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Expert of the Month December 2007: Markus Roduner

The Expert of the Month feature gives you the chance to interact one-in-one with our Ask the expert-section. The feature also provides interesting and insightful comments regarding the subjects mentioned above, in-depth content and exclusive Q and A’s.

Featured Expert :

Markus Roduner is linguistic researcher and a specialist in linguistics, literary translation and literature and education of regional and minority languages at the Institute of Lithuanian Languages at Vilnius, Lithuania.

He also is the author of one of Mercator’s Regional Dossiers: Polish in Lithuania.

If you have any questions on this months topics, Ask Markus!


Face to face with Markus Roduner

What is your background in the field of regional and minority languages/education/multilingualism?

Unfortunately, I grew up in a monolingual environment in Northern Switzerland. On the other hand the language spoken there is not standard German, but Swiss German. This leads to a special awareness for smaller languages and their struggle for surviving in a sometimes unfriendly environment. Already in school I started to be interested in languages as Welsh or Basque (which I unfortunately did not yet manage to learn up to a normal level). I have studied Slavonic and Baltic languages and literatures and Historical linguistics and my master thesis was on syntax in Lithuanian and Karaim. The latter being one of the most endangered languages in Europe made me fully aware of the loss which the death of even the smallest language means to the culture of mankind.

What do you think is the major challenge in your field of work?

With regard to the Polish minority in Lithuania, the educational situation has much improved in the last 16 years. More and more members of the Polish-speaking community were enabled to have a curriculum taught through the medium of Polish and lately, a branch of Białystok University opened its doors in Vilnius/Wilno. Nevertheless, statistics in the lower classes of primary schools in the region, where the Polish minority lives, show, that a quite big part of the Polish-speaking families send their children to Lithuanian schools. This might allow the question, if separated; monolingual schools are the right way of education in the region.
Samogitian (žemaitiu ruoda) is in a much weaker position. The opposition to its establishment as a regional language is – as in the case of Võru or Latgalian – quite strong. There are first projects of implementing Samogitian in school (in Skouds/Skuodas), now only on a non-compulsory basis. Even if most people, even younger-ones, in Samogitia speak Samogitian in many occasions, a stronger presence in – the framework of a multilingual - education and public life would help to safeguard this language for the future.

What is one of the hottest new projects / items you are working on?

I am now in the final phase of writing a monograph on syntax in Baltic languages (especially Lithuanian dialects) and NW-Russian varieties which will at the same be my Ph.D. dissertation. As my near-mother tongue is German. I further organise an international literary festival in our town (Šiauliai), with guests also writing in regional/smaller languages – this year Frisian and Luxembourgian. This should probably lead to the birth of a literary e-journal with focus on smaller literatures (not only, but also in regional languages). And third, I am in lively contact with the Samogitian community to make them aware of the opportunities of cooperating with European organisations as Mercator. 

Are there any important references such as articles, links, etc. you would like to mention?

Polish in Lithuania: As an introduction to the not always easy Lithuanian-Polish relations and there more pragmatic face nowadays, I could recommend an article by Joanna Rohozinska. A very informative article of my colleague Laima Kalėdienė-Grumadienė with the title Language Policy and the Sociolinguistic Situation in Lithuania written for Mercator legislation. The John Paul II Secondary School in Vilnius/Wilno provides some (mostly statistical) information about the Polish schools in Lithuania. And last but not least, please read the dossier on Polish in Lithuania available from Mercator.
Samogitian: Unfortunately, not much information is available in English, but please go to the Samogitian website, where you will find quite some information and more links.

Area of focus:

Markus Roduner is linguistic researcher and a specialist in linguistics, literary translation and literature and education of regional and minority languages at the Institute of Lithuanian Languages at Vilnius, Lithuania.

Do you have a question on these topics? Ask Markus!

Featured topic: Our focus of this month is Polish and Samogitian in Lithuania.

Further reading:

Regional dossier Polish in Lithuania
Institute of Lithuanian Languages at Vilnius, Lithuania