…in this age of increasing globalisation, and with the burgeoning spread of English as the currentworld language, the question of retaining cultural and linguistic distinctiveness is increasingly becoming an issue for national majority groups as well for minorities (May, 2001: 194).
The above statement gives an accurate presentation on the current world linguistic situation.Within the European context one may paraphrase it with the well-known principle ‘unity indiversity’ on which the European Union is founded. ‘Unity in diversity’ refers not only tocultures, customs and beliefs, but also to languages.
Moreover, this principle applies both to theofficial languages and to the many regional or minority languages - frequently referred to as‘lesser-used’ - spoken by sectors of the EU population.
Whether this ‘diversity’ has high chancesof survival, and the extent to which the authorities charged with its protection and promotion maysucceed in their aims, remains to be seen given the current socio-political climate. Bearing this inmind, this paper aims to present the current situation of lesser-used languages, with a specialfocus on language policies whose role in language maintenance has proved essential.Aromanian and Irish have been chosen as representing two different yet broadly analogoussituations of lesser-used languages. It has often been argued that speakers of minority languagesare rarely in similar positions, in spite of the fact that they seem to face similar issues.Recognition, or lack of it, has therefore important implications for the progress of suchlanguages.The aim of this comparative study is therefore to analyse various aspects of the evolution of thetwo languages, starting from an historical perspective, investigating several stages of socio- political influence and culminating with their current situations.
This study acknowledges thatAromanian and Irish face differing degrees of threat, and investigates the relative resistance of Irish to disappearance compared to the less well protected Aromanian. To put it differently, thesuccess or failure of various revival language programmes the Irish language has undergone mayserve as a model for the future status of Aromanian.Researching this topic has aroused many mixed feelings; optimism, despair, scepticism, hope,and belief. There can be no doubt that lesser-used languages occupy a precarious position intoday’s world, and scholars are almost unanimous about the poor chances of survival of many of them.