Costa Rica is a multilingual and multicultural society which, in addition to Spanish, uses several indigenous languages, one English-based creole and the Costa Rican Sign Language (LESCO), to which can be added the languages of immigrants who have arrived in the country at various times. In Costa Rica there is no real national awareness of this countrywide diversity, so the work and activity of researchers in academic and higher-education institutions is fundamental to a recent gradual change in the inclusion of cultural and lingustic differences in the way the nation perceives its own identity.

In 2015, Dr Michele Gazzola (then at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, now at Ulster University) visited the University of Costa Rica, at the invitation of the Postgraduate Linguistics Programme, where he lectured on the economics of language. That was a convenient occasion for discussing various aspects of language justice, language politics and language planning, mainly relating to the promotion of these in the region, namely Latin America. Thus was hatched the idea of organising a workshop at the University of Costa Rica to tackle these subjects.

In 2016 I started my term as director of the Institute of Linguistic Research of the University of Costa Rica (INIL), where I proposed, as part of my research tasks, to hold it in 2017. Even at that early stage, ESF supported this academic event. This initiative’s suitability was immediately noticed by INIL’s Science Council, who, as well as proposing an international and national guidance team, suggested the inclusion of topics pertaining to the region.

The workshop thus took place thanks to the participation of:

  • Dr Marielos Murillo Rojas (Universidad de Costa Rica), who spoke on Language Planning in the Basic General Education System,
  • Dr Carlos Sánchez Avendaño (Universidad de Costa Rica), a specialist in working with languages undergoing displacement,
  • Dr David Cassels Johnson (University of Iowa, USA), an expert in the methods of language policy and language planning,
  • Dr Federico Gobbo (University of Amsterdam, Nederlando), interlinguist and Esperantologist,
  • Dr Michele Gazzola (then at Humboldt-Universitȁt zu Berlin, Germany; now at Ulster University), researcher in the economics of language, and
  • Christian Ramírez Valerio (Instituto Nacional de Aprendizaje, INA), who spoke on language planning and Costa Rican Sign Language (LESCO).

The 2017 workshop was very successful and, by the time it finished, it had been decided that another would be held in two or three years. I therefore proposed a workshop for 2020, but several difficulties, of which the covid pandemic was one, prevented any physical gathering and we had to cross the entire year out of our diaries. This is why the event’s structure and content were reconsidered and the date was postponed until 2021.

But there was a positive side to this, as 2021 is the year of the Bicentennial of Costa Rica’s Independence¹ (1821–2021), which allowed the topics of language politics and language planning to be incorporated as part of that jubilee. Moreover, some outstanding speakers agreed to share the results of their research with those in attendance on the video calls.

Instead of one week, the workshop spread over two months and the new format allowed for lectures to be distributed via YouTube. In total, 100 people from 29 countries signed up to the workshop, which took place from 6 May to 24 June in collaboration with Esperantic Studies Foundation (ESF). The University of Costa Rica supplied an official certificate of participation to 11 people who met the conditions (proof of attendance in at least seven lectures).

Beyond YouTube, the lectures are stored in Kérwá, the University of Costa Rica’s digital archive; in the following list, available videos are indicated by links to both YouTube and Kérwá:

1. D-ro Jannis Harjus (Universität Innsbruck)
  • ES: Política lingüística en el español peninsular: el caso del andaluz
  • EO: Lingvopolitiko en la eŭropa hispana lingvo: la kazo de la andaluza
  • EN: Language policy in European Spanish: the case of Andalusian
2. D-ro Michele Gazzola (Ulster University)
  • EN: The value of languages in the labour market
  • ES: La valoro de lingvoj en la labormerkato
3. M. L. René Zúñiga Argüello (Purdue University)
4. D-ino Carla Amorós Negre (Universidad de Salamanca)
5. D-ro Joseph Farquharson (University of the West Indies, Mona)
6. D-ro Federico Gobbo (University of Amsterdam)
  • EN: Esperanto in the web after Covid: current challenges and opportunities for a linguistic community of practice
  • EO: Esperanto en la post-kovima interreto: nunaj defioj kaj oportunoj por lingvokomunumo de uzo kaj praktiko
  • YouTube: https://youtu.be/joAONthacMk
  • Kérwá: http://hdl.handle.net/10669/83766
7. D-ro Carlos Sánchez Avendaño (Universidad de Costa Rica)
8. D-ro Grant Goodall (University of California San Diego)
  • ES: La planificación y el aprendizaje: los extraños destinos del Volapük, Esperanto e Interlingua
  • EO: Lingvoplanado kaj lernado: la strangaj destinoj de volapuko, Esperanto kaj Interlingua
  • EN: Language planning and learning: the strange fates of Volapük, Esperanto and Interlingua
  • YouTube: https://youtu.be/-7FYiAAqwRk
  • Kerwá: http://hdl.handle.net/10669/83780
9. D-ro Víctor Manuel Sánchez Corrales (Universidad de Costa Rica / Academia Costarricense de la Lengua)
  • ES: Códigos de la lengua española y política lingüística panhispánica ASALE
  • EO: Kodoj de la la hispana lingvo kaj tuthispana lingvopolitko ASALE
  • EN: Codes of the Spanish language and the pan-Hispanic ASALE language policy
  • YouTube: https://youtu.be/vAC5ad1iSVo
  • Kerwá: http://hdl.handle.net/10669/83798

Those taking part in the workshop had the chance to gain knowledge of concrete aspects of language policy and language planning. The workshop began with a contribution on the language-political aspects of Andalusian, a language variant that is particularly important for understanding Spanish dialects in America (1. Dr Jannis Harjus).

Languages and the job market, a subject new to several attendees, aroused much interest as it gave a new perspective on the use and learning of languages (2. Dr Michele Gazzola).

Recognition of English-based creoles doubtless varies greatly from country to country, even in adjacent nations like Nicaragua and Costa Rica, where the difference between the prestige and recognition of creoles is large; in any case, constant official support for minority languages is a requirement that should never be put on hold (3. M. L. René Zúñiga Argüello).

But official recognition is not the only factor that plays a role; the production of resources and cultural expressions, especially if these become internationally widespread, helps to make creoles stronger, though it is not always enough to gain them official recognition (5. Dr Joseph Farquharson).

This takes us directly to some fundamental concepts of language revival, and the importance of understanding that the survival of languages undergoing displacement does not imply abandoning the learning of languages that are favoured by the market; so it is not a question of choosing between a favoured language and a displaced one, but rather of the need to include both in the revival process (7. Dr Carlos Sánchez Avendaño).

Language policy and European multilingualism are undoubtedly a particularly interesting phenomenon that deserves the attention and focus of pan-American specialists; indeed most of the continent’s official languages are of European origin; Europe is a laboratory for observing and understanding the successes (or failures) and limitations of top-down language policy (4. Dr Carla Amorós Negre).

The study of constructed languages provides interesting and relevant indicators that one can use to understand phenomena of natural languages, concerning either the relationship of language and community (6. Dr Federico Gobbo) or the connection between structure and humans’ cognitive qualities (8. Dr Grant Goodall).

The workshop began with a lecture on Andalusian and ended with a lecture on language policy and the science of language planning for Spanish, an activity common to Spanish communities in several countries who are growing ever more aware of their shared, differing and specific characteristics (9. Dr Víctor Manuel Sánchez Corrales).

On the 200th anniversary of its independence, Costa Rica is waking up to its own linguistic complexity.

 

Jorge Antonio Leoni de León (antonio.leoni(at)ucr.ac.cr), PhD, University of Geneva, 2008 is affiliated with the University of Costa Rica, where he is Professor of Computational Linguistics, and researcher at the Linguistics Research Institute on Linguistics. His scientific interest lies in formal and computational linguistics. For a long-standing Esperantist, in Linguistics, his interests include formal syntax, semantics, the interfaces between lexicon and syntax, lexical representation and semantics from both formal and experimental perspectives; also in linguistic policy, linguistic justice, language planning and Art History in Central America. His publications address topics such as lexicography, analysis of feelings, syntactic analysis of the Spanish language, and the development of linguistic based mobile applications.

With thanks to Simon Davies for the translation.

¹ Díaz Arias, D. y Viales Hurtado, R. (red.) (2012). Independencias, Estados y política(s) en la Centroamérica del siglo XIX: las huellas históricas del bicentenario. San José: Universidad de Costa Rica. Ligilo al Academia.edu.

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