Minority Language Education and Policy in Turkey: The Case of Cankiri Poshas

Melike Uzum, Nurettin Demir

Abstract


It is common to observe, within a given context, a group of people who differ from the majority of the community, in terms of appearance, lifestyle and traditions, and even their language. The focal group for this study is located in the middle of Anatolia, in the city of Cankiri, and is known as “gypsies” (cingene) by the general public, but self-identifies as “Poshas” (Posa). The motivation for this study comes from a linguistic field work on the language and culture of Poshas. Another source of motivation is the one of the authors’ linguistic
background combined with an interest in the language and culture of the Posha community, a community that neighbors her childhood home. We attempted to address the question whether the Posha community, living in partial isolation from the rest of the local people, had a distinct language. Although we were not immediately welcomed into the community, we were able to communicate our intentions for this research study, and eventually establish rapport. After our
first few encounters, we were convinced that the Posha language showed distinctive qualities, making it a language, and not a dialect of Turkish (Demir & Üzüm, 2017).
Cankiri Poshas are a bilingual community. They speak the Posha language within the community, enabling the transfer of cultural knowledge from one generation to another. However, children in the Posha community currently face challenges in acquiring this language, because of political and social issues. Additionally, the Posha language has a limited lexical repertoire, hindering discussion of some topics, and it does not have a written form. According to the vitality and endangerment criteria determined by UNESCO, this designates Posha as an
endangered language. Because the Cankiri Poshas are a bilingual community, with a relatively low level of education, the present study addresses such questions as: How is the Posha language affected by Turkish (the language of education)?, how does language policy impact the Posha language?, why do many Poshas not continue their education beyond secondary school?, and how does the isolation of the community affect students’ school preferences after elementary school? In addition, we will use the Posha language as an example to briefly discuss the process of how a language becomes endangered, when it is not used in formal education.


Keywords


language acquisition; bi-lingual; endangered languages; Posha language

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