to family and land, the urban population was much more bilingual, with a developed self-image; extrovert, lively and flexible.
In 1809, Russia invaded Finland, and our land became a Grand Duchy under Russia, still maintaining the Swedish laws and Swedish as the official language too. This was the case during almost the whole of the 19th century, but a change took place in the Russian policy towards the authonomy of Finland, resulting in serious attempts to russify Finland and to give it the same status as the other Baltic countries. These attempts were in a way the force that lead to strengthening the development of the Finnish culture as such. Both language groups joined in behind a common cause - to fight against the illegal actions towards their autonomy, and to create a strong Finnish national identity to unite behind. At that time nobody would have claimed to be less Finnish even though his or her mothertongue happened to be Swedish. The term "Finlands-Swede" was invented much later, in the 1920s. In fact, nearly everybody promoting the Finnish culture at that time were Swedish-speakers. The Finnish language was further developed by new constructions of words, and in the 1860s, Finnish got a status similar to Swedish, allowing it to be used equally in official circumstances. Finland declared itself independent in 1917, and the following Language Constitution of 1922 recognizes two national languages in Finland; Finnish and Swedish (meaning that Swedish is not really a minority language, except in statistics).
Basic identity features
When it comes right down to identity features, there are some factors to be pointed out, reality circumstances which have helped to form the ideas and the daily life of the minority group. First of all; the Swedish-speaking population's right of regocnition is supported by the constitution - and the Swedish- speaking Finns are Finns. Not exactly Finnish Finns, but not from Sweden either. Our home, our country is Finland. There we feel at home. But our mother-tongue is Swedish! Some individuals stress the language issue stronger than others, but presumably, the prouder you are of being a Swedish-speaking Finn, the more you want others to know about it. Imagine trying to explain this to foreigners... It tends to be a little hard to understand, even among the Finnish-speakers. Often it has to be explained over and over again, trying to convince outsiders of the Finnish National Identity of the Swedish-speaking Finns, that it is not a Swedish identity! And moving "back" to Sweden is absolutely out of the question! It's a sad fact that the Swedish-speaking minority in Finland is hardly recognized in Sweden, and except for the joy of being able to speak Swedish all the time when going there, most of the Swedish-speaking from Finland don't feel really at home there.
Living concentrated along the western coastline but lacking a common territory, one county where the Finlands-Swedes would live all together, has indeed formed the ways of thinking - and made the patterns different in the separated Swedish-speaking areas. So, people tend to identify themselves more with their neighbours in their closest environoment, no matter which language they speak, rather than, on language basis, to the rest of the minority population, living elsewhere in Finland. This allows us, of course, to create our own version of the Finlands-Swedish identity, containing things like local history and traditions, values - and dialects! Our landscape identity - a local one, situated to a place, seems to be very strong. The different Swedish-speaking areas have different profiles, images, which are stressed when dealing with others, not from the same community. The feeling of being at home in the environment, the social relationships and a certain wish to reclaim one's past create the individual identity, and together with others it melts into a common local identity, consisting of very similar ingredients. In large, this is true for the Swedish-speaking person in general, too, but there the variety of ingredients is much bigger. The community is then based on a balance and following of common rules and goals, things which are essential for identification. A strange situation is that, seen from outside, the bigger cities dominate, but seem to be internally excluded from the common description of the rural areas around them. So, Helsinki/Helsingfors identity is not considered to be generally the same as the surrounding Nyland identity outside the main capital area. Likewise, the town Turku/Åbo in the southwest archipelago is not similar to the identity of the surrounding Turunmaa/Åboland - the urban identity versus the rural.
It is often said that people living in Ostrobothnia are more religious than in other Swedish-speaking areas. Certainly they speak more Swedish - the most Swedish community in the whole world is not in Sweden, but in Finland, with 98% Swedish-speakers living there! Ostrobothnia is largely a language identity, with much influence from Sweden. Dialects, religion, sobriety movement, free churches and congregation life, active organizations forming the culture are cruicial issues when it comes to forming the Ostrobothnian identity. The Swedish-speaking Ostrobothnians have a strong profile, Swedish is the majority language in the small villages. Due to the constant feeding of culture from Sweden, the Ostrobothnians tend to be less influenced by Finnish culture than Swedish-speakers in southern Finland. The emigration to Sweden has always been very big, too.
The isolation, however, is not only from the Finnish-speaking population, but also from Swedish-speaking Finns in the south, the Ostrobothnians having very strong opinions about the submissive, urban and more bilingual population in the southern parts of Finland. The social control in the Swedish-speaking areas of Ostrobothnia is said to be stronger than in Finnish Ostrobothnia, perhaps due to the small Swedish-speaking population, and it's not easy to be accepted coming in as an outsider.
And there are the Åländers, living on the islands between Finland and Sweden. Always having had very good connections and strong cultural bonds to Sweden, the Åland Island faced hard times in the early 20th century, when becoming a part of Finland instead of Sweden, as the majority of the Åländers would have wished for. Their language was one of their main concerns; the fear of losing the Swedish language made the inhabitants very reluctant to accept the decision of the League of Nations back in the 1920s. The unilingually Swedish environment was and is protected by a number of laws, indicating for example that any newcomer must live on the islands at least 5 years before he's given right to buy some land or start a business of his own. This prevents (Finnish-speaking) mainlanders from building summer cottages on the very beautiful islands, and having too much control over Åland issues. Law on the Åland Islands is a very important word to build up the identity - it creates a feeling of being something unique. The island identity of the Åländers - a miniature Swedish-speaking society is generally considered to have a more aggressive approach towards Finnish language, and the Åländer's pride of their islands is very strong. The sea dimension and the nature are very closely related to the identity of belonging (not only for the Åländers, the Swedish-speaking in general tend to have a very deep love for their homes in a geographical sense). Old place names gives continuity and stability, and the Åländers are dependant on the sea, which is very visible in their literature and arts. As the case with Ostrobothnia, the Åländers are perhaps more Swedenized than on the mainland; they watch Swedish TV and are in general more familiar with the entertainment from our Western neighbour country. There are also some slight tensions between the tough Åländers and, according to them, the "smoother" Swedish mainlanders. Feeling different from the mainlanders is quite essential for the Åländers.
The Åland community is a good example of the phenomenon which we call the Finland-Swedish duck pond - a place where everybody knows each other and the community spirit is well developed. This seems to strengthen the fact that the higher percentage of Swedish-speakers in a community, the stronger language identity is created. Most Swedish-speakers grow up in small, Swedish dominating areas, and thus getting an upbringing in the existing values and attitudes that this specific community happens to have - again a unique way of belonging to the minority group. (On the other hand, there's nothing so helpful for raising awareness of one's identity and rights as a common enemy threatening these... something for strongly Finnish-dominating areas to observe. This also tends to be a common feature for other language minority groups.)
When speaking of dialects, we face another intriguing question - the significance of their impact on the identity. A whole pattern of cultural diversity is attached to the use of the often very archaic ways of speaking. Unfortunately, in the globalizing society of today, these dialects are in danger of disappearing, when new generations grow up without showing interest in them. To some extent, this lack of interest in the traditions is visible in a common lack of belonging and knowing your roots, something to hold on to, which leeds to feelings of insecurity - you have to know who you are in order to be able to move on.
Comparing language groups
When searching for differences between the two language groups, it's often to be found that the differences within the groups are much bigger. Being a Finlands-Swede doesn't mean that you're a certain type of people, doing certain things. The Swedish-speakers feel different and are different in many ways, but the language connects us with each other. You can still find old sayings that the "Swedish-speaking are better people.. The Swedish-speaking minority is considered quite confident and privileged, and maybe some of us still do think that we are superior to the majority? Not in line with this statement, there also seems to be a certain amount of uncomfortable feeling of being a Swedish-speaking Finn, a fear of being judged and disliked.
It is said that Swedish-speaking Finns have a more lively personality, that we sing while drinking, speak louder on trains, are more extrovert than Finnish-speaking Finns. Swedish-speaking also claim to be better at establishing contacts, learning languages and so forth. Traditions and family, relatives are claimed to be important, but since this is merely the feelings and vague thoughts in general and cannot be proven, there is no point in exaggerating these statements further. The Swedish-speaking population inherited some cultural factors which are still part of our identity, Lucia for example, which is a tradition that doesn't exist in the Finnish culture (except from the bilingual areas with strong Swedish influence, where the Finnish-speaking population has integrated it into their own cultural repertoire).
A fact common with the rest of the Nordic countries and with Finland in general is the eager participation in social gatherings, mainly by being part of one or another organization, NGO. This is a way of living, Finland is the country of clubs, associations and organizations, there is one for almost every field of interest. These civil, non-governmental organizations form a wide network all over the country, which is essential to the Swedish-speaking Finns in particular, as a substitute for the lack of our own geographical territory. Through this network you can operate, find new activities, targets, partners and friends. Within a minority group the size of this one, those latter two are nearly one and the same. Being involved in activities in one organization, means practically that your personal network will grow at the same time, and since the amount of minority members is so limited, one will soon find that the same people move all over the place. This can be both a strength and a weakness. The individuals get both the happy, secure feeling of being part of a small community, knowing everybody, but at the same time the circle can be felt to be too small, the people around you knowing all there is to know about you.
A common identity could be defined as the relation between the everyday individual and the official. There seems to be a need of cultural symmetry; harmony between people and their institutions, man and nature. Maintaining identity happens through referring to symbols, easily recognizeable by the community.
The identity question is far more complicated than just the feeling of being at home on a certain spot, but in order to make it easier to define, one refers to the geographical country. Living in exile tends to make people more aware of their origins, also more conservative when traditions and values are concerned.
To be a Swedish-speaking Finn is to reognize and feel attracted by some, feel irritated by some and share the same code with others. Living in the archipelago area, around the coast seems to mean a great deal to the Swedish-speaking population in Finland, no matter if we are Åländers, Ostrobothnians or from Åboland. The somewhat ironic sense of humour is also quite common, these seem to be the common features to be found. Otherwise, the differences are big, and also the awareness of being different, that no real common ground can be found.
To each Swedish Finn, his own identity is probably all important, and regardless of his awareness of it, there is more than likely to be a major contribution to his ability to structure his life from his cultural heritage and position as a Swedish-Finn. There are numerous features that together might form the "all-round" Finland-Swedish identity. Depending on the environment that a person has been growing up in, he has "selected" certain features from the list, things that he or she has learned are important. If defining the identity of the Swedish-speaking population in Finland was a simple task, then all would have got these values implanted at an early age, thus really creating the Average Finland-Swede. But this is not the case; we are all individuals, our parents were individuals, our whole environment and the social and cultural climate are higly unique, creating a completely unique way and view of being a Swedish-speaker in Finland for every human being in that situation.
Notes towards an essay
by Aled Llion
"Wales is a world of increasing ambiguities and ambivalence, shades of language, shades of identity and allegiance"- Geraint Talfan Davies.
This statement tells of the past as well as of the present. However, the current situation provides more of a danger for the concept of Wales than ever before, and we may be presented with a situation in which the offensive Anglo Saxon term, 'Welsh'- 'foreigners'- may prove ironic when Anglicisation has moved to the verge of turning the inhabitants of even the centre of the heartlands into nothing more diverse than accented 'Cymry' (Welsh, = 'fellow countrymen'). It is only recently that the true extent of the threat to the difference of the language, culture and identity of the Welsh people has become apparent in statistics (although, of course, the language has been in danger at least since the harsh impositions of Henry VIII's Act of Union), and so the Welsh are presented with a vital and unavoidable choice, now that the facts and increased apparence of Anglicisation are readily and unmistakably available: pace R. S. Thomas, and according to a necessary inversion of my characterisation, we must choose, Cymru or Wales?
The late 20th century has been a time of strange contradictions: as we find ourselves attempting to come to terms with the problems of 'post-modernity' we may be forgiven for a reappraisal of the voices of modernity and the characteristic fragmentation and alienation which followed the hegemony of reason of the 17th and 18th centuries. Today, it may seem that the plurality of voices which speak for an ever- increasing diversity of positions - from 'New Age' and other holisms, to the big businesses whose sole perspective on connectedness seems to be pan-marketability- are shouting past each other with increasing isolation. Yeats' oft-quoted lines from The Second Coming, "Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold," while stemming from a period of greater physical horrors than today, do seem characteristic of a century which saw the dissolution of the unified self in Western thought accompany the break-up of presumed inviolable empires and the replacement of Newton's atomism for Heisenberg's Uncertainty; and which is now witnessing the radical undermining of centres all over Europe as economic, and the accompanying cultural, 'union' heralds the immediate fragmentation of the champion of 17th and 18th century rationalism, the nation-state.
A seeming contradiction in this abstraction is the continuing advance of globalisation as a trend arching over all apparent fragmentation, and one of the most pertinent questions of the moment must be, what are we doing wrong? Are we in fact losing sight of the wood for the trees, and failing to take notice of the real instantiations of modernity's 'will to homogenisation'? Or are we simply complicit, happy to accept the material benefits and cosy ideology of the global village? It has been a criticism frequently levelled at the Welsh, that they have historically exhibited a faithless sloppiness of character, shifting like chameleons among the changing contexts provided by new masters, leaving it to a core few to construct and reconstruct a tentative identity- and of course, each time it is repeated, the reconstruction is more difficult.
Gwyn Alf Williams described Wales thus:
Some, looking ahead, see nothing but a nightmare vision of a depersonalised Wales which has shrivelled up into a Costa Bureaucratica in the south and a Costa Geriatrica in the north; in between, sheep, holiday homes burning merrily away and fifty folk museums where there used to be communities.
Written in 1985, When Was Wales? had seen one of the worst periods of immigration into Wales from wealthier areas in England, a trend encouraged by economic Anglocentrism which was fortunately arrested by a chance error on behalf of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The quoted prophecy, though, will ever be in danger of being realised as long as Wales is viewed as a mere extension of England and an economic gateway via low wages to the Common Market; and the phenomena of villages of holiday homes or of the possibly more damaging drowning of schools' and communities' Welsh by incoming English, may again provoke a fiery response among the subjugated Welsh, held captive by ideological, economic and political trends from across a border they may well wish was firmer. Harri Webb was, as ever, succinct:
What Wales lacks and has always needed most
Is not an eastern border but an eastern coast.
It has ever been the revelation of helplessness which has spurred the strongest expressions of Welsh resistance in the modern period, from the escape to the Americas and Australia of many who saw the situation at home as an impossible religious, cultural and linguistic repression (including the establishment in 1865 of Y Wladfa, a Welsh community in Patagonia, Argentina where Welsh is still spoken and Eisteddfodau still held) to the outrage provoked by the destruction of homes, villages, communities and thus national symbolism and strength by forestry, reservoirs for English cities, and military establishments. Of course, this picture is no worse than that of any colony, and is certainly far removed from the excesses practised on many repressed cultures. But the realisation of the colonial aspect of this Anglicisation is vital for a historical placing of the current situation, as it provides a counter to the unacceptable situation which sees English as the norm and Welsh as a stigmatised medium of low (although slowly increasing) status.
One of the better-kept secrets of the Welsh may provide them with an almost paradoxical possibility of improved status in the new Europe which is being formed: the Welsh are, to a great extent, a different people from the English, French, German and Italian. Britain is a land of five languages, offshoots of the earlier Celtic tongue. English is a later addition to the rooted languages. Of the six Celtic tongues, four are still spoken as mother-tongues, and yet you would be hard-pressed to find an average schoolchild aware of the existence of any of them. However, the Europe-wide presence of the Celts in the millennia BC provides an opportunity of which some already seem to have taken advantage: European unity requires an umbrella of common identity, and the relatively hazy image of the Celtic culture may provide a mouldable image to suit the ideologues of the new federation; if this is so, there may be economic opportunities aplenty from the networking funds of Europe for the (just) surviving remnants of Celtic language and culture: it will remain to be seen whether such a morally dubious endeavour may succeed!
Whatever the pros and cons of the possible Celtic spiritual link, the economic value of the linguistic and cultural difference is one of which Europe is certainly aware (again, we will see whether the morality of such considerations is to be jettisoned in favour of pragmatism). A recent report commissioned by the EC into the conditions of the non-official autochthonous languages of the EU concentrated greatly on the value to the Common Market as an economic force of the diversity of its cultural constitution- a diversity whose appreciation can only contribute to the enhancement of innovation and economic development. Central to this diversity of course is the linguistic diversity and the corresponding diversity of meaning which can be created from the different discourses of the different linguistic structures. It is vital that not only European bureaucrats realise this, but that an awareness of what may be termed linguistic capital is disseminated to parents, teachers, priests and all who can be reached by the all-too-prevalent concern of economic advancement, at least until the general discourse can be moved to a more direct concern with culture.
The bilingualism of Wales provides a multiplicity of discourses within the geographical area. Whether this apparent diversity is better described as disunity- a disunity suggested by the deep splits in allegiance between many in 'North Wales' and 'South Wales' (the constant repeating of which designations some consider half-jokingly to be suggestive of a British Korea)- even among the Welsh-speaking themselves, is a fundamental point of concern for any seeking to characterise such universally hazy notions as cultural, national or linguistic identity. A Welsh Office report of 1995 stated that 21.5% of the population of Wales (=590,800) speak the language, 326,600 of these (12% of the population) speaking Welsh as a first language, and 13.4% being fluent. 66.1% claimed to have no knowledge of the language. However, the extent to which the speech patterns of that 66.1% has been influenced by residual Welsh cannot be easily measured, and although such a high figure is a damning indictment of both the social status and educational status of the language through Wales as a whole, it must be fair to claim that there are shades of monolingualism ranging from the English of the south-east and of immigrants to the more extreme cases of 'Wenglish'.
The Welsh Language Act and Business
The useful practise of looking at language-as-discourse opens up the question into an interesting consideration of economic practise which analyses language use (or disuse) on many levels of relevance. As has been hinted at, there exists in certain spheres a trend towards an appreciation of bilingualism and of linguistic diversity. The Welsh Language Board, a statutory body established following the 1993 Welsh Language Act to ensure its implementation, is charged with promoting and facilitating the use of the Welsh language in accordance with the principle of equality between English and Welsh contained within the Act, which symbolically repealed the worst aspects of the treacherous 1536 Act of Union (which was truly more an Act of Absorption, ratified unilaterally and containing an explicit aim "utterly to extirp all and singular the sinister usages and customs" of Wales, meaning, of course, the indigenous ones).
The Act of Union removed the official legitimacy of the Welsh language, described as "a speech nothing like nor consonant to the natural mother tongue used within the Realm", and thus manufactured a distinct linguistic-class-split in Welsh society between those to whose advantage it was to learn English, and the common folk whose spheres of movement could not include advancement to titled roles. The 1536 Act extended legislation which dated from the early years of the revolt of Owain Glyndwr: the Penal Code of 1402 stated that no Welshman, or Englishman with a Welsh wife, could hold the higher posts of administration; and the 15th and early 16th centuries witnessed a peak of racial and national discord between the English and Welsh, particularly visible in the poetry of the time. The Act of Union categorically began the process of persistent decreasing of the status of the native language, successfully reversing the linguistic hierarchy which had previously existed within Wales, and setting the pattern for centuries of Anglocentric governance.
The 1960s saw an upsurge of nationalist consciousness with Saunders Lewis' revolutionary tone in 1962's radio lecture, 'Tynged yr Iaith' ('The Fate of the Language) inspiring the formation of Cymdeithas yr Iaith (The Welsh Language Society), a single-issue direct action pressure group which was to prove a major influence on the course of events. The post of Welsh Secretary, which eventually led to the Welsh Office, was created in 1964, giving increased symbolism (if not in fact real power) to Welsh aspirations to independence, and in 1966 the Nationalist movement received a huge boost of moral with the election of the first Plaid Cymru MP, in Carmarthen. Of course, since the Welsh-language and Welsh-speakers play a minor role in Britain-wide concerns, it is difficult to win time in the competitive Westminster system to debate Welsh concerns, and Welsh politics have frequently consisted of much shouting but little action.
While that of 1536 may be seen as the first Welsh language act, a more positive although terribly inadequate statement was made in 1962 with an Act of Parliament. The subsequent Welsh Language act of 1993, although far from perfect in the eyes of many, was a great improvement on all previous UK legislation. The resultant Bwrdd yr Iaith Gymraeg (Welsh Language Board), is a statutory body with the task of ensuring that the stipulations of the Act are fulfilled, mainly through the drawing up of government-approved Language Schemes, compulsory throughout the Public Sector. Although not compelled to do so, it appears that the private sector has also shown considerable interest in implementing these Schemes.
The Schemes are individually-tailored with respect to the functions of the bodies involved, and also the contexts in which they work. Based on a view of language-use as service delivery, and committed as far as possible to the Act's principle of language equality, the Schemes define the expectations of the Board for language-use within the respective bodies, along with the agenda for implementation. Essential to the functioning of such Schemes is that they are incremental and developmental, so that they can change according to changing contexts.
Although the Welsh Language Act of 1993 was far from ideal, in its failure to include provision for the private and voluntary sectors, the extent to which it does operate is indicative of both an improving official attitude and this the development of a framework for the use of the language in all domains. Official sanction, though is only half the battle, and may be less than none of the battle if the necessary complementary - public opinion and practice - is not achieved. With the 80% majority in Wales not speaking the language at all, the achieving of positive public opinion is a delicate juggling act and one for which the traditional negative definition of Welsh identity- i.e. non-English- may frequently prove self- defeating, especially in the Anglicised centres of population of the cities.
Recent polls demonstrate a heartening 80% of Wales with positive feeling for the language, and a general tendency of this sort is suggested by the claims of the Language Board that private companies approach them requesting Language Schemes, and also by the growth of Welsh usage in the voluntary sector, with the Welsh Council for Voluntary Action currently working with twenty key voluntary organisations in Wales to produce a document of guidance for language use in the voluntary sector.
The Welsh Language Act does not confer official status upon the Welsh language, but strength is gained both from the fact that there is actually no language deemed 'official' in the UK, and from a recent statement by the then Prime Minister, John Major, that there would be "no practical effect" to a declaration of official status, since "we believe that Welsh already enjoys official status in Wales." This statement has been a useful basis for much work done by the Board and other bodies, and should be remembered by all who seek to use Welsh in Wales: such inexcusable ignorance should be used to full advantage.
The widespread positivity towards the language is of course one reason why there is a movement in the business world to realise the marketing possibilities. However, here as ever we witness shades of opinion and diversity of opinion, and some of the key points concerning language sustenance and reproduction are revealed.
"That they may dream their dreamy dreams, I wash away their filthy streams," wrote James Joyce of the Irish Romantics, and while one may profitably debate the extent to which those like Joyce committed "cultural suicide" (R.S. Thomas' term) by adopting the oppressive language of English to attempt a cultural revival, his words bear a relevant warning to those who would judge the health of a language, culture or nation by concentrating on successes alone. There are filthy streams in the Welsh landscape which no amount of placid "support" can cleanse, any more than physical pollution is abated by a tick on a statistician's questionnaire.
Ever and again, the question of language use can be reduced to one of psychology: culture is subservient to the dictates of fashion in all its aspects, and just as Welsh was driven back by the tide of status and advancement, so will it only rise once the old beliefs, deep-rooted and unconscious in most cases, are replaced by positive feelings. In today's globalising world, it is difficult for any language to compete for status with Anglo-American aggression, well-packaged, promoted and presumed superior - so much more so for one in the geographical, political, demographic and historical position of Wales.
It is noticeable in many cases that the inclusion of Welsh for marketing purposes is little more than a gesture - an adornment or a cynical token. The large businesses, such as supermarkets, run to a British, European or larger game plan, are seen to have little awareness of the existence of a separate culture or identity here, and while they may provide some permanent signs in Welsh, it is rare to discover the temporary, more obvious fixtures, such as those advertising special offers, including a word of Welsh. The situation in these large chains is frequently so homogenised, at least with respect to Britain, that more sympathetic store managers complain of the frequent refusal of the head offices to allow the retailing of locally (i.e. Welsh) produced goods, in an effective enforced economic hegemony. This does not suggest that small businesses are guiltless: many shops, etc., run even by first-language Welsh-speakers demonstrate both an appalling paucity of the use of Welsh, and thus, the psychological conditioning which exists to restrict the domains of usage of Welsh. The domination of the market and of commercial mentality by English is one of the greatest threats.
It is to be hoped that the situation may improve, perhaps over the course of a few generations, as the habit of using Welsh in official domains is propagated. To this end it is vital that Welsh-speakers and Welsh- learners are fully aware of their rights and opportunities in this field: information must be made available to avoid the nightmare of a full structure empty of human use.
One problem which exists at present with respect to official Welsh usage is the delicate issue of language standardisation: with the vernacular Welsh being such a rich variety of dialects, and education having traditionally been of a relatively low standard, many Welsh speakers express a lack of confidence in the standard of their Welsh, which does not conform to the complex and incomprehensible jargon which they find in official communication: many Welsh-speakers thus prefer to use English when completing forms or when communicating in unfamiliar domains. It is essential, though unfortunate, that a standard Welsh of public communication be created and made available throughout Wales. Such a standard must conform as far as possible to Welsh etymology, and not be a simple translation of concepts from more established vocabularies of jargon, such as English: to translate without creativity would be to make of Welsh a poor dialect of its larger neighbour, and risk alienating it from itself and eliminating any value for it in the world: as was mentioned above, it is essential to perceive languages as discourses, and as meaning, rather than as communicants of pre-existing meanings. As such, some thought should be given, when in difficulty, to going to languages other than English for aid in translating terms, to veer away from the disproportionate influence of English on Welsh. Work currently underway demonstrates a heartening willingness to create etymologically traditional terminology. The recent publication of the Welsh academy's superb English-Welsh dictionary is a valuable aid, but it is unfortunate that at present there is no comprehensive Welsh-English or Welsh-Welsh dictionary available.
The problem of alienation is one which can return us to a discussion of market concerns. It is fair to say that most minority languages in Europe find themselves, perhaps á priori on the peripheries of economic activity, and as such are heavily dependent upon service industries. A problem with this is of course that such industries depend to a huge extent upon other language-groups for patronisation and for financial input. The autochthonous languages may thus become of secondary importance as tourists, for example, are attracted and wooed. The use of the autochthonous languages is frequently seen to be relegated to the role of curiosity or bauble, presented in the case of Wales as the 'unpronounceable place-name' or the kitsch "little Welsh doll made in Hong Kong." This commodification of culture is to be seen even in the offices of the Welsh Tourist Board, who although enacting a degree of positivity through a skeletal language policy, have seemed frequently unwilling to take on a role of emphasising or promoting the linguistic and cultural individuality of Wales beyond a cursory acknowledgement. There is evidence of a possible shift towards a promotion of linguistic culture, with, for example, the recent publication of a Literary Map of Wales which will go some distance towards redressing the balance and helping to raise awareness of Wales' literary heritage. Notably, though, only an English-language version, concentrating on celebrating Anglo-Welsh writing is currently available.
The tending to the presumed needs of a predominantly Anglophone audience serves to objectify the Welsh-language culture and as such to belittle it and to alienate it from its roots as a vital, vivid, growing, living entity. In Karl Jaspers' memorable phrase, "The sclerosis of objectivity is the annihilation of existence," and any 'authentic' Welshness is in distinct danger of being annihilated by restrictive interpretation through eyes focused on another life.
Market forces threaten traditional Welsh life in more direct ways, also, in the traditional industries which have provided support for generations of cultural activities. Recent years have seen the destruction of the industrial south, and the worsening of conditions for farming, as the need for economic viability has pushed out many traditional, smaller farmers. The fact that many important economic decisions are frequently taken further and further away from the relevant localities, in London or even in Brussels, for example, means that many communities find themselves at the mercy of forces which are far beyond their control. Such helplessness cannot contribute to either short-term confidence or long-term happiness.
Community and Language
It cannot be denied that community is essential for the survival and reproduction of language. A question which faces us as we enter the 21st century is what shape our communities will take. As static patterns of relatively settled life are upset in the turbulence of the modern movements of humans and capital, it is interesting to consider the "spatial as well as social confusion" famously described by F. R. Jameson as characterising our age. The lack of a sense of place which we witness in our globalising tendencies can be seen as not so much an irrelevant by-product of living the modern good life, but as a destabilising and dehumanising aspect, certainly threatening cultural variety. Wales' demography has long been altering due to the immigration of English-speakers, detrimental to the Welsh-language and Welsh-speaking community life.
Harold Carter discusses many factors connected with the rapid movement westwards of the language boundary, and describes a notable discrepancy along the boundary between the abilities to speak Welsh and literacy in the language, arguing that this is indicative of the limitation of domains of language usage as English advances. Carter identifies tourism as a major Anglicising factor from the 19th century onwards, with seaside holiday resorts and the like being established; population movement also weakened the language from the late 19th century, with the closure of small rural mines and quarries, and the switching to more economically-effective methods of farming. From the mid-20th century the pattern changes, and it becomes obvious that the traditional language boundary is only one front of assault: the fragmentation of Y Froydd Gymraeg (the Welsh-speaking areas) becomes increasingly manifest, with migration and increased pressure from mass-media destroying regional identities (Carter notes with some irony that the population of Welsh rural areas recently began to show the first increase for a century, but the combined problems of tourism, holiday homes and immigration with consequent problems for education, mean that increased numbers equals relatively less Welsh).
A recent report by Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (the Welsh Language Society) suggests that if current housing market trends continue, with prices in the south-east of England far higher than those in Wales, we may witness a destructive influx similar to that of the 1980s which would reduce the number of communities classifiable as Welsh-speaking (i.e. with 75% speaking the language) to only twenty-one, clustered mainly in the far north-west. The danger perceived by Cymdeithas and by many others in this respect is the movement in Wales to a situation akin to that of Gaelic in Ireland, with the language performing well on paper, but being almost non-existent as a living language of daily life.
Whether the advances in technology which we are witnessing, and the general move away from the nation- state will accompany a suitable shift in cultural and communal identities are interesting questions, and ones which would both be answered in the affirmative by the more optimistic commentators. Raymond Williams, in his later work, moved determinedly towards theories based extensively upon place, and the importance of:
language and signification as indissoluble elements of the material social process itself, involved all the time both in production and reproduction.
He stressed that "official communities"- nation-states - ignore local social reality for capitalistic gain, and concluded that "the nation-state is too large and too small for the range of social purposes". Dafydd Elis Thomas, the president of the Welsh Language Board, commented in a recent interview that "communication is the basis of community. There is no need to be there, although it is a help to be there." The concerns of the current debate become clearer: we are in a transitional period, and at the level of planning and policy there is a distinct uncertainty as to the future. It seems uncertain how 'communities' could exist for long if spatially separated, unless by virtue of completely virtual existence, since community, and language-communities specifically, must be seen to depend upon shared experience: the spectre raised by the idea of spatially-separated 'communities' is that of homogenisation of concepts, and of languages into mere dialects of an overriding global discourse.
Educational policy in Wales has long been characterised by the political relations between Wales and its rulers in England- a relationship somewhat lacking in dialogue for much of the time. The last hundred years, though, have witnessed a heartening shift in trend, from the treacherous report of the Blue Books in 1848, and the 1870 Education Act, to the mixed blessings of the implementation of Kenneth Baker's 1988 Education Act and the consequent arrival of the National Curriculum. Whereas the 1870 Act replaced the indigenous traditions of education with a cruelly-imposed régime which outlawed the use of Welsh in the schools on pain of beatings, and forced upon the Welsh children the values and attitudes of the hegemonic culture, we see in the documents relating to the 1988 Act statements such as this:
All pupils should, by the time they complete their compulsory schooling at 16, have acquired a substantial degree of fluency in Welsh. Depending on background, ability and opportunity, they should be able to use Welsh throughout adult life in social communication, at work, and in cultural activities.
Obviously there has been a transformation in the possibilities which exist for Welsh in education. It may, however, be worth striking a note of caution. David Russell has commented upon an apparent cult of personality within Westminster, wherein strong individuals rather than general opinion in the government have tended to produce the gains for the language and its being secured as a compulsory subject. Such precariousness may be seen in the manner in which during discussions surrounding the cultural values and content which should be transmitted via the National Curriculum, hard-won Welsh concessions to an otherwise near-repeat of 1870's English cultural imposition were removed at a stroke. Peculiarly English political discussions led to a slimming down of the statutory requirements of the National Curriculum- thus, "the particular Welsh experience would revert to being an option."
In this context it is interesting to consider the frequent inflammation of the debate which surrounds the compulsory teaching of Welsh, and especially the recently-voiced claim from within Wales that Welsh should revert to being an optional language choice, alongside the other second languages offered in our schools, such as French or German:
While every child should have the right to learn Welsh, and every school should have a duty to provide appropriate teaching, families would then have the choice of Welsh (or English) instead of (or as well as) the more usual French, and this choice could be extended to anywhere in the UK.
While it is a lovely idea to provide the option of Welsh lessons throughout the UK, it is not a proposal which carries much practical weight in the current climate, and the proposed reduction of the status of Welsh to just another foreign language demonstrates how the traditional belittling of the Welsh language, which has been the official policy of London from the 1536 Act of Union until recently, will take a long time to vanish, even among the Welsh themselves.
There can be no doubt that the increase in Welsh-speakers in the lower age-groups is largely due to the increase in Welsh-language education. Between the 1981 and 1991 censuses there was a 6.9% increase in the 5-9 year-olds, and an 8.4% increase in 10-14 year-olds reported as speaking the language. Of course, census returns provide no assessment of ability in the language, and any statistics must be treated with care. However, since the age range from 3 to 15 shows significantly higher numbers of Welsh- speakers than any apart from the over 65, there may be room for some optimism.
A very positive trend in recent Welsh education has been the remarkable numbers of English-speaking parents sending their children to Welsh-medium primary schools, where the general aim is to make children bilingual by the age of eleven. Although there are far fewer Welsh-medium than English-medium schools, it is a growing trend, and the demand far outstrips the available places. Reasons cited by English- speaking parents for sending their children to Welsh-language schools frequently include a desire to regain the language for their children, having been denied it themselves. This movement back towards Welsh is indicative of a large-scale growth in appreciation of the benefits of bilinguality for children's learning abilities, and demonstrates the large ideological shifts which have occurred over the course of a few generations, effectively reversing the generational retreat of the language which has proved so destructive in the past. It remains to be seen whether the trend will prove strong enough to win over sufficient of those who are antagonistic to the language to constitute general acceptance and a sufficient improvement in language status and legitimisation.
Fundamental to all education is primary education, and here much work is being done to promote Mudiad Ysgolion Meithrin, the Nursery Schools' Movement, in order to make new parents aware of the existence of, and benefits of, Welsh-medium education for the 3-5s. Currently, between 95 and 99% of Welsh toddlers receive nursery education.
The teaching of Welsh in Secondary Schools is compulsory for all apart from special exceptions, under the National Curriculum, and as was mentioned above, the intention is that all should attain conversational ability by age 16. This is, however, frequently not the case, and it shows that the potential for Welsh-language education is nowhere near actualised. The situation here reinforces the truism that legislation is a world away from enactment, and also emphasises the large amount of work which remains to be done to normalise Welsh as a subject in Wales. The obvious problem of introducing immigrant children to the language adds to the sad fact that Welsh is seen as a foreign language by many Welsh children, also, providing a counter measure to the optimism engendered by the successes shown by some statistics.
The importance of education does not stop at the teaching of - or through - the language. The radical potential of education of course encompasses the provision of material for the creation of cultural identity. It may be naïve to believe that in the current climate, a child's school environment provides even the majority of his information, but- and especially early on, before school becomes a bore and a source of things to reject à priori- a foundation can be provided, and the presentation and cultivation of the individuality and peculiarity of the Welsh history, literature, geography, music and other disciplines, should be emphasised as a resisting force to the creeping homogenisation which threatens all that is most valuable and beautiful in our heterogeneous cultures.
It may be that the only way of successfully normalising the use of Welsh in education would be to teach all subjects through its medium, since its existence as a separate subject immediately stigmatises it (and especially as a compulsory stigma), making it a possible object of outright rejection. Since the teaching of all school subjects unavoidable brings children into contact with words and terms which they do not understand, the use of Welsh as a medium of education -from early enough- should pose few extra educational problems- with huge benefits for the language and culture.
In the children's periodical, Cymru'r Plant ('The Children's Wales'), in 1922, Ifan ab Owain Edwards wrote the following:
At present, in many villages, and in almost every town in Wales, the children play in English, read English books, and forget that they are Welsh [...]
What shall we do, children of Wales, to keep the language alive? [...]
We will establish a new movement, and try to get every Welsh person under 18 to join.
Thus was the establishment of Urdd Gobaith Cymru ('The Welsh League of Hope') announced, a movement whose primary objective has always been the promotion of Welsh cultural life and identity, but with a distinctly international viewpoint. Over the seventy-five years of its existence, the Urdd has contributed to vital areas of development, playing a large role in promoting the Welsh books' market (its annual Books Rally increased from sales of 1,000 in 1937 to 54,000 in 1944) and the establishment in 1962 of the Welsh Books Council. The Urdd itself opened the first Welsh language primary school in Aberystwyth, whose popularity and excellence helped in the persuasion of local authorities to fund others (the first non-privately-funded Welsh school was opened in Llanelli in 1947).
Urdd activities centre around the two residential sites at Llangrannog and Glan-llyn, and the annual Eisteddfod. The existence of the camps - established in 1928 as two ten-day holidays in Llanuwchllyn, and by now occurring all year round and serving 16,000 children at Llangrannog alone - was deemed so vital to the cultural life in Wales that the threat of cancellation due to the war in 1944 provoked a notable response from the Urdd's periodical:
Losing a year's camp will mean not just losing a year's camping, but losing a piece of life, losing an experience that does more than any other to help young people become leaders and good citizens.
Syr Ifan's belief in pacifism and the importance of small nations ensured that the Urdd remained different from the more militaristic youth movements which were developing elsewhere in Europe at the same time; the three central tenets of the Urdd are a pursual of Christian, national and international cultural values, expressed annually in the Good Will Message, which was remarkably broadcast on Radio Moscow in 1957. It is debatable as to how pragmatic such a non-exclusive ideology can be, however, and the current practice of holding camps for both Welsh- and non-Welsh- speaking children together, although admirable in its intentions to make Welsh culture available to all, may have the adverse effect of diluting the Welshness present.
The Urdd Eisteddfod is by now a week-long festival with a budget of a million pounds, and it is the largest youth event of its kind in Europe, promoting Welsh culture in all aspects, from folk music and literature to pop and rock. The general ethos is similar to that of the National Eisteddfod, continuing the old tradition of cultural competition which grew out of the strict bardic culture of early Britain.
Welsh Bardic Culture and the Eisteddfod
The 10th century Welsh laws of Hywel Dda (Hywel the Good) describe three distinct bardic positions among the twenty-four officials of the royal court, and the strict structure of poetry is manifest at every level, from the professional licenses to the strict rules of metre, rhyme and consonant-echoing within the poems themselves. Although Welsh developed a prose expression relatively early in its history, with the 13th century manuscripts of the Mabinogion providing an unsurpassed literary testimony of centuries of oral distillation, its poetry has always been its prime art, from the poetry of praise and elegy of the pencerdd in the name of his king, through the wandering minstrels of the courts, to the bardd gwlad, or folk poet, still celebrating events in his locality. The bardic culture is one which has formed an essential part of Welsh identity through all times, with eisteddfodau still occurring in many schools and villages, providing preliminaries to the larger eisteddfodau of the Urdd and the National, whose essential climax is the chairing of the poet of the best traditional verse. Eisteddfodau date back at least as far as 1451, and perhaps to an event organised by Rhys ap Gruffydd in 1176. Bardic competition and legitimacy has always been of the essence, and it must be remembered that until recently, bards were thought to have powerful magical abilities, akin to those of the earlier Druids. Indeed it is claimed that bardic schools continued the teachings of earlier druidic schools, and as recently as the beginning of this century, the Irish poet, W. B. Yeats said,
I cannot now think symbols less than the greatest of all powers whether they are used consciously by the masters of magic, or half unconsciously by their successors, the poet, the musician and the artist.
Indeed, tales abound of poets cursing or even satirising opponents to death (the still-practised tradition of one-to-one bardic combat, the ymryson, thus takes on a stranger and more formidable hue).
The eighteenth century saw a rise of romanticism across Europe, and a spate of revivalism in Celtic history and culture. Countries as far as Hungary and beyond were inspired by the Ossian forgeries to look again at the pre-Graeco-Roman Europe, and Celtic Studies became institutionalised. Wales had her own forger, Edward Williams, or Iolo Morganwg, a competent bard and scholar who claimed to be in possession of an ancient body of tradition passed down from the Druids, and which he wished to make public. This system he incorporated in his society, Gorsedd Beirdd Ynys Prydain (The Gorsedd of the Bards of the Isle of Britain), developed as a bardic order to maintain Welsh literary tradition. The Gorsedd and its practises developed into a major part of the National Eisteddfod, and its hierarchy, ceremony and symbolism are perhaps the most notable aspects of this institution.
The National Eisteddfod (Eisteddfod = 'sitting place', from the chair given as prize to the best poet, and deriving from the chair which the pencerdd would have held at court) is an annual event, held alternately in North and South Wales, and stemming from the 19th century revival of Eisteddfodau under the leadership of Cymdeithas y Gwyneddigion (the Society of Gwyneddigion), a London-based group whose condition of membership was an ability to speak fluent Welsh and "to enjoy singing with the harp" (the Gwyneddigion were one of many societies of the Welsh in exile which were key players in the development of Welsh nationalism during the last century). The Welsh-only language rule, introduced in 1952, ended the pitiful use of English on even the main stage, and has stimulated much debate, especially recently, when the public concern over Welsh bands singing in English spilled over into the Eisteddfod: the 1997 National Eisteddfod will see all bands playing at the evening gigs being contractually bound to sing in Welsh.
The Eisteddfodau - National and Urdd - are the very visible and very well polished tips of the Welsh cultural iceberg, and act as severe rebuttals to any who would argue the death of Welsh or its cultural or creative irrelevance:
Like a dinosaur in DMs, the festival is as old and as ludicrously traditional as its coloured sheets and slowly-fading no-alcohol policy, but there is always more to it than meets the eye.[...] By day the under-18 Cerdd Dant competitors don the regulation Laura Ashley numbers, but by night they are flailing wildly on the dance floor at a gig, or jumping up and down at an unofficial rave on the campsite.
Once a year druids, poets, ravers, Welsh-speakers, non-Welsh speakers, pop stars and people in sandals co-exist quite happily and then go their separate ways.
Cultural Identity, Literature and Language
Always, the figure of 80% dominates any consideration of the Welsh language. Over 80% may claim to be favourably disposed towards it, but 80% cannot speak it. A long-standing problem for Welsh analysis has been what to do with these 80%: what exactly are they, since they are not exactly English, but English-speaking Welshness seems to many an unacceptable contradiction. A common solution used to be simply to characterise according to language ability, and the division between Y Cymry (the Welsh) and Y Saeson (the English) was clear enough, if not problematic in its implications for a divided nation. With the current favouring of a more inclusive criteria of nationhood came a differing characteristic: today one hears of Cymry Cymraeg (Welsh-speaking Welsh people) and Cymry di-Gymraeg ('Non-Welsh-speaking Welsh people'). While national solidarity may benefit, national characterisation is hugely complicated by being turned onto the huge realm of Anglo-Welsh cultural produce, as well as the traditional Welsh. Here, as ever, different perspectives have been brought to bear, and the 'problem' of Anglo-Welsh culture may be seen as a microcosmic representation of the whole Welsh problem.
Ultimately, the discussion hinges on at least two considerations, neither of which we can realistically hope to get to the bottom of, here: the relation of language to culture and identity is one, and the question of group versus individual identity is the other. Identity is at the core of the issue, or more precisely, how we behave according to our beliefs with respect to identity.
Nelde, Strubell and Williams argue that 'modernism' has been massively detrimental to the non-official languages of Europe, with its clear favouring of the 'rational' over the 'emotional', influenced greatly by the social philosophies of rationalists such as Locke, Rousseau, Vico, Machiavelli and of course, Kant and Hegel, the "architect of the modern nation state". To the modernist, the traditional is seen as the converse of the rational, and thus as incommensurable with the progressive needs of the nation, seen to be in a state of developing conformation to the natural laws, and thus towards the good: these natural laws are of course, says the modernist, rational laws such as those discovered (never 'theorised') by natural scientists such as Newton, whose atomic, logical scientific vision is paradigmatic of modernity.
Nelde, Strubell and Williams make the further connection between the traditional (=emotional, retrogressive and necessarily eliminated) and the minority languages, whose unfortunate exteriority to the mechanisms of the states thus excluded them from the realm of the 'modern': it was thought that the non-modern, stateless, languages constituted a threat to the state due to their inability to engage with reason and their consequent alienation from politics. The definition used in Euromosaic is incisive:
The concept of minority, by reference to language groups does not refer to empirical measures, but rather to issues of power. That is, they are language groups, conceived of as social groups, marked by a specific language and culture, that exist within wider societies and states but which lack the political, institutional and ideological structures which can guarantee the relevance of those languages for the everyday life of members of such groups.
As sketched above, the "political, institutional and ideological structures" are inescapably interlinked, and interlinked in such a way as to make them nigh imperceptible, as the background to all our foregrounded actions (or, as the context of all our meanings, to borrow another vocabulary). We are on interesting philosophical ground, with many fruitful forays to be made into Formalist theory or Structuralist/ post- Structuralist debate, and Nelde, Strubell and Williams make the point that conventional social scientific concepts are themselves so permeated by the reason/emotion dichotomy that they are effectively useless for discussing the issues: a new discourse is necessary (or perhaps a revitalising of an old one, from before the hegemony of reason).
The need to discover - or create/re-invent - a new discourse returns us to the consideration of the Anglo- Welsh, and of their cultural products. We have previously considered the idea of language-as-discourse, the notion that the structure of a language enables the creation of peculiar meanings, and a familiar way of considering the Anglicisation of the Welsh is as the effective imposition onto a nation of a discourse alien to their historical meanings. Indeed, this has similarities with the modernist categorisation of modern and non-modern languages, in as far as one is admitting the non-co-extensivity of language discourses: what we must determinedly resist, of course, is the hierarchisation and polarisation of the modernists: the differences of discourse must be valued for their plurality and not devalued as deviant from an arbitrary universal norm. As such, Bobi Jones' uncompromising statement is most sympathetically read not as the assumption of a universalising centre, but as from one of many equally-valuable local centres of action:
Anglo-Welsh literature is a perversion of normality... a grunt or cry or odour rising from a cultural wound of some kind.
As such, Anglo-Welshness is seen as pure Anglicisation, and any of the rhythms and melodies of Welsh which find their way into the dialect are seen as a mere borrowed Welshness, an inauthentic gloss on an alien discourse.
An alternative argument voiced for example by Saunders Lewis describes literature as the product of an organic community and industrialisation as the destroyer of these: as such there could be no Welsh national literature in English, whose pedigree is that of the language of industrial Wales.
Either way, Anglo-Welsh literature, for example, is seen as subservient to the older tradition, and development of this consideration takes the discussion in interesting directions: taking literature as a representation of the culture at large, the current increased acceptance of Anglo-Welshness demonstrates (according to the above arguments) an increased Anglicisation: the rise of Anglo-Welshness can be seen as a move away from anything that may be called 'true' Welshness, since Welshness (as opposed to a variant of Britishness, or Englishness) exists only as expressed or created by the Welsh language, and once the link with the past - with the roots, as provided by the language - is lost, the culture will be said to be in freefall, with no direction save that supplied from outside.
Others might argue that Anglo-Welsh culture is a necessity in order to reintroduce the huge numbers of English-speakers in Wales to contact with the native tradition, with similarities here to the Anglo-Irish model of cultural revivalism, reaching back and gathering its roots before moving on revitalised. Here, the central tenet is that Anglo-Welshness is a stepping stone back to 'full' Welshness. Of course, the danger, from a purist's point of view, is that the 'stopgap' literature in the insurgent language becomes established, and contributes further to the displacement of the autochthonous culture. This has clearly occurred in both Ireland and Scotland, and Wales may be fast following, for all the various slants on Welshness expressed by Anglo-Welsh literature. The tacit acceptance and promotion of English is a potent force for the Anglicisation of the Welsh tradition, and a fine line is trodden.
Whatever the nebulous concept of nationhood may actually refer to, the most likely candidates for its application are those groups who apply it to themselves, and who act accordingly. For any such grouping, a distinct perspective on both history and the present are essential, and thus cultural memory and expression must be individual. As far as the past is concerned, it cannot be plausibly argued that Wales does not have a distinct history, both politically and culturally. Possessing one of the oldest literary traditions in Europe which demonstrated from its earliest times a clear idea of distinct racial identity, Wales was, as mentioned earlier, subsumed into England in 1536, beginning 429 years of official non- existence. It is perhaps no wonder that, following this and the unfortunate minimisation of the vitality of indigenous music, dance and poetry during the rise of extreme Protestantism form the 18th century, that 20th century Wales was left struggling for an idea of what she was. The 19th century had provided its share of revivalism and a nurturing of a particular political radicalism, but the rot had long since set in, and accompanying the rapid decline of the language, from around 80% to 20% over the course of one hundred years, was a decline of cultural identity.
The control of the mass-media from London of course thwarts much individuality within Wales, as only one daily newspaper is published in Wales, The Western Mail, traditionally known to Welshmen as Llais y Sais, 'The voice of the Englishman'. Occasionally a column or two of Welsh appears here.
Following the threatened hunger-strike of Gwynfor Evans, a leading public figure, in 1982, the government agreed to the establishment of Sianel Pedwar Cymru, the Welsh-language fourth channel which broadcasts in Welsh for around thirty-five hours of peak time each week. Also in Welsh is Radio Cymru, on air for around 16 hours a day, and a variety of periodicals, local newspapers and of course the book-publishing industry. A perennial problem of the media is of course striking a balance between popularism and quality, difficult with limited resources.
Today's Wales, on the verge of a possible Assembly, with many holding out hope for a future Parliament or even outright independence, possesses more of the necessary apparatus of State than it has seen for many centuries. The Welsh Office, the WDA, BBC Wales, S4C, the University, Cadw and the WJEC all constitute elements of the new framework for a revitalized identity.
The gaps in this study should by now be apparent. Gaps in facts and figures are numerous, and no proper consideration has been given to secondary, tertiary and pre-school education (not that the consideration of primary education has been anything like full), and the near-absence of any mention of the media is a ridiculous shortfall. Current political trends and backgrounds are absent, to the detriment of any possible conclusion or projection, as are thoughts and information concerning the language itself, and analysis of patterns of both use and change, with respect to dialect and the town/country differences - which must play a great part in language planning due to the obviously huge differences which exist between these places - and also exploration of language-shift and change in structure under the influence of English. A greater theoretical background is necessary, and a look towards larger spheres of influence. It is not possible or desirable to consider language in abstraction from the other processed which form human life: language is tied up with the environment as much as individual humans are, and thus the investigation and analysis of wider cultural patterns is essential for any understanding of either language or of cultural identity and such abstract notions.
Religion is largely absent from this study, as is any discussion of the content of the literature and other arts and media (of course, the non-written arts are not even mentioned), which very obviously plays a huge part in the forming of ideology, etc.
There is much to be said about movements such as CYD, an organisation which exists to promote the learning of the Welsh language, and to bring together learners and speakers; also the National Trust, who maintain a great amount of the heritage (interesting arguments are to be had here, considering the tensions inherent in preservation/maintenance of buildings, landscapes and in some cases entire communities); alternative clubs to the Urdd for the youth have not been mentioned (youth culture is lacking here); a detailed study of the attitudes of immigrants, and of the communities into which they move would be of use.
Too many things are missing, and at the last analysis, a full consideration can never be synchronic: it is necessary to consider the roots and origins of movements in order to gain insight into how to alter the progress of such things. (An interesting point of departure for philosophical or critical study would be to look at the attitudes and ideologies of other liberation movements (blacks, women, children, environment, etc.) and to attempt to adduce a consistent ideology from these. My guess is that there is a deep connection which should be made, and that the holistic aspects of the entire question may push us towards a greater understanding and practical standpoint for dealing with injustices (the ground position of this argument is something along the lines of this: an enlightened attitude would mean that the same pattern of actions and behaviour is necessary to halt globalisation, racial and sexual injustice, and environmental destruction (this suggests that there is something more radical than musical or cinematographic taste involved when we refrain from watching MTV or Hollywood, and we decline that can of Coke or that McDonalds (it is terrifying to consider that the word CocaCola is the best known in the world - apparently eclipsing even "OK"!).
Globalisation is a threat, there is no doubt. More terrifying is the fact that people have been warning of it for centuries. Maybe we shall never win. We can only hope that the fight will be rewarding....
In our essays, we have assumed that minority is closely related to identity and feeling of belonging. So we start this forum by exploring those issues.
The difficult question about identity... during the Travelling Vincent course we found out some important matters, but to be able to answer it completely, we need help from you, who are interested. You can do it by yourself, in a group or as an assignment for school, whatever suits you best. It can be done in any way and by anybody!
We start by the easiest assignment, questions about yourself and your own identity. These tasks can seem hard enough, but if you truly put your mind to finding out who you are deep down, it could be rather intriguing... and don't worry if you're not successful in your attempts right away, these matters are tricky and will take time. For some it may take their whole life...
* your own definition on identity
* which group in society do you feel yourself belonging to? Why?
* what do you think has made you the person you are?
* what are the typical features of members in your reference group? How well do these characteristics agree with your own personality? What factors do you think have influenced the group?
* what do you feel to be the difference in identity and identification?
What experience have you had of minorities? How did they affect your opinion about the person, the minority group in question, and minorities in general?
Are you familiar with any minority group? (It may be your own, something very close to you or distant).
What seems to differ them from the surrounding majority, and why? Are there similar features?
What can be done to protect the minority closest to you, and the minorities in Europe?