Proposal: Seto, Võro could be mother tongue options in official registers

Seto leelopäev.
Seto leelopäev. Source: Mirjam Mõttus/ERR

The Estonian Language Board (Eesti keelenõukogu) suggested preparing proposals for the legal status of Seto and Võro and allowing Seto and Võro to be chosen as mother tongues in population and other registers.

Birute Klaas-Lang, chair of the Estonian Language Board, forwarded to the Ministry of Education and Research and the Ministry of Culture eight proposals formulated after May 15 meeting of the Language Board with Setomaa municipalities and the Seto and Võro communities.

A comprehensive analysis of the status of the southern Estonian languages (Võro, Seto) and proposals for their legal status, along with a legal, sociolinguistic and financial impact analysis, should be carried out, the board concluded.

Also, the possibility of selecting Võro and Seto as mother tongues in population and other registers should be discussed.

Additionally, the Language Board suggested funding for the instruction of southern Estonian languages in kindergartens, language institutions and high schools; namely, teachers in south-eastern dialects should receive additional compensation.

The development of language-learning materials and the education of instructors of southern Estonian languages should be supported, as should the activities of the Võro and Seto cultural institutes, including linguistics studies and the preservation and study of the Seto song tradition.

The Board also recommended support for the creation and implementation of Võro and Seto language databases, language tech and digital applications. Finally, a comprehensive national action plan should be developed for the Decade of Indigenous Languages (Rahvusvaheline põliskeelte kümnend).

Birute Klaas-Lang emphasized in the explanatory memorandum that, in addition to addressing the issues of Võro and Seto, it is also needed to analyze the present state of all historical languages of southern Estonia (including the languages of Mulgi and Tartu) and find solutions that take into account the unique characteristics of each region.

"The national action plan for the International Decade of Indigenous Languages should focus on all indigenous languages and dialects of Estonia, both Finno-Ugric and others," she said.


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Editor: Urmet Kook, Kristina Kersa

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