The meaning of publishing in a minority language: Basque in academic journals


The trajectory of those who research is subject to strict evaluation criteria in which scientific publications, especially journals, have substantial weight. The achievement or not of certain recognitions that allow us to advance in our career depends, to a significant extent, on the publications that have been made in prestigious magazines. These journals are indexed in international databases and endorsed by standards set by companies such as Clarivate Analytics or Elsevier . The presence of academic works in these publications can be a variable, even when determining the salary that this person will have.

A review of the language in which the most prestigious journals are published in any of the areas of knowledge yields clear results: the vast majority are publications in English. The other most widely spoken languages ​​in the world, such as Spanish or French, hardly have a testimonial presence in a universe in which Anglophone productions have a hegemonic role.

Influence on the language and the topic to be investigated

This system for evaluating research work, as well as the need to disseminate the results of the studies internationally, have brought about a change of thought in the scientific community.

Now, researchers show a strategic awareness and prioritize reaching a wider audience when selecting both the topics of their research and the languages ​​in which they are produced. All this despite the effort involved in producing a text in a non-mother tongue and the financial investment that it may entail (paying translators, reviewers, support staff, etc.).

In this system, a series of inconsistencies emerge in the strategic lines of the universities: higher education institutions are aware of the importance of helping to develop and innovate in the environment, they advocate the defense of minority cultures and focus on the local economy. However, they are also at the service of a delocalized system in which English is used as the lingua franca: calls for international research projects, strategic lines of visibility, work networks with entities from all over the world, etc.

Basque in research

As a consequence, the question that arises is: where are the minority languages ​​in this research panorama? And what happens, specifically, with Basque?

Basque, and probably other minority languages, could be considered a victim of this dichotomous situation in which the university and the scientific community in general find themselves. Although the presence of Basque since the 1980s – a milestone in linguistic normalization and in the foundation of public universities – has increased exponentially in the university environment, the number of publications that are disseminated in this language is punctual and, in the Most of the cases, they are far from reaching those quality criteria previously mentioned.

At present, there is an increasing number of doctoral theses carried out and defended in this language. Likewise, more students choose to study in Basque both in public and private educational centers in the Basque Autonomous Community and the Navarra Autonomous Community. However, the other side of the coin shows a small number of scientific journals in this language and a lack of systematicity in the criteria to define the discursive genres (reports, reviews, memoirs, etc.) that are used to communicate in this field . This systematicity does occur, on the contrary, in other languages .

Reflection journey

Thus, it could be said that the Basque-speaking scientific community is in a day of reflection in which it is necessary to think about how to reinforce the prestige that this language has as a language for scientific dissemination, without the researchers having to resign. to continue progressing in your professional career.

It is also time to take steps towards the systematization of the prototypical conventions of genres (articles, synopses, minutes …) to ensure that they have linguistic-discursive characteristics identifiable by the entire community. This may be, perhaps, a first step towards the survival of minority languages ​​in the academic sphere in the face of the omnipresence of English.

Author Bios: Mari Mar Boillos Pereira is Associate Professor at the Bilbao School of Education and Garbiñe Bereziartua Etxeberria is Professor / Researcher at the Department of Didactics of Language and Literatureboth at the University of the Basque Country / Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea