Revista Idiomática

Año 2, Número 4, julio-diciembre 2021

 

Human Rights Violations: The Neapolitan and Tsotsil Linguistic Communities

 

By Karla Del Carpio y Massimiliano Verde

Abstract

 

This paper emphasizes the importance of recognizing and validating the right each individual has to speak in their first language since the violation of such a basic human right continues to take place on all continents. This has been the case of indigenous communities, national minorities and minoritized groups which has resulted in the destabilization or loss of their languages. Although there are different international Declarations and Conventions that underline the relevance of preserving and promoting cultural and linguistic diversities and recognize the right to speak in your first language as a human right what has happened and continues to happen in practice is the opposite, that is, speakers of minority languages have been discriminated against due to their language, culture and ethnicity. An example of this situation are the speakers of the Neapolitan language in Naples, Italy and the indigenous Tsotsil language in Chiapas, Mexico. Although these two linguistic communities are in different continents and have their own unique characteristics, they have been attacked by similar factors such as the educational-cultural system and mass media. To Neapolitan, for example, both agents send the message that Neapolitan mothers should not teach their children the Neapolitan language or they should find ways for their children to abandon Neapolitan in case they already have some knowledge of it. Therefore, this article compares both the Neapolitan and Tsotsil languages in terms of what international Declarations and Conventions state with regards to the protection and promotion of linguistic and cultural diversities, social and cultural rights and how each individual should be respected and dignified without distinction as to religion, race, gender and language and what happens in reality. Also, this article offers suggestions on ways to strengthen and promote both the Neapolitan and Tsotsil languages to recognize and validate the human rights of the speakers of these languages. It is concluded that now more than ever it is fundamental to work collaboratively to preserve and promote minority languages and defend language as a human right.

 

Keywords: human rights, language, minority communities, Neapolitan, Tsotsil

 


Ilustración: Edwin Monreal Alemán

Introduction

 

The right to speak your own language might be thought of as a common practice everywhere. However, the violation of such a basic right is what takes place on all continents which shows that it has been forgotten that language rights are a fundamental human right. A clear example of populations whose linguistic human rights have been and still are violated everyday are indigenous peoples, national minorities and other minoritized communities –or human groups we add - (Skutnabb-Kangas & May, 2017). With regards to the world’s indigenous languages which compose around two-thirds of the world’s languages; their speakers lack the right to speak in their own languages due to both national and international forces resulting in the destabilization or loss of some of these languages. Therefore, now more than ever, it is important “to ensure that minoritized and endangered language speakers everywhere can use their languages normally that they have access to education, justice, media, public services and medical care through their languages, as well as preventing language discrimination” (Hicks, 2019, para. 3). To achieve this goal, collaborative work is required. In other words, the work of educators, researchers, decision/policymakers, educators, educational administrators, linguists, politicians and especially the insight of linguistic minorities and peoples whose linguistic human rights have been and are being violated is fundamentally required.

The latter is one of the reasons why collaborative efforts to expand upon work on minority language preservation and promotion by comparing languages at risk is needed so that these languages can be revitalized, strengthened, and promoted and the linguistic human rights of the speakers of these languages can be respected and validated. This shows the relevance of the present manuscript which analyzes the situation of two minority languages, the Neapolitan language spoken in Naples, Italy (and outside by the Neapolitan emigrated communities in different parts of Italian territory and of the world) and the indigenous Mayan Tsotsil language spoken in Chiapas, Mexico.

Interestingly, although these two linguistic communities living in different continents and have their own unique characteristics, they have been attacked by similar factors that have negatively affected their current situation. Therefore, this article compares both the Neapolitan and Tsotsil languages in terms of what international Declarations and Conventions state with regards to the protection and promotion of linguistic and cultural diversities, social and cultural rights and how each individual should be respected and dignified without distinction as to religion, race, gender and language and what happens in reality. The Declarations and Conventions that will be considered are as follows:

 

- The Charter of the United Nations (Article 55 c),

- The Charter of the Rights of the Child,

- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 22),

- The Resolution 61/266 adopted by the General Assembly on May 16th, 2007 focused on Multilingualism,

- The Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions,

- The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,

- The Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage,

- The UNESCO 2001 Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity

- The Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women,

- The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

 

It is interesting to note that although there are different international documents such as the ones stated above that emphasize the importance of preserving and promoting cultural and linguistic diversity and recognize the right to speak in your first language as a human right what has happened and continues to happen in practice is the opposite, that is, speakers of minority languages, Neapolitan and Tsotsil, for instance, have been discriminated against due to their language, culture and ethnicity. Therefore, this manuscript provides an analysis of what some of these international Declarations and Conventions state versus what takes place in real life. Moreover, this article offers suggestions on ways to strengthen and promote both the Neapolitan and Tsotsil languages to validate the linguistic human rights of the speakers of these languages.

 

Language loss and its implications

 

To contextualize the situation of the Neapolitan and Tsotsil languages, it is fundamental to highlight that “languages are today being killed at a much faster pace than ever before in human history, and relatively much faster than biodiversity. Consequently, linguistic diversity is disappearing” (Skutnabb-Kangas, 2000, p. 5). According to the Language Conservancy in the United States (2020), “today, the voices of more than 7,000 languages resound across our planet every moment, but about 2,900 or 41% are endangered. At current rates, about 90% of all languages will become extinct in the next 100 years” (paras. 1 & 2). For this reason, language disappearance is one of the Earth’s most intense crises. As emphasized by the Summary report on the International Year of Indigenous Languages, 2019 (United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, 2020) despite their immense value, languages around the world continue to disappear at alarming rates. The fact that many of those are indigenous languages places at risk the indigenous cultures and knowledge systems to which those languages belong. Because many speakers of indigenous languages also use one or more other languages, there is a heightened risk that the indigenous languages disappear, since they become dispensable. In practical terms, the risk is that parents and elders can no longer transmit indigenous languages to their children and that indigenous languages fall out of daily use.

It is important to state that every time a language disappears the whole world loses since language extinction implies the disappearance of cultural identity as well as the loss of intellectual, cultural, and spiritual knowledge and many times these are replaced by those of the dominant society. Therefore, now more than ever, it is necessary to remember the value and importance of minority languages such as Neapolitan and Tsotsil since they as all languages in the world contribute to the richness of humanity.

 

The Neapolitan and Tsotsil languages

 

The Tsotsil language is an indigenous Mayan language with approximately 417 462 speakers (INEGI, 2010) and is spoken in the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico. Del Carpio (2016) points out that:

 

The term Tsotsil refers to the name of this community as well as the language they speak what they call Bats’i k’op which means Tsotsil in the indigenous language. For them, the word Tsotsil means “true man or true people” (Guiteras, 1996). It is worth mentioning that Tsotsil people live in different municipalities of Chiapas, including Chamula, San Cristóbal de las Casas and Zinacantán. Tsotsil people, especially young men, often move to the city since it is difficult to depend on the resources that exist within the municipality where they live. In general, they move to areas within the same state of Chiapas (Obregón, 2003), but today it is observed that they not only move to other areas of their state, but also migrate to various cities in the Mexican Republic. This situation forces the Tsotsil community and many indigenous peoples to learn the dominant language; Spanish (p. 70).

 

Tsotsil speakers have historically been characterized by discrimination and oppression and by having their linguistic human rights violated.

Regarding the Neapolitan language, it has been given the “ISO 639-3, nap” language code by UNESCO (Moseley, 2010) as a vulnerable language. Without considering the diaspora (emigrated communities outside Naples and Italy), Neapolitan is spoken by approximately 7500000 people in Campania, Lucania (Basilicata), Abruzzi (Abruzzo), Molise, northern Calabria, northern and central Apulia (Puglia), southern Lazio and Marche as well as easternmost Umbria regions.

Neapolitan is a Romance language: it is not a deformation or a minor Italian language. Neapolitan neither a derivation of the written or classical Latin, but by vulgar (popular) Latin with pre-latin influences as Oscan (see for example the Pompeian inscriptions, attested in the IV book of “Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum”) and Greek (vocalism, lexicon) today’s present in the actual Neapolitan, and only after Latin, Norman, Provencal, Catalan, Valencian, Arabic, Spanish, Anglo-American. Nevertheless, Neapolitan has influenced different material and immaterial cultural expressions that are inseparable from the city of Naples, and the culture of the whole world, for example with the art of Neapolitan Pizzaiuolo, as inserted into the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO (2017). “Pizzaiuolo” is a Neapolitan word not an Italian one. The Neapolitan language is widely spoken in its diatopic variations in the (continental) Southern Italy, but also abroad, among the thousands of immigrants or so called “Neapolitanphones” (Verde, 2018).

Although both Neapolitan and Tsotsil are geographically distant linguistic communities, they have both been negatively affected by similar factors such as ideological, economic, cultural, and political forces that have worked to oppress the speakers of these two languages. In addition, the media as well as educational systems have been direct agents that have played a negative role in the current situation of both Neapolitan and Tsotsil. As Skutnabb- Kangas (2002) argues that behind these factors “are the real culprits, the global economic, military and political systems” (para. 26). Interestingly, although efforts have been made to protect minority languages, including the Neapolitan language and Tsotsil, many of them have only been “formally” stated but have never been applied in practice while others, with real success, have not been “easy-peasy”, such as for the Neapolitan. Examples of some of these contradictions are discussed in the following section.

 

Declarations versus Reality

Education

 

Neapolitan is transmitted as mother language at least for 70% of the population in Naples, Neapolitans are naturally Neapolitan-Italian bilinguals and in a large side of the so called “lower class” who is almost totally monolingual in Neapolitan. The Neapolitan language teaching is not foreseen in the Italian national school system. Moreover, in Italy Neapolitan is mostly considered to be a dialect of the Italian language; a negative, degraded or folklorist idiom, (or a sort of a corrupt Italian) which supports the Italian and negative stereotype about Naples and southern Italy. This is advertised by the Italian mass-media.

The Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (UNESCO, 2005) affirming that cultural diversity is a defining characteristic of humanity, recalls linguistic diversity as a fundamental element of cultural diversity, and the fundamental role that education plays in the protection and promotion of cultural expressions. In this way, it celebrates the importance of cultural diversity for the full realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other universally recognized instruments. Because cultural diversity forms a common heritage of humanity, it should be cherished and preserved for the benefit of all. The Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversities (UNESCO, 2001) declares that cultural rights are an integral part of human rights, which are universal, indivisible and interdependent therefore each individual has the right to express themselves and to create and disseminate their work in the language of their choice, and particularly in their mother tongue; all persons are entitled to quality education and training that fully respect their cultural identity; and all persons have the right to participate in the cultural life of their choice and conduct their own cultural practices, subject to respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Moreover, states parties have to safeguard the linguistic heritage of humanity and provide support ways of expression, creation and dissemination in the greatest possible number of languages. Encouraging linguistic diversity – while respecting the mother tongue – at all levels of education, wherever possible, and fostering the learning of several languages from the earliest age. The Resolution 61/266 adopted by the General Assembly on 16 May 2007 on Multilingualism (United Nations General Assembly, 2007) recognizes that the United Nations pursues multilingualism as a means of promoting, protecting and preserving diversity of languages and cultures globally and invites Member States, the United Nations system and all other relevant stakeholders to develop, support and intensify activities aimed at fostering respect for and the promotion and protection of all languages, in particular endangered languages, linguistic diversity and multilingualism. In light of this principle, this manuscript aims to impulse a concrete cooperation between different linguistic communities (Neapolitan and Tstotsil) and serve as an example for other endangered languages communities that face similar problems. It is essential to remember that we need to work for mutual protection and exchange useful practices.

Unfortunately, Tsotsil and Neapolitan speakers have not been neither respected nor treated ethically and one of the agents that has been used to do so is the type of education speakers of these languages have received. In the case of Tsotsil speakers especially children have historically been instructed through subtractive transitional bilingual programs which have been characterized by having a transitional linguistic and cultural goal that uses the native language and culture of the student only to the extent necessary for the child to acquire the dominant language.

In the case of Tsotsil students, they have historically received transitional bilingual education that has favored the Spanish language and the culture of the dominant society which has led to Spanish monolingualism in some cases. Also, in general, the context of Mexico is subtractive since the politics of the country, in practice, favors the replacement of the home language by the majority language. Hough and Skutnabb-Kangas (2005) state that:

 

…scientific imperialism has contributed and continues to contribute to linguistic genocide in the education of indigenous (and autochthonous and immigrated minority) children…In many cases the perpetrators do not see what we describe as genocidal. Most states refuse to accept that they are participating in linguistic and cultural genocide; many are offended by the claim and blame the messenger (in this case us) for belittling ‘real’ genocide. If some states or some of their representatives admit that some aspects of definitions of genocide might fit historical educational measures, they also claim that it no longer happens in most cases, the school authorities and teachers were well intentioned and wanted to help the children and there has never been a negative intention to destroy the culture or make the language extinct (p. 110).

 

Therefore, the first step is to open our eyes to reality in order to see and admit the damage that the educational system has done to minority language children, not only in Mexico and Italy, but in many countries including Canada, the United States and New Zealand to mention a few concrete examples.

It should be noted that education and the school play a key role in how a language is seen and the role it is given in different domains. Historically, education and the school are two powerful agents that have had an impact on the negative attitudes some indigenous parents have developed towards their own native language and culture which have prevented them from teaching it to their children so that they have better opportunities in life. Therefore, this has reinforced the power and prestige of the national language of the country.

Neapolitan has a history of more than 7 centuries of written documents, it expresses the famous Neapolitan song (canzone classica napoletana), opera such as poetry and theatre. Also, it is perhaps the most common spoken language in Italy, after Italian. Neapolitan is among the fifty most used languages in the world. On the other hand, Neapolitan is constantly recreated by writers, poets, artists, theater authors, musicians and singers, both Neapolitan and foreigners (song, folklore, cinematography, culinary art, religious and popular rituals, etc.). To the Neapolitan community, the Neapolitan language is also a sort of self-identification in relation to its territory, a means of self-awareness, thanks, for example, to an own odo-toponymy, often different from the official codified one. In this sense, the work to safeguard the local linguistic heritage, promoted by the Neapolitan Academy (Accademia Napoletana) for the District III of Naples. Despite the value of Neapolitan, it has been taken away by the national educational programs in Italy because it is associated with degradation, ignorance, illiteracy, criminality or simply folklore: never as a teaching language. At the national level, introducing Neapolitan school teaching is considered to be absurd due to the negative attitudes and associations that have been created around it. Also, it should be stated that Neapolitan has no form of legal protection in Italy.

In effect, the dominant society, the educational and more, the official cultural system, the government, and the social media “inspired” by negative attitudes towards Neapolitan such as Tsotsil speakers as well as their language and culture, have been used to violate the conventions stated above since these speaking communities have been constantly racially discriminated against. In terms of education, the contents of the textbooks that these minority language children are given mostly reflect the reality of the dominant society, that is, the topics and images that are included in the textbooks have no connection with the students’ cosmovision (ΚΟΣΜΟΑΝΤΙΛΗΨΙΣ, Cosmoantìlipsis) hometown and traditions. Moreover, most school materials are written in the national dominant language (either in Italian or Spanish depending on the country). In addition, most of the instruction these children receive is delivered in the dominant language which reinforces the high status it has in education.

Neapolitan’s mother-tongue children, for example, learn to identify their language and themselves in a negative way so a double prejudice is developed: the first one towards themselves and the second towards their cultural identity and language. As a result, these children are induced to discriminate and hate themselves and also and at the same time, they are discriminated against by the entire Italian community. In other words, an anthropological disaster is caused due to the types of discrimination that arise. All this conflicts with the spirit of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (United Nations Human Rights, n.d.) particularly of the Article 7 considering the lack of immediate and effective measures in the fields of teaching, education, culture, and information, to combat prejudices which lead to racial discrimination, for Neapolitan mother-language children, in this case. Therefore, we consider particularly relevant the contrast with the right to equal participation in cultural activities, a right that is seriously questioned by the scarce or absent access for Neapolitan mother-tongue children to knowledge-focused on the respect of their cultural and linguistic heritage. This in fact, should also include a correct education, that is, quality education in and about their mother language: an education based on the value and social dignity of the Neapolitan language, culture as a heritage of an entire community.

On the contrary, in Italy, as said before, no legal protection is considered for the Neapolitan language. The situation described above also demonstrates that the Convention on the Rights of the Child created in New York on November 20th, 1989, especially Article 12: “The right to freedom of expression imposing ratifying States to inculcate in the child respect for his identity, his language, and his cultural values, in accordance with the provisions of article 29 of the same Convention” has not been supported in practice. In other words, Neapolitan and Tsotsil children’s linguistic and cultural identities have not even been considered in the type of education they receive. In the case of indigenous children in Mexico, the Secretariat of Education (SEP) has tried to improve the type of bilingual education they offer to these populations by offering indigenous language classes as part of their bilingual programs; however, the teachers who work at these bilingual schools are not necessarily trained to teach with an intercultural bilingual approach. Moreover, as mentioned before, most textbooks and other educational materials are written in the dominant language and the topics that are part of these do not reflect the reality of indigenous children which decrease the possibilities of meaningful learning to take place.

 

Mass media and human rights

 

Article 55 c of the Chart of the United Nations proclaimed on June 26, 1945 promotes universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction also like language to the creation of conditions of stability and well-being for peaceful and friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (United Nations, n.d.) proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on December 10, 1948 proclaimed and agreed that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth therein, without distinction of any kind, such as language; the Article 22 of the Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations: “everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national efforts and international cooperation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for their dignity and the free development of their personality” (p. 6).

Other Conventions that support and promote cultural and linguistic diversities, but have not been respected neither for Neapolitan and Tsotsil communities in practice are the following:

 

1) The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (United Nations, 2020) adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by the General Assembly resolution 2200A (XXI) of 16 December 1966 entry and was into force on 3 January 1976, recognizing that the ideal of free human beings enjoying freedom from fear and want can only be achieved if conditions are created whereby everyone may enjoy his economic, social and cultural rights, as well as his civil and political rights, declares that the States Parties undertake to ensure the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all economic, social and cultural rights set forth and to take part in cultural life (p. 2).

2) The Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (UNESCO, 2003) that affirms that the “intangible cultural heritage” means the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces associated therewith – that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage (Art. 2, p. 5).

 

It is important to remember that the “intangible cultural heritage”, is also manifested inter alia in oral traditions and expressions which implies using language as a vehicle of intangible cultural heritage.

The content of the documents listed above have been ignored by cultural system and mass media since what television, newspapers, magazines and the radio do not reflect or represent the cultural and linguistic richness of their countries, Italy and Mexico in this case. In the case of the Mexican nation, national TV and radio programs are conducted in Spanish, the dominant language of the country. In other words, indigenous languages have not been given an active role in mass media. For this reason, in the last 15 years or so, speakers of indigenous languages have taken the initiative to host TV and radio programs in their native languages as a way to preserve them and promote them. Also, TV programs show the mainstream Mexican mestizo face which is considered to be the desirable-“good-looking” face making the indigenous people’s presence unrepresented on what is shown at the national and international levels. As a group of Tsotsil children’s who participated in Del Carpio’s (2012) research study asked “Why when we turn on the TV all we see is mestizos; faces that don’t look like us; their skin color is different, their physical appearance is different; why we don’t see indigenous peoples on TV?” Great questions that should invite us to reflect on to what extent mass media has made indigenous peoples and minority language speakers, in general, invisible in their own country which has made them develop the feeling of being “foreign” in their own nation.

In the case of Italy, it is very common for Neapolitan (and its speakers) to be treated as something of folkloric, corrupt and degrading, that is, directly or with allusions, mainly to crime or connected to ignorance; a language spoken by illiterates or at least ridiculous/sympathetic ignorant peoples. Interestingly, often an evil combination of these ideas are transmitted to the public (also abroad) as some sort of “popular identity” also in the case of (alleged) “social complaints”, without serious investigation about the reasons behind this situation. All this with an ignoble generalization of poorest contexts that are represented without hope or at least with the weight of one indelible stain, guilt, shame, always latent even on a (hypothetic) social “redemption”.

Mass-media portrays a unilateral negative or very partial image of the Neapolitan speakers, their language and culture. It should be emphasized that this situation is particularly dramatic for Neapolitan mother-tongue children especially for those from the poorest areas. In Italy, the lack of legacy for Neapolitan, such as in the public education, the unceasing and negative cultural-linguistic representation about Neapolitans and Neapolitan Language so the city of Naples (and of southern Italy, Naples in the Italian collective imagination is the emblem of the backward and ignorant south) continues to spread among Neapolitan children and the youth, in general, a subculture that change their Neapolitan accent and language in a violent way.

Neapolitan mother-tongue children’s rights continue to be violated since both the Italian education and media systems despise their language and describe their accent as being odd, vulgar or degrading as something related to ignorance; as something that should disappear. As a result, all aspects related to the Neapolitan community get devalued, for instance, their cultural heritage. On the other hand, Neapolitan children reproduce in a sort of new social self-identification, attitudes, behaviors and deviant actions, mixing with vulgar or criminal neologisms (or in imitation of terms invented by actors of crime film characters) who are amplified by the media for commercial purposes and which are re-produced and disseminated as examples of success, power, “immortality”.

A new artificial and degrading “language” replaces the noble Neapolitan mother tongue. Moreover, due to this discriminatory situation against the Neapolitan language, some of its best characteristics have been negatively affected such as its musicality and expressiveness; elements that have made it internationally famous. This situation leads to real cultural, social and linguistic violence against a population, a human group - especially of children and young people; the Neapolitan community. In addition, advertisement, fiction shows, and cartoons also represent characters with a Neapolitan accent or language in a degraded, violent or ridiculous way. It is not a coincidence that in the last thirty years at Tg1 (the newscast of the RAI1, Italian radio-television) only 9% of the news related to so-called Southern Italy are publicized and almost all of them are about crime; in the 2000s the articles of the Italian press about Southern Italy decreased by 80% and these also overflowing on the exclusive criminal theme (Cremonesini & Cristante, 2015).

Neapolitan children are induced to discriminate and hate themselves. Furthermore, they are also discriminated against by the entire Italian community. As said in Italy Neapolitan speakers are presented as “nice ignorant” (this is the case of a Telecom advertisement that has a character named Gennaro-classical neapolitan name-who acts out as a fool person when compared to people with northern-Italian accent); another example of this type of advertisement is Red Bull (Neapolitan as a language of loafers). Moreover, cartoons include characters that play a negative role and to reinforce such a role they speak with a Neapolitan accent (for example, the Italian version of Zootopia or The Simpsons, such as the unqualified, irresponsible and insatiable chief of police Winchester, etc.). This unequivocal and negative media representation about the Neapolitan people, their identity and language leads to a repeated cultural, social and linguistic violence with respect to an entire population and cultural community.

The situation described above contradicts the provisions of Article 17 of the Chart of the Child where the States parties encourage the mass media to disclose information and materials that have a social and cultural utility for the child and described in the spirit of Article 29 encouraging international cooperation with a view to producing, exchanging and disseminating information and materials from various cultural sources, nations and international and mass media to take particular account of the linguistic needs of indigenous children or those who belong to a minority group.

The above has not been the case for young Neapolitan mother-tongue children who are exposed to advertising, information and educational messages that represent themselves as deviant or retrograde subjects of “a city putrefied since thousand years” (Bocca, 2006) or the idea of “southern Italians as inferior” (Feltri, 2020) or Naples as “a sewer to deratize” (Calderoli, 2006) or “the camorra (the Neapolitan mafia) as a constitutive element of Naples” (Bindi, anti-mafia parliamentary commission, Naples, 2015).

Unfortunately, these children are likely to follow the degraded or ridiculous social models, mythologized by the mass media and associated with an alleged Neapolitan language (often associated with mafia) or false models of “social redemption.” Neapolitan children suffer real discrimination and moral and cultural violence since they do not receive an education that respects and considers their linguistic and cultural identity which also ignores what is meaningful to them. It should be stated that Neapolitan mothers are induced to avoid teaching the Neapolitan language to their children or abandon it in case children already have some knowledge of Neapolitan. This contradicts the Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, adopted by the General Assembly of Nations United on 18 December 1979 which entered into force on September 3rd, 1981; ratified by the law of March 14, 1985, n. 132 in Italy. This Convention, in fact, commits States parties to protect the social function of motherhood, for the progress of a community that also is compressed and violated for Neapolitan mother-tongue women. In fact, the Italian cultural, social and scholarly system imposes them to educate their children to abandon the Neapolitan language because it is considered to be negative, vulgar and degraded. This conflicts with the spirit of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and particularly of Article 7 considering the lack of immediate and effective measures in the fields of teaching, education, culture, and information, to combat prejudices that lead to racial discrimination, in this case for Neapolitan mother-language children.

In this sense, we consider particularly relevant the contrast with the right to equal participation in cultural activities; a right that is seriously questioned by the scarce or absent access of Neapolitan mother-tongue children to knowledge about their cultural and linguistic heritage. The latter shows the need to provide quality education in and about these children’s mother language; an education that eliminates racial discrimination in all forms to guarantee the right to equality without distinction of ethnic origin, in full enjoyment, in particular, of social and cultural rights.

 

Suggestions

 

The contradictions between the content of international declarations and conventions versus the reality lived by Neapolitan and Tsotsil language speakers provide great ideas to take an active role in the preservation and promotion of minority languages and their communities by transforming the sources that have served to put these languages at risk into powerful tools. In other words, both the educational and mass-media systems that have been utilized to violate the rights of Neapolitan and Tsotsil speakers could be used to heal the scars they have made. For instance, inclusive quality intercultural bilingual education could be created and implemented to minority language children; an education that considers these children’s linguistic and cultural richness and contribute to develop positive attitudes towards their own identity, language and culture. By doing so, stereotypes could be destroyed, and linguistic human rights could be validated. In addition, it is important to create institutes or organizations that help create awareness of the value and importance of preserving and promoting minority languages. An example of this is the “Accademia Napoletana”, to Neapolitan language and heritage safeguarding, that aims to respect the principles mentioned in this manuscript so there is no lack of legacy for minority languages, for instance, for the Neapolitan language which is the main focus of this Academy.

In 2017 Verde, the founder of the Accademia Napoletana, created the first CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) Course of Neapolitan Language and Culture - recognized by the Municipality of Naples – as well as a successful series of local and international initiatives, training and educational activities (podcasts, radio broadcasts, video-documentaries, publications, exhibitions, conferences, etc.). Recently (in 2019-2020), he created two teaching modules of the Neapolitan language, within the European Social Fund with a public school in Naples. Accademia Napoletana is currently the only internationally recognized research group to promote and teach Neapolitan. Verde participated in many initiatives in the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages to represent the Neapolitan language. In this regard, he cooperates with academicians, lawyers, and linguistic experts and educators from all over the world. In fact, this article is written to enforce this kind of cooperation and we wish it will be the beginning of a strong cooperation that can motivate others to join.

 

Conclusion

 

We believe it is fundamental to have international cooperation between stakeholders and all independent experts in the matter of minority linguistic communities in any side of the society. This is why, Verde created the Accademia Napoletana to speak about and work for Neapolitans. The preservation and active promotion of languages cannot only stay in academia, that is, in fact it has to be directed towards any side of society, in any form, without being put in a reduced box or the field of folklorism or “indigenism” which is what has happened with the Tsotsil and Neapolitan language and their speakers. Language is one of the most important and beautiful ways of expression that human beings have. Therefore, it is important to work collaboratively to find ways to respect and validate linguistic human rights. By doing so, we would also be contributing to improve social conditions. All in all, we need to cooperate in peace and defend diversities so that we can have a peaceful world; a world where many worlds fit as Tsotsil children say.

 


foto de: Leonardo Herrera González

References

 

Bindi R. (2015). La camorra dato costitutivo di Napoli. Retrieved May 18th, 2020 from this link

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