A Minority Language in the Shadow of the State Language: Bilingual Communication of Mayor’s Office

Author Information

Patrik Schulcz,
Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra, Slovakia

Gizella Szabómihály,
Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra, Slovakia

DOI: 10.47298/comela22.8-1
The GLOCAL Proceedings:  The GLOCAL Conference in the Mediterranean and Europe 2022


This paper presents some of the results of a research that was carried out in 2019–2022 in municipal councils in southern Slovakia, in order to dtermine the required competencies, including language skills, of administrative staff. There are a number of municipalities in southern Slovakia where the proportion of the Hungarian minority is higher compared to the proportion of population of Slovak nationality. In such settlements, the dominant language of municipality officers is usually the minority (Hungarian) language, as it is used more often by their clients, compared to the state language. The presentation points out the language-related difficulties encountered from the minority position in the daily work of municipal officers.

During oral administration, the officers use translanguaging (or code switching) due to which state language loanwords (mainly the words of administrative terminology) are included in the minority language. This ‘occasionally created’ language, at times when officers use their whole linguistic repertoire, contributes to efficient oral administration, as this language is understood by the administrative officers and the clients as well.

However, it is different when the administration is extended to written communication. In this case, the administrative officers must be able to translate texts received from the state or public authorities so that they can be communicated in the language of the minority. Most of the employees have not received training in professional translation, moreover, the municipal officers are not thoroughly familiar with the special administrative terminology in the minority language, and therefore, they do not have the appropriate vocabulary to translate the state language texts into the minority language (Szabómihály 2002).

This presentation examines the Hungarian language competence of the officers working at the mayor’s office in one southern Slovakian village and in one town, on the basis of official statements posted online, translated and created by the employees. The presentation examines only those posts where the source text is written in the Slovak state language, and the target language is the language of the minority (Hungarian), and which meet the following criteria:

  1. are related to COVID-19 virus and epidemic
  2. information related to the local government office (local taxes, opening hours of local government institutions, etc.)
  3. are shared in the first half of 2020

The results show that the Hungarian target written texts are usually simplified (compared to the texts in the state language) due to a lack of knowledge of minority terminology, and contain contact-induced phenomena that characterize the contact variety of the Hungarian language in Slovakia.

Keywords: Minority language, state language, bilingual texts, linguistic anthropology


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