- Minority languages
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Daniel Cunliffe is working as a Reader in the Department of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, in the Faculty of Advanced Technology, at the University of Glamorgan in Pontypridd, Wales. He also is a member of the Hypermedia Research Unit within the Faculty and leader of the Computing and Minority Languages Group.
The Computing and Minority Languages Group, led by Daniel Cunliffe, has been investigating aspects of the relationship between minority languages and Information Technology since 2000.
Areas of current research include: minority culture and minority language communities online; Web sites for bilingual users; the language behaviour of bilingual users in online environments; and issues of internationalisation, localisation and indigenous production. The extent to which Internet based technologies pose both a threat and an opportunity for minorities is of particular interest.
Daniel Cunliffe has published a number of papers and book chapters on a variety of topics relating to the use of the Welsh language online, and he is currently co-editor of The New Review of Hypermedia and Multimedia.
Besides that, Daniel Cunliffe is a member of the Welsh Government’s “Welsh Language, technology and Digital Media” advisory group.
What is your background in the field of regional and minority languages/education/ multilingualism?
I am perhaps somewhat unusual in that my background is actually in what one might call “computer science”. I am a Reader in the Department of Computing and Mathematical Sciences at the University of Glamorgan. My interests in computing focus mainly on human-computer interaction and computer-mediated communication.
In 2000 a series of coincidences resulted in me being asked to construct a bilingual website – or rather a website for bilingual users (which is an important distinction). This seemingly straightforward task gradually drew me in to consider a whole series of increasingly interesting and complex questions about the relationship between technology and minority language maintenance and revitalisation.
What do you think is the major challenge in your field of work?
I suppose the main challenge is the obvious one – proving whether technology makes a difference; taking David Crystals postulate that “An endangered language will progress if its speakers can make use of electronic technology” and showing how and in what circumstances this is (or is not) the case.
It feels almost self evidently true. In a technological society, if a minority language doesn’t have a presence in technology then this will weaken the language. Presumably a rich, diverse, deep presence in technology will help to strengthen it. However, most minority languages lie on a point between these two extremes. In these situations it is not clear what the effect of technology on the language might be, or how language planners might utilise technology effectively.
What is one of the hottest new projects / items you are working on?
Social Networking Sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, are particularly popular at the moment. These sites are interesting because they provide an opportunity for minority language speakers to create content in their minority language, as well as to consume content. For young people, such sites are often very significant in terms of maintaining their social networks and communicating with their peers.
I have recently completed a collaborative project with Rhys Jones (Swansea University) and Zoe Honeycutt (Indiana University) investigating the use of Welsh on Twitter. Among other things, the results suggest that Welsh use on Twitter has been normalised and that language may shape the networks of followers that are formed. This is just an initial study; we still have many questions left to explore.
Are there any important references such as articles, links, etc. you would like to mention?
Among the computing journals worth keeping an eye on are journals such as the Journal of Computer Mediated Communication; Information, Communication and Society; and Language@Internet. The “Cultural Attitudes towards Technology and Communication” conference publishes some relevant research too. There is also ILAT – the Indigenous Languages and Technology mailing list.
There is an important collection of papers being published in 2013, “Social Media and Minority Languages: Convergence and the Creative Industries” Elin Haf Gruffydd Jones, Enrique Uribe-Jongbloed (Eds.), Multilingual Matters- isbn 9781847699046(Being published: 15th of February 2013)
From a less technological perspective, this paper presents an interesting discussion about the roles technology might play in language revitalisation; Eisenlohr, P. (2004) Language revitalization and new technologies: cultures of electronic mediation and the refiguring of communities. Annual Review of Anthropology, 33, 21-45.
Do you have any questions on these topics?
Our focus this month social media and minority languages
Mercator Research Centre and the Basque Autonomous government have been organizing an Expert Seminar on: Social Media and Lesser Used Languages on the 28th – 30th of November 2012 in Ljouwert, the Netherlands. Daniel Cunliffe was one of the participants. The proceedings of this seminar will be published on the website.
Latest publications of Daniel Cunliffe:
Authors: Daniel Cunliffe
Authors: Daniel Cunliffe, Pearson, N., Richards, S.
Authors: Daniel Cunliffe, Honeycutt, C.
Authors: Daniel Cunliffe, Deere, A.