Low and high context of cultures on the Albanian language/
By Neka DOKO- Metropolitain “Fan Noli” Library/ Archive & Cultural Center/
Multilingual and Cross Cultural Communication Research/
Anthropologist E. Hall in the early 80’s identified two distinct cultural ways of using language.
Low context cultures use language primarily to express thoughts, feelings, and ideas as clearing as logically as possible. To low context communicators, the meaning of a statement is in the words spoken. North American culture falls toward the low-context end of the scale. By contrast, high context cultures value language as a way to maintain social harmony. Most Asian and Middle eastern cultures fit the high context pattern. According to Hall (1983), complex societies organize time in at least two different ways: – one thing at a time- as in North Europe and America, and -many things at once- as in Mediterranean countries, the Asian and South America societies. The first category is identified as a Monochronic Time (M-time), and the second known as Polychronic or P-Time.
Even though the Albanian culture belongs to the Mediterranean patterns of high context and Polychronic time and people, the Albanian language seems to stay in between the scale, featuring elements from high and low context cultures. I would prefer using the “motion picture” of Whorf- Sapir hypothesis to explain how the Albanian language culture has been evolved in century. As Albania is situated for good or bad luck in the heart of west coast of Balkans, war and civilization winds either from sea or mountains, have brought into our small landin different times many western and eastern influences. Since the Turkish was the longest and harshest in time, it happened that the high context cultures of the eastern Mediterranean stream dominated the low context ones of scattered waves winded from the Western part.
Based on the situation the language is used, both contexts seem to coexist in variances irregularly moving in specific places and time, depending on where and when the Albanian is the most used, switched and mixed with other languages (Doko, 2006, a). However, in the today “motion picture” of the Albanian language uses in and outward the country, no native speaker of it, clearly fit either one of these distinctive categories.
Noli’s dynamic relationship with languages: variables of context and time
Fan Noli’scase of relationship with languagesif culturally studied would have been fit into the high context and the Polychronic time of places and people who, himself originally came from. Whereas, the Noli’s relationship with Albanian language seems to fall into a special group of cultures, time and a more personal category.Within Noli’s ‘motion picture’ of the case, his first spoken language uses with timeappears to incline from the high context culture of his birthplacetowards the low context communication of the North American culture, where he lived and worked for Albanian identity the most part of his life. Along with this contextual change, the time category of his ‘motion picture’ changed as well. From the Polychronic Time of his language interaction and uses in the Eastern Turkey, Greece and Egypt, when landing in North America, he must have adjusted with extra efforts into the Monochronic Time of interaction with the new culture.
Documents show that Fan Noli’s first lingual expectations insidethe high cultural context didn’t
seem to work well for his-soft spot mother tongue- Albanian. Unless Noli himself as a
self-taught student and a dedicated genotype had to work hard and challenge odds of
Polychronic stereotypes against many encounters denial on the Albanian language existence.
More biographical evidence (N. Jorgaqi, 2005,) emphasize that either Noli’s paternal grandmother or parents would have loved to send their young teenage great son and boy to learn Albanian in school, especially beingtaught by their own teachers of the Albanian colony. Noli’s family patriotic hopes to educate him at the same time in Albanian and Greek unfortunately may have fell short in that context, due to the anti- Albanian language teaching policy, conjunctures and propaganda of the ‘High Porte’ throughout Albanian colonies of Mediterranean basin and Thrace.
“The Patriarchate of Constantinople opposed Albanian language and education, because they meant the loss of its influence and subsequently the constitution of an Albanian independent church.” (S. Skendi, 1964)
Thus, following the family roots religion and the main language of the Orthodox doctrine, the Ancient and Modern Greek were meant for young Noli asthe primary and fundamental language of education,debuting in Ibrik Tepe and keeping on in Adrianople.This lingual and contextual variable marks the first shift from a dialectal spoken Albanian, viewed as a ‘barbarian’ language fueled by cultural bias to a “civilized language” in the way the Greek ‘linguaculture’ was perceived for century in the Mediterranean region and around world.
Moreover,the prohibition of the Albanian use for education was the common rule everywhere. By the time when the young boy started school in his hometown, in the south of Albania, where his family migrated from“the schools were Turkish for the Moslem and Greek for the orthodox Albanians. Only among the Catholics of the north there existed toward the end of the 19th century a few schools, under the Austro-Hungarian Kultusprotektorat, where Albanian was taught.” (S. Skendi, 64, ibid)
It became clear that the Albanian linguistic question couldn’t have been resolved at the time differently but through religious acculturation to the Albanian intellectuals educated and graduated from Western and Eastern doctrinal universities.
Thus, many Albanian Catholics formed in Vatican could have brought in their hometown of Shkodra and its northwestern region, a few “abece” booklets called “Abeceja Katolike” and many bilingual Latin Albanian dictionaries edited by groups of Albanian Italian scholars who could serve their linguistic question only through Catholic acculturation.
In the central and south east of Albania, of Orthodox clerics and scholars, much later than Catholics in the north, through the cultural Greek center of Moskhopolis several multilingual vocabularies were edited; the first documented one by Kavaliotti of Voskopoje in 1710, the second a Phoenician-Albanian Abece byTheodor H of Elbasan in 1806, followed by two well – known Greek- Albanian Alphabets and biblical bilingual works respectfully edited by Kristoforidhi of Elbasanin 1866, and the pure golden codex of Berat by Konstantin Berati in 1868.
Since in the Thracian settlement of Albanians, The High Porte of Constantinople had sabotaged any further linguistic movement inspired by the Albanians Orthodox scholars of Athens who wrote by the time many Abeces in their own language with Greek letters, to Noli’s family one thing became clear. Their son’s education would have been fulfilled through the Eastern Byzantine acculturation right in the heart of the cross road of civilizations.Right there where Noli himself although very young would have felt the heaviest prejudices about his own languagethat had been circulated among the high context cultural “educated” and polychronic teachers.
From the beginning, the teenage Noli wouldn’t have easily accepted the whole exclusive education in Greek while growing up within an Albanian colony in mind and spirit. Especially, when hearing his Greek teacher trying to convince him that Albanian language didn’t have existed at all. How many times he had to return home with his broken heart because he couldn’t agree with his Greek teacher who kept stereotyping his mother tongueculture as a “barbarian” one. And mostly while these voices kept pressuring the child that no one knew about his language, since without an alphabet neither writings. He strongly felt that something was misleading there.
Although the boy had heard so many times that “the written Albanian was prohibited and oppressed during the period of Turkish rule, their literary language could not be built but on the language spoken by the people” (S. Skendi, ibid) he still wanted to prove to his teacher that he was wrong. Along with these feelings, since the beginning a strong character and brilliant mind was forged out there; as much rebellious as the first to excel in Greek language, hebecame the best student of the class. (N. Jorgaqi, “Jeta e Fan Nolit”, 2002)
For the infant Noli his mother tongue was illuminated by two lights, the first by love for Christ, the second by love for Albania. Naturally he was brought up hearing ancestor poems and legends inspired by the Albanian fighters for faith and freedom through his paternal grandmother lullabythat would have accompanied him to fall asleep.
All signs seemed to come together. Noli was only 10 years old when with the greatest interest read the Albanian translation of the New Testament by Kristoforidhi. It was not a coincidence that his uncle noticed the boy’s sparkle out it, and then suggested that he use Christ’s life as a guide for his own.” (Fiftieth Anniversary Book, 1960)
In addition, the ancestral patriotic and educational flame of all Noli’s from Qyteza to the Thracian settlement would have fueled the Young Noli vision to make a dream of fulfilling the Albanian language in an independent nation and church. Here there are two other geno and ontotypical variables that emergeat once to mark the Noli’s evolving ‘motion picture’ of relationship with Albanianwithin his faith in the future.
With this goal he was sent to the Adrianople high school, toexplore, reach his potential and then attain his family expectations. The first cultural shift from a strictly bilingual environment (spoken Albanian at home, Greek in school) into a multilingual and cultural context occurred at the moment. For four years the young Noli had the chance to get immersed into more other languages.
With Albanian in mind, however, the Greek and Latinwould have remained his fundamental, scholastic broad and the most used languages to make personal research for future liturgical translation into his mother tongue.
When excelling inother languages he renewed with the Albanian spirit of survival and self-determination. As a student Noli had leaned about the Albanian intellectuals and patriots organized in societies in secret places of Mediterranean countries when simultaneously working on Albanian literacy by publishing books and manuscripts in better versions of their language.
In Greek Gymnasium and from the intellectual contacts with professors, the very perceptive Noli sensed that his own language was so unfairly persecuted, and because sounded different from others had to be often biased or even completely rejected such as when manuscripts were published. He still believed that Albanian always existed as a unique language in the south east basin of the Mediterranean civilization. From the map of the crossroad of people and languages of Western Asia, North Africa and Southern Europe, he intuitively situated it somehow among the minority and rare languages such as Mesopotamian, Phoenician, Canaanite, Carthaginian. (from Noli’s personal notes in the 40’s)
A year later in Constantinople, besides Greek, French, Turkish, Arabic and other religious cultures, he added more Latin and Italian to his previous repertoire of languages at the Italian Royal Institute in 1901 (see the doc #1, 2)With this, Noli tried to complete his multilingual cultural and biblical education as a foundation for a future path toward the western world. It seems that during this period, the second shift of Noli’s ‘motion picture’may have occurred at least enthusiastically from his old high contexttoa new low context languages and cultures.
Above all, however, the most crossed mind of languagesto work on,was Albanian. From others, the more he learned, the better he knew about his mother tongue roots and cultural trails through readings. He learned nothing but to be a patient and long life student to unearth the mystery of his own language. From Phoeniciansliterature and Etruscan manuscript, he read somewhere that Albanian happened to be one of the most ancient spoken language during the Roman epoch. Later on, scholars and researchers on the Antiche Civilta Mediterranee studies would have found out that Albanian was documented earlier in Latin and later in Italian as being the main language of conversation within the court when Latin served as the written and administrative language of the Roman Empire, (N. Vlora- Falaschi, 1978, 1984). The geopolitical statureand sociolinguistic trait of his spoken mother tongue cameinto light throughthe Albanian cavalry vocabulary and code switching messages gathered from the Roman soldiers remains,during the empire wars against Greeks and Egyptians.
In that context, Fan Noli’s first literary piece of work in Albanian, written and published in two different countries seemed to mark a double edged sword start. One century this year, since his publication in America, time proved that this had broughtnothing but a great Albanian and cross cultural contribution.
Clearly inspired by Shakespearian tragedy studied in school and then played when working as a prompter in a moving theater in Athens, Fan Noli wrote the first literary work in Albanian in 1902, a drama he entitled “Israilite e Filistine”. The drama was published by the “Kombi” newspaper in 1906- 1907, few months after he arrived in Boston.
In his epilog written in Boston in 1907, Fan Noli called his cross cultural audience attention to find out why he had chosen to let his Philistines characters enter and play with Israelis in their own Synagogue or in the Baal Temple in Gaza. (Act I & III)
The synthesized along with analytical results of this work are cross cultural, linguistic and philosophic. Fan Noli’s cognitive anthropological sense turned alert when he put into question many of cultural irreconcilable differences between his drama people. From Boston Noli asked his broad circle of compatriots in the region to understand why he had opted to write this subject in the first place (see the digital doc #3) and never touched it later to make any further improvements or needed adjustments.
Fan Noli’s first contribution to the Albanian renaissance literary heritage at the timetestified his broad knowledge of the Mediterranean diversity of languages and cultures through contacts and even conflicts with one another. In addition, the linguistic contribution of this first work is pioneering and remarkable. Originally written through a Tosk variances language, the text transcends a Shakespearian plot that adds a modern genre to the Albanian revival literature in the beginning of the 20th century. Besides, phonetically and structurally pertaining a daring exercise and complete task, at large provides with a legible long writing work made out of all Albanian letters. Comparing that with many literary works of the time written in Albanian with partial Greek, Latin or Slavic letters, the drama makes a great achievement for the Albanian literature produced in two different countries, Greece and America between 1902and 1906. From the perspective of such contemporary literature at the time, this has to be considered as a cross cultural literary piece of work written in complete Albanian letters,with credits to come to readersmore than two years before the unified Albanian AlphabetCongress of 1908 in Manastir.
Then finally, the young dramaauthor, with an open minded multilingual and cross cultural observation, based on his own encountering, education and interactions with people in the region, through his broad intuitive and visionary work had warned ahead in time that something tragic between these two cultures and religions unfortunately born within them will never go away.From here a new anthropological variable of Noli’s ‘motion picture’ of consciousness about high and low cultural clashes in the Middle East context, marks his unique case of other languages understanding and uses for philosophic and humanistic purpose.
On the other hand, he had felt more optimistic when working on his own language and culture. Noli saw in the Mediterranean basin of languages contacts, although immersed within a high context ofcultural differences, a good placefor his compatriots tocompare and find a common ground for makinga united written Albanian deal. Historical records into the Albanian Alphabet identity, proved that. During the second part of the 19th century, in the realm of the Eastern and Western contacts, many Mediterranean countrieshad turned into new homelands and work places for the exiled Albanian intellectuals and patriots. When studying in Constantinople, hiscompatriots formed a society composed of intellectuals graduated from Western and Eastern universities and of three faiths, “who undertook the publication of books in the Albanian language.” (Skendi, ibid, 316)
Whereas Fan Noli’s worldview and value system remained rooted into Christian Orthodox faith of the south central and east of the Mediterranean tradition, the young student kept deeply inspired by European renaissance and Descartes – Kant concepts of Western beliefs in human progress.
Along with a bigger frame of renaissance mentality Noli, variables would have been almost there to solve his equationfor the independence of nation, religion and individual success. He believed that although he had put all piecestogether, they could take place only at one place and time where his triple dream could be promoted. Again the third lingual shiftfrom the Mediterranean culture to the North American context would have been plausible only if he joined a day the new continent.
When Noli arrived in Boston, he found himself experiencing three shifts at once. He startedwriting and publishing in Albanian papers (Kombi in 1906 and in Dielli, since 1909), organizing the Albanian church in 1908, while translating the biblical literature from Greek into Albanian and studying English in evenings courses. In three years he had to dig back and forth into the world philosophy and languages with the goal to complete his missing high school records before submitting his request to Harvard admission in 1909. Was he really shifting from his rooted Polychronic time and culture into the Monochronic new context, that fast?
Definitely not. The time either Polychronicor Monochronic or somehow between, was running up and he had so many things to do.
Fan Noli’ s dynamic communication with Albanians on Albanian language: Faik Konitza
If was there someone landing in Boston as a complete linguist among all Albanian patriots that Noli would have highly estimated since the beginning, that person would have been Faik Konitza. It occurred that Konitza persisted as one of the closest Albanian friend and collaborator to Noli’s cause on Albanian Independence and language. Their mutual respect and work for years in Boston was not a mere occasion or coincidence. Both men came to America with a solid family and personal inheritance for seeking independenceand progress through national, cultural and linguistic integrity.
Interestingly, this article on them happened to come on time, since2016 is agreed to be calledthe Faik Konitza year for Dielli’s legacy and to honor his co- founder anniversaries.
The organic duo Konitza –Noli so close to make the most Albanian cross cultured coupleof their time, Noli– Konitza, although with personal and cultural differences on many questions they had discussed together, undoubtedly on the Albanian cause and language they found one another and openly remained on the same side.
As the Very Rev. Fr. Arthur Liolin decrypted the Noli- Konitza universal metrics through a contrastive approach, at Harvard University, Dudley House, Seminar on Faik Konitza: An Albanian Luminary, on 28 April 2009
‘Both men are often considered columnar twins of the Albanian national awakening. Both studied here at Harvard, albeit under different economic circumstances: Konitza with an imperial air, Noli as a mendicant monk. Both had a deep admiration for one another – despite an on-again and off-again relationship owing principally to differing points of view when it came to the political leadership in the homeland of the late 1920s and 30s.
Of Noli, Konitza would write: “The day on which Noli celebrated the first liturgy in the Albanian language was a turning point in the history of the Albanian Renaissance. We cannot forget it, nor let anyone else to forget it.” Conversely, of Konitza, Noli had said of him: “he was my first real mentor and role model.”
Thus, Konitza’s direct contribution and cross cultural approach on the Albanian language identity when working for a common language was pointed out by Prof. Stavro Skendi, in The Emergence of the Modern Balkan Literary Languages- a Comparative Approach,
Faik Konitza himself an atypical cross-cultural scholar of his time, “who among the men of the Albanian revival was perhaps the most cultured and with a broad philological formation, proposed in 1898that the best solution would be to create a grammar approved by the cultured Albanian and foreign Albanologists in which all the dialectal elements grouped together, reconciled, coordinated, according to a national and scientific method, would give origin to a common language to all the Albanians, as the Greeks had the Koine.” (Skendi, ibid, 316) The two Albanian dialects Geg and Tosk developed together out of the literary works of the two great poets of the Albanian Renaissance. Naim Frasheri and Gjergj Fishta, the former a Bektashi and representative of a high context of languages and cultures, the latter of a Catholic and Roman low context culture. Others like them were able to use the best of their lingual and cultural differences for the sake of a common mother tongue phonetic andcreated in 1908in Manastir the first Albanianunified alphabet out of many previous versions of alphabets partially written with Greek, Latin and Slavic letters.
Since then, the Albanian language and culture has been steadily in the process of formation through comparisons and communication with other languages of the region, through many comparative research in the context of Balkan and Southeast European studies. Faik Konitza as a pioneer of the cross cultural approach on the Albanian language identity and stylistic evolution, achieved few but very refined works on that matter written in French, Albanian and English. Noli himself in several times recognized his friend Faik Konitza writing attributes as a mastery of style and originality, to a great author with a tendency to write in a brief, selective and concise Albanian. In French and English as well. Noli recalled an interesting moment when both friends despite different nuances, agreed to translate Shakespeare after their graduation from Harvard in 1912. “Then one day a friend of mine, the late Faik Konitza, who had a master’s degree from Harvard, made a suggestion that we two should divide all Shakespeare’s plays between us and translate him into Albanian. He made only one reservation, that Romeo and Juliet belonged to him. I accepted at once on the condition that Hamlet should belong to me. So we both started.” (F. Noli: “Shakespeare and I” ibid, 5)
Within an indefinite time, thanks to a differential cross cultural approach, and specially to no Albanian scholars’ remarkable contributions for a richer Albanian language and culture, the latterhas developed as a unique vernacular for all Albanians in spoken and written literature, until today. In the present time when new ‘motion pictures’ of lingual variances through spoken and written works, abundantly appearing within Albania borders and outside the country, many efforts are yet to be attempted to reconcile and coordinate cultural differences between the modern language developments and the old structures of the pastwith the aim to bringinto the evolving common language moreopenness, originality, style and integrity.
(to be continued)