Sardinian language use survey
12-01-1995
http://www.uoc.es/euromosaic/web/document/sard/an/e1/e1.html

Sardinian language use survey

INTRODUCTION

This survey was undertaken by a team of Sardinian speakers in ten sampling points distributed across Sardinia involving the provinces of Sassarese, Nuorese, Monte Ferru, Barbagia, Oristano, Marmilla, Iglesiente, Campidano di Cagliari and the city of Cagliari. Given that no census data was available by which a representative sample could be developed it was decided to create a quota sample based upon equal distribution by gender, social class and age at each sampling point in order that internal comparison across these demographic variables could be facilitated.



ABILITY

What stands out in the following table on ability is the pronounced shift in ability during the generation of the respondents which has declined from about 80% as 'very good' in the parental generation to less than 50% recording the same level of ability for their siblings. The change is far more pronounced than for the preceding generation.

ABILITY IN SARDINIAN
Very goodQuite goodLittleNoneNA
Father228,0044,0011,0010,003,00
Mother224,0044,0013,0014,001,00
Brother124,0054572338
Sister10843512470
Mat GPs2481631811
Pat GPs2461841216


ABILITY IN ITALIAN
Very goodQuite goodLittleNoneNA
Father98143,0044,006,005,00
Mother85,00130,0069,0012,000,00
Brother118,00114,0020,001,0043,00
Sister121,0088,0014,003,0070,00
Mat GPs31,0066,00108,0077,0014,00
Pat GPs24,0062,00115,0073,0022,00

The ability is far from uniform across the four abilities listed below. Whereas the level of understanding is high, only about half of the respondents claim to be fluent in the language. Literacy levels are low. Unsurprisingly the level of competence in Italian is universally high.

DIFFERENT ABILITIES AMONG RESPONDENTS BY LANGUAGE
SardinianItalian
UnderstSpeakReadWriteUnderstSpeakReadWrite
Very_good2051575419275232253197
Quite_good7581712518563687,00
Little14521248927611,00
None16471631111,00
NA1,000,000,000,000,000,000,00-


FAMILY

The following data demonstrate a high degree of spatial endogamy with most respondents residing in the same parish as their parents and not having experienced much migration since birth.



PLACE OF RESIDENCE SINCE AGE THREE AND PLACE OF BIRTH
Respondent's place of b.Respondent's residenceMotherFatherPartner
Same parish219,00213200211112
Same zone13,0016251923
Same province25,0023302230
Sardinia29,0031273325
Torino4,003213
Northern Italy1,002413
Rest of Italy2,005544
Other countries2,003255
NA1,000,0010,0091

As we shall see below the data for the respondent's partner indicates a high degree of language group endogamy. Indeed one is left with the impression of Sardinian as a language which has a fairly adequate level of familiarity, the basis for language reproduction through the community and the family but which is in retreat.

This process appears to have been in operation for at least a generation with over 40% of the respondents claiming Italian as their first language:

RESPONDENT'S FIRST LANGUAGE
Sardinian128,0043%
Italian & Sardinian36,0012%
Italian124,0041%
Other2,001%
NA6,002%

This is reflected in the language used as a child by the respondents:

RESPONDENTS LANGUAGE USE AS CHILD
FatherMotherSisterBrotherMat GPsPat GPs
Sardinian109,00117,0088,0079,00136,00137,00
Sar+Italian73,0072,0066,0044,0050,0048,00
Italian102,00105,0099,0096,0066,0067,00
Other1,002,001,000,001,000,00
NA9,000,0042,0077,0043,0044,00

Again we recognise the inter-generational change, and the tendency for many families to have abandoned Sardinian as the family language altogether. Given that the degree of knowledge is higher than would be suggested by the figures for family use, this would suggest that the community serves a strong reproduction role.

The figures are little different for the respondent's partner:

PARTNER'S LANGUAGE USE
FatherMotherChildrenOther relatives
Sardinian94,0096,0013,0070,00
Italian & Sardinian21,0031,0036,0035,00
Italian51,0055,0092,0058,00
NA130,00114,00155,00133,00


PARTNER'S SARDINIAN ABILITY
Very good113,0038%
Quite good44,0015%
Little35,0012%
None11,004%
NA93,0031%

Evidently few have married partners who have no knowledge of Sardinian. Most of the partners came from backgrounds where the role of Sardinian in the family was, if anything, stronger than in the background of the respondents themselves.

The next two tables demonstrate the current situation, that is, the situation in the households of the respondents today:

CHILDREN'S LANGUAGE TOGETHER
Always Italian85
Italian>Sardinian24
Italian=Sardinian4,00
Sardinian>talian9,00
Always Sardinian5
NA169,00


The retreat of Sardinian is dramatic, with fewer than 10% of the children using even as much Sardinian as Italian together and three quarters of the children using Italian exclusively together. This again is reflected in the use of Sardinian in the family which is noticeably losing its influence as an agency of language reproduction:

RESPONDENT'S CURRENT HOUSEHOLD USE OF LANGUAGE
SardinianItal.+Sard.ItalianOtherNA
Mealtime421111250,0018,00
Father6149730113,00
Mother776276180,00
Partner3671840105,00
Children1345891148,00
Relatives4329580166,00


Even allowing for the fact that different individuals will use Sardinian to different degrees with one another the picture we have from the preceding table is one of Italian dominating the home environment.

LANGUAGE ANSWERING THE TELEPHONE
At homeAt work
Always Italian10435%93,0055%
Italian>Sardinian176%8,005%
Italian=Sardinian31%2,001%
Sardinian>Italian41%1,001%
Always Sardinian41%0,00-
Other lang.1-2,001%
Neutral manner16055%62,0037%
NA3-128,00-

Clearly the family is rapidly ceasing to be operational with reference to Sardinian.

COMMUNITY

The decline in the use of Sardinian at the community level is evident from the following table:

PRESENT AND PAST LANGUAGE OF COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES
As a childNow
StreetShopsChurchClubsStreetShopsChurchClubs
Often252236129781481142833,00
Sometimes3344806512614496,0072,00
Rarely69415421288783,00
Never574587,001107288,00
NA0,000,001,002,000,000,001320,00

The difference between when the respondents were children and now is remarkable across all four contexts. Admittedly almost half the respondents still claim that the language is often heard in the street and in the shops and most of the others claim that it is sometimes heard in these contexts as well as in the church. However we have, once again, a picture of the language in the community as one in rapid retreat.

Given what we have already said about the language of the respondent's children it is hardly surprising that the following table indicates virtually no Sardinian in the daily activities of children in the community:

LANGUAGE OF CHILDREN'S COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES
SardinianItalianSard.&Ital.NA
Squadre1218265,00
Palestra1527,00236
Swimming017,000280,00
Theatre group183284,00
Doposcuolo013,001282
Excursions223,006265,00
Parrocchiale1303262,00
Choir/music4204268
Hunting4,0033286,00
Other 10,00172277,00
Other 23,002,002,00289,00

Once again we resort to the questions concerning the extent to which people were able and did use Sardinian in the various encounters which constitute their daily lives. What is remarkable in the following data is the extent to which the respondent chooses not to use Sardinian with people whom they know have the ability to use it with them. While this might not be surprising given the generally high degree of ability that we have identified, it is surprising that the language is not being used.

LANGUAGE USE WITH INDIVIDUALS IN THE LOCALITY
I can and doI can but don'tI can'tNA
Doctor10811868,002,00
Dentist549312128,00
Buy Petrol92884670,00
Newsagents1011066623,00
Local police92839427,00
Cafe/bar7610694,0020,00
Cinema77812388,00
Car repair110633984,00
Hairdresser17665478,00
Sports483638174,00
Library71947223,00
Schoolteacher2248106120
Restaurant487415420,00
Loc.councillor826411238,00
Shopping147865112,00
Driving_test2140110125,00
Lawyer384013286,00
Bank manager305117243,00
Washing machine107735957,00
Water bill151495343,00
Dep.Soc.Sec.287318213,00
Hi-Fi306815642,00
Travel_agent65719736,00
Optician398014631,00
Social_worker233865170,00
Priest109906235,00
Tax_office143719055,00
Power_cut83223224,00
Ask_time31641965,00
Gas_leak53623322,00
Electrician795612437,00
Tel.operator52741628,00
Taxi184613696,00


While this data requires further analysis what it suggests is that the use of the language is highly localised, with people who are well known. As soon as the context for the interaction moves to the local urban centre, whether there is any uncertainty or not about the ability of the interlocutor, the tendency will be to resort to Italian.

The Church does not appear to have a very high profile with reference to Sardinian. Most of the respondents attend the church, even if this is not with any degree of regularity:

FREQUENCY OF RELIGIOUS ATTENDANCE
Regularly89,0030%
From time to time79,0027%
Occasionally82,0028%
Never4615%

However the language of these religious activities is exclusively Italian:

LANGUAGE OF RELIGIOUS ACTIVITIES
Alw. It.It>SardIt=SaSa>ItSard.Oth.
Mass247,0040,001,00044,00
Communion24740,0010,0044,00
Marriage2474,000,0010,0044
Baptism2474,000,0010,0044,00
1st commun.2384,0012,00347,00

We have already seen that people claim that Sardinian is used in relationships with the Church but it would appear that Italian is the institutionalised language of religious activities whereas the language of those participating tends to be Sardinian.

The following table crystallises the impression that we are finding from the preceding data:



FREQUENCY OF PEOPLE WHO SPEAK SARDINIAN, IN COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES
no one< 10%10 - 20%20 - 50%50 - 90%all
Friends32,002,0012,0013,0089148,00
Shops23,005,001,004492,00131,00
Sports207,006,002,0019,0038,0024,00
Cultural a.209,006,003,00114423,00
Neighbours29,003,005,001766,00176,00


LANGUAGE PREDOMINANTLY USED IN COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES
Sard.S>IS=II>SItal.NA
Friends413987,0054,0041,0034,00
Shops3724,0083,0061,005622,00
Sports7,00915,0021,0025219,00
Cultural a.8,00318,0020,0026221,00
Neighbours56,00427248,0050,0028,00

Most people live in communities where most of their friends and neighbours speak Sardinian. Shop owners and workers also appear to be neighbours with the same ability. Yet there is an increasing tendency to move to Italian in their relationships with these people. Neither is there any indication that sports and cultural activities offer any salvation for the use of Sardinian at the community level. This picture is amplified in the following table:

LANGUAGE OF SOCIAL AND COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES
Only / mainly SardinianSardinian & ItalianOnly/mainly ItalianNA
Church92631230,00
Sports club72543221,00
Unorg sports113462189,00
Theatre14 59232,00
Fishing721286
Theatre visit637280,00
Vol. work61727246,00
Visit bar346812470,00
Eating out126218240,00
Visit friends541211147,00
Agri coop1288268,00
Ecol assn.2615273,00
PTA0411281,00
Other111214259,00

It is clear that apart from the highly localised activities of visiting friends and the local bar Sardinian remains very much in the background.

EDUCATION

Given this negative picture there might be an expectation that the minority language could be both produced and reproduced via formal education which has the ability to generate a language ability among the younger generation. Unfortunately the data offers little evidence of this process:

LANGUAGE OF EDUCATION OF RESPONDENTS
PrimarySecondaryUniversity Italian29018687,00 Italian + Sardinian0,0000,00 Sardinian0,0011 Other1,0011 NA5108207,00

LANGUAGE OF EDUCATION OF RESPONDENTS' CHILDREN

PrimarySecondaryHigherUniversity
Italian273239190100,00
Italian+Sardinian00,0001,00
Sardinian00,0003
NA614648698,00784

It is clear that Sardinian simply does not appear in the regional educational programme. This is yet another case of contradiction in the approach of the state towards minority language education. Whereas both Ladin and German are well provided for in another of our case studies there is no provision for Sardinian. It is hardly surprising that the following two tables produce data which suggests that the respondents must have been confused by the questions pertaining to the availability of Sardinian medium education for their children:

CHOICE OF LANGUAGE FOR CHILDREN'S EDUCATION
PrimaryMiddleHigher
Sardinian001,00
Italian211714,00
No choice1048776,00
No preference333,00
NA168189202,00
DISTANCE TO LANGUAGE OF CHOICE FOR CHILDREN'S EDUCATION
PrimaryMiddleHigher
Same catchment area10,0075,00
Outside catchment area000
No choice available2017,0016
NA266272,00275


EMPLOYMENT

If the educational system, whose main objective is to provide an able workforce for the economy, is not using the minority language, it is hardly likely that the language will figure in the world of work. Most of the respondents work for local or provincial companies, most of them being small and medium-sized enterprises (SME).

SIZE OF ENTERPRISES EMPLOYING RESPONDENTS
Local branchAll branch
2-456,0033,00
5-2438,0017,00
25-502719,00
51-2502116,00
251+1226,00
NA142185,00

The managers of these companies tend to be local or Sardinian and most of them speak the language fluently. Furthermore the clientele for their products or services are also local and Sardinian speaking. Given these circumstances it is reasonable to expect a degree of use of Sardinian in the workplace.

ORIGIN AND LANGUAGE ABILITY OF MANAGER
Local66,00Speaks Sardinian fluently64,00
From the zone11Speaks it rarely27,00
Province24Understands it16,00
Sardinia22Does not understand it18,00
S. Italy10Don't know24,00
Rest of Italy14NA147,00
Other countries2,00
NA147,00

The following table suggests that while the level of ability in Sardinian is high at all levels of the workforce the actual use of the language among members of the workforce is low. It is hardly surprising that only 5% claimed any use of Sardinian in administration.

LANGUAGE ABILITY AND USED WITH WORK REFERENTS
Percentage abilityLanguage used
<10%10-2020-5050-90100%SS>IS=II>SI
Superiors13282017,00257419,002340
Colleagues9,0015304040,00121136,003826,00
Subordinates9812,002134,0087191821,00
Clients7276828,00982630,0037


IMPORTANCE OF SARDINIAN AND ITALIAN IN WORK
SardinianItalian
Necess.UsefulIrrel.Neces.UsefulIrrel.
Understand75851361755116,00
Speak50961501745117
Read103325316216118,00
Write111726815716123,00

Yet a significant proportion claimed that a knowledge of Sardinian was necessary or useful in their work. Clearly this was not as high as Italian but nonetheless it does suggest a degree of awareness of the relevance of Sardinian for work. However the only context in which this same awareness is manifested in the activities of the company or enterprise is in relation to the public:

FIRM EMPLOYS SARDINIAN SPEAKERS FOR FUNCTION
YESNONA
Telephone1293191,00
Client relations3366197,00
Selling952235,00
Reps.765224,00
Public relations2964203,00
Managers738251,00
Gen co. policy172223,00
Other431261,00

Furthermore there is little indication that this level of awareness is very high since few companies have any form of language policy and do not go out of their way to employ Sardinian speakers. It would appear that Italian is firmly institutionalised as the language of economic activity for most companies.

COMPANY POLICY RE SARDINIAN
Fully implemented2,00
Partially implemented9,00
yes, not applied3,00
No policy150
DK9,00
NA123,00


EMPLOYMENT TENDENCIES
Sardinian speakers0,00
Sardinian non-speakers2,00
No difference167,00
NA127


MEDIA

The respondents appear to be confused by reference to the use of Sardinian in the broadcasting media. A minority only claimed that such broadcasting was available and about the same number claimed to use this service. This is not surprising given that the use of Sardinian in the media is sporadic and restricted to private stations:

BROADCASTING MEDIA EXPOSURE
RADIOTELEVISION
N. hrs.SardinianItalianSardinianItalian
0 h/day248662166,00
1 h/day391027136,00
2 h/day760792,00
2+ h/day268,002162,00


The picture for the print media indicates that there is virtually no exposure to newspapers or books in Sardinian:

PRINT MEDIA EXPOSURE
NEWSPAPERSBOOKS
SardinianItalianSardinianItalian
Frequently2,00182577,00
Occasionally266575,00
Rarely343964101,00
Never258922243,00


With reference to cultural activities each respondent was asked to name two activities which they knew of and were asked to indicate their degree of participation in such activities:

FREQUENCY OF INVOLVEMENT IN SARDINIAN CULTURAL ACTIVITIES
FrequentlyOccasionallyRarelyNeverNA
Choice 191784145?
Choice 2384387?

Evidently the degree of involvement is low.



ATTITUDES AND IDENTITY

Turning to the issues of identity and attitudes it seems clear that there is a high sense of Sardinian identity that pertains to all but a small minority. There is also a highly developed local identity and given its relatively short period of existence the Italian state has been successful in generating a 'national' identity:

SELF IDENTITY
YesNoNA
Local218726,00
Sardinian279170,00
Italian260360,00
European203930,00
Other15274,007

The relationship between the Sardinian/local identities is contextualised in the responses to the following eleven statements:

  1. (-) To get on, there are more valuable languages to learn than Sardinian
  2. (+) It seems to me a good idea that councils in Sardinia use Sardinian only in their administration
  3. (-) Sardinian is a dying language
  4. (+) Sardinia would not really be Sardinia without Sardinian-speaking people
  5. (-) You are considered a lower class person if you speak Sardinian
  6. (+) In order to work in the public sector in Sardinia, one should be able to speak Sardinian
  7. (-) Sardinian has no place in the modern world
  8. (+) It is essential that children in Sardinia learn Sardinian
  9. (-) The Sardinian language is not suitable for business and science
  10. (+) Speaking Sardinian helps people get promotion in their jobs
  11. (-) Most people view things associated with Sardinian as too old-fashioned


ATTITUDE SCALES
1 (dis)2345 (agree)9 (NA)
Other langs more imp.822840389414,00
Sard in admin.173412819286,00
Sard dead lang134353033586,00
Sardinian ess. for Sard56,0013162515729,00
Sardinian=low class192,00182020,003412,00
Sard nec for admin58143646,001339
Sard not mod. world196302711,0019,0013
Kids must learn151838,00491724
Sard not for sci.9435,0044208023,00
Sard for soc. mob.166,003328,00192129
Sard not modern14824,00232766,008

The status of Sardinian vis a vis other languages tends to be low which is not surprising considering the use context we have seen above. There is an ambivalence about its role in the world. While there is some recognition that it is not appropriate for science and the 'modern world' there is a reluctance to dismiss it as not modern. Neither is there a view of Sardinian as a 'dead language'. It is accepted that it has little value for social mobility and while there is a resistance to the idea of using Sardinian exclusively for local administration there is a feeling that it should be a qualification for such work. However the strongest context is the emotive, linked to the claim that Sardinian identity is closely linked to an ability in the language. This, in turn, is related to a desire for continuity and to the claim that children must learn the language for that continuity to be implemented. Yet our preceding discussion indicates that the forces necessary to ensure this continuity is not in place.

This leads us to a consideration of how the various agencies and institutions are regarded by reference to an interest in Sardinian:

INSTITUTIONAL AND INDIVIDUAL INTERESTS
1 (min)2345678 (max)9,00
Italian govt226231212660011,00
Reg. govt.402037407025231229,00
Local govt.66224142472319927,00
Publ/state auth14540302220123024,00
My friends241015245850372652,00
My family231214134047383772,00
Myself205101028353551102,00
Catholic church131321720161314449,00
In-migrants491516132936402771,00
Private comps.1323925721168335,00


Unsurprisingly the central government and the Catholic church are seen in very negative light in this respect. Private business is also deemed to have little interest. Unsurprisingly the most positive is the respondent him/herself, followed by her/his family and friends. Yet even here the degree of interest is not universally high.



CONCLUSION

This would appear to be yet another minority language group under threat. The agencies of production and reproduction are not serving the role they did a generation ago. The education system plays no role whatsoever in supporting the language and its production and reproduction. The language has no prestige and is used in work only as a natural as opposed to a systematic process. It seems to be a language relegated to a highly localised function of interaction between friends and relatives. Its institutional base is extremely weak and declining. Yet there is concern among its speakers who have an emotive link to the language and its relationship to Sardinian identity.

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