On Thursday, January 31, 2013, Dr. Arda Jebejian, lecturer in applied linguistics at the University of Nicosia, gave a presentation entitled “UNESCO and the Armenian Language in Beirut: Endangered or Not Endangered” for the first Haigazian University Cultural Hour of the year 2013.
In her welcoming address, Dr. Arda Ekmekji, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science, introduced the topic of endangered languages, pointing out that Western Armenian has recently been added to UNESCO’s list of “definitely endangered” languages, meaning that children no longer learn it as their mother tongue.
Dr. Jebejian, herself a Haigazian alumnus, had conducted a pioneering study on Armenian language use in Beirut, and shared some of the highlights of her study with the audience. After outlining her research methodology, Jebejian spoke of the visible gap between the first two generations of Armenians in Beirut and the current generation. Her study, she explained, showed an increasing reliance on the three dominant languages of Lebanon at the expense of Armenian.
Jebejian then elaborated on the reasons for this language shift, citing a desire to fit in, regarding Beirut as a “permanent home” and exogamy, or Arab-Armenian marriages, as some of the major causes. To illustrate her findings, her presentation was peppered with quotes from her interviewees, ranging from ages 18 to 80.
Emphasizing that further research is needed to understand the future of the Armenian language in Beirut, Jebejian appealed to the HU Armenian Diaspora Research Center. She concluded her lecture by saying that much work needs to be done, but ultimately preservation is possible.
The presentation was followed by a Q&A session and the event concluded with refreshments in the Mugar hall.