Empowerment through Language Revival: Current Efforts and Recommendations for Cypriotic Maronite Arabic

PRIO Paper

Bielenberg, Brian & Costas M. Constantinou (2010) Empowerment through Language Revival: Current Efforts and Recommendations for Cypriotic Maronite Arabic, PRIO Cyprus Centre Paper. Nicosia: PRIO Cyprus Centre.

Cypriot Maronite Arabic (CMA), or Sanna to its speakers, is a ‘severely endangered language’ registered in both the UNESCO Red Book and the UNESCO Atlas of Languages in Danger. In 2008, the Republic of Cyprus recognized CMA as a minority language under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and established a Committee of Experts to make recommendations for its protection and revival. Efforts have been underway to develop a structural policy for the protection and revival of CMA; however, there remains a lack of communal facilities, relevant experience and coordinated and well
targeted action. In 2009, the Sanna Project was funded jointly by the European Economic Area Grants and the Republic of Cyprus with the aim of supporting CMA revival through activities targeting Cypriot Maronite children and youth. To this end, the Sanna Project has created a novel community centre, the Payt el Sanna – House of Sanna – which functions as a cultural and language centre. This has provided opportunities for recreation that have constructively engaged Maronite children and youth in cultural activities which explicitly or implicitly immerse them in CMA. The Sanna Project has also raised awareness among Maronite youth and children, in particular, and Cypriot stakeholders working with children and youth, in general, as to the benefits of protecting and reviving CMA. Quite importantly for current efforts of revival, it has transferred knowledge and best practice from a Sámi NGO involved with revitalising the Sámi language in Norway to the Cypriot Maronite community.

This Report outlines the current efforts and recommendations for CMA revival in the light of the experiences of the Sanna Project and the Committee of Experts. It suggests ways and means that interested parties can build upon so as to make CMA revival possible and through which the members of this Cypriot minority community can be empowered to make their own distinct contributions to an island that is and should remain culturally rich and diverse.