By Eric Raimy, English
Language Matters for Wisconsin: A community based initiative is a project funded by a Baldwin-Wisconsin Idea Grant led by Thomas C. Purnell (Linguistics), Eric Raimy (English) and Joe Salmons (CSUMC) in cooperation with four Wisconsin communities to explore what aspects of language impact every day life in our state. We are currently working together with community collaborators in southeastern Wisconsin (Milwaukee and the Kenosha-Racine area), Mineral Point, Rhinelander and Wausau. All of these communities have unique aspects of where language issues impact the lives of their residents but there is a commonality to the situations which will allow us to learn about our own experiences with language from each community.
Some of the topics that are being developed across these communities are: how history and identity can be explored through language, how heritage languages can be maintained and why they matter to different communities, how home languages affect educational opportunities, how community specific languages can be a source of pride and identity and how we should understand both historical and contemporary immigration with respect to language. As part of developing these topics, different community specific materials will be developed to address particular local concerns. A map of the distribution of different languages spoken in Wisconsin has already been produced and can be seen on our project website, here.
This project is in its beginning stages and it is currently developing individual relationships with each community that focus on the particular language matters in each community. Language Matters for Wisconsin will culminate in 2012 with a public town hall meeting in Madison aimed at demonstrating how linguistic diversity enriches our culture through the materials and ideas developed with our community partners.