The Macedonian language, in both its standard literary and rich dialectical forms, is a cultural attribute which has been crucial in defining and preserving Macedonian identity. Attempts at the forced assimilation of the Macedonian people in Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia before the Second World War, focused primarily on eradicating the use of the Macedonian language as the first step towards producing “Greeks”, “Bulgarians” and “Serbians” in those parts of Macedonia which were forcibly incorporated into the Greek, Bulgarian and Serbian states after the Second Balkan War in 1913. It is for this reason that the description of the Macedonian language as precisely that, was erased from the United Nation’s country profile on Macedonia in mid-November 2010 (before being hastily restored after a world-wide protest by Macedonians and the Macedonian government), at the instigation of those who would seek to erase the Macedonian name and identity and subsequently described as a “technical error”.
The diversity and richness of the Macedonian language is reflected in Australia where the Macedonian community is made up of large numbers of Macedonians from all parts of both Aegean Macedonia and the Republic of Macedonia, with smaller numbers of Macedonians for the Pirin part of Macedonia in Bulgaria present as well. However, as with the languages of many ethnic groups in Australia, the Macedonian language and the way in which it is spoken has undergone certain structural, lexical and grammatical changes, under the influence of the dominant English language.
In order to document the extent to which Macedonian is spoken in Australia by the first and second generations and to trace the way in which its spoken form has changed in this country, the Australian Macedonian Human Rights Committee (AMHRC) has decided to participate in a unique study being conducted into the Macedonian language by a leading Australian tertiary institution. The purpose of the documentation to be produced by the study is to provide records and materials both to the Macedonian community in Australia and to the broader Australian community relating to the use of the Macedonian language and the attitudes and motives of those who speak it. In doing so, the AMHRC also seeks to document and record the life stories and experiences of Macedonian migrants to Australia and those of their children.
The AMHRC will support this study into the speech of first and second-generation Macedonian speakers by providing researchers interviews on video of potential participants and to administer and fill out questionnaires seeking information on the use of the Macedonian language. The first interviews have already been conducted and the Macedonian community in Australia has shown by its enthusiastic participation that it recognizes the importance of investigating the factors which both assist and hinder the retention of the Macedonian language in this country. Some of the video results will eventually appear on our website: http://macedonianhr.org.au/index.html.
The AMHRC views this project as an opportunity to build on our existing documentation of the lives of Macedonians in Australia and strongly encourages the Macedonian community to support this significant academic initiative through its active participation. Those Macedonians who wish to find out more about this project or who wish to offer themselves as interviewees are welcome to contact the AMHRC directly. It is estimated that the study will be published in the second half of 2012.
Dr. Chris Popov