Writing Standard: Process of Macedonian Language Standardization

By Kramer, Christina | Canadian Slavonic Papers, March-June 2008 | Go to article overview

Writing Standard: Process of Macedonian Language Standardization


Kramer, Christina, Canadian Slavonic Papers


ABSTRACT:This paper focuses on questions of Macedonian standardization at the most micro-level, i.e., within the individual. Through examination of archival materials of Macedonian writers of the early twentieth century, questions of language shift and standardization are addressed. While much research has been conducted on the state processes of language standardizing, on access to the media in newly standardized linguistic codes, and on access to education, this work refocuses discussion of language standards on individual speakers and writers: how and why they shift their language to the emerging norm. Two writers from this period, Anton Kavaev and Radoslav Petkovski, serve as models and provide the first step in a larger study of processes of standardization in the early decades of the twentieth century leading to codification in mid-century. The written works of the authors under study demonstrate that language codification is not an act, nor a series of acts, but a process, a process that takes place within individual speakers who are committed to the project of language standardization while subject to external political and linguistic pressures.

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1. INTRODUCTION

How do writers adapt to changing linguistic circumstances? How did Macedonian writers of the first half of the twentieth century move from writing in the languages of their schooling (Serbian or Bulgarian) or their Macedonian home dialect to become writers of the emerging standard Macedonian?1 Much research has been conducted that focuses on the state processes of language standardizing, e.g., commissions to codify grammars, publication of new dictionaries and handbooks, access to the media in newly standardized linguistic codes, and access to education. Such works leave unanswered questions: such as why a speaker chooses to write in an emergent language or dialect, particularly if they have been schooled in a dominant language. Dorian writes: "the social standing of a group of people carries over to the language they speak. Social and economic opportunities go mainly to speakers of the state-sponsored language" (26). Yet in the Balkans some writers switched to a lower status variety because of group cohesion and ethno-linguistic identity. Although the lower status language is a reflection of power relations in contexts of developing ethnic and political awareness and newly standardizing languages,2 some people will opt to shift to this emergent language since, as Dorian states: "If conditions are reasonably favorable, people identify with their own language and do not seek a preferable substitute. In cases in which people have changed to another language and given up their own entirely, it has nearly always been due to a local history of political suppression, social discrimination, or economic deprivation. More often than not, all three have been present" (39). Indeed, in Macedonia all three were present, but in the early twentieth century new circumstances arose that allowed Macedonians to choose Macedonian. How and why individuals make this choice, and how they express themselves in a language they often do not fully control-given that they are usually schooled in the higher status state language and often have few tools such as grammars and dictionaries to aid them-are key underlying questions of processes of standardization.

Much of the scholarship on language standardization is concerned with institutions of social implementation of language shift, language planning, formal declarations of language reform and the legal apparatus that implement language planning.3 In this paper, however, I focus a discussion of language standards on individual speakers and writers. Scholars such as Danforth who privilege the experience of individuals inform my work:

Most scholarly work on ethnic nationalism has focused on the construction of national identity as a large-scale collective phenomenon and as a long-term historical process. …

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