Language in Society

Research Articles

“Normal” in Catalonia: Standard language, enregisterment and the imagination of a national public

SUSAN E. FREKKOa1

a1 Department of Anthropology University of Michigan 101 West Hall, 1085 S. University Ave. Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1107 sefrekko@umich.edu

ABSTRACT

Scholars have long noted that the imagination of a national public hinges on ideologies of standard language. This study uses ethnographic and media data from Catalonia to reflect on this relationship, focusing on language professionals, the stewards of Catalan’s standard register. The ideological portrait of Catalonia that emerges is one of a national public that is precarious because a standard register of the Catalan language is taken to be the whole language. It is argued that the imagined failings of a Catalan national public suggest conditions for the successful imagining of a national public more generally. In particular, the projection of a taken-for-granted national public appears to depend on a language imagined as standard and homogeneous when contrasted with other national languages but as internally variable when examined within the national context. At one taxonomic level, registers are erased in order for one register imagined as standard and homogeneous to count as the named language in contrast with other named national languages. At a lower recursive level, these registers must be imagined to exist in order for the language and its corresponding national public to be able to account for “everyone” in the projected national public. When these conditions are not met, as in the case of Catalonia, the national public is imagined as fragile. (Language ideology, standardization, publics, enregisterment)

(Received May 22 2007)

(Reviewed June 30 2008)

(Accepted July 05 2008)

(Online publication August 11 2008)

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