Campus: CSU Long Beach -- November 20, 2002

California State University, Long Beach Linguistics Professor Awarded First-Ever Sapir Book Prize for Corsican Language Work


Alexandra Jaffe, an associate professor of linguistics at California State University, Long Beach, has received the first-ever Edward Sapir Book Prize from the Society for Linguistic Anthropology (SLA) of the American Anthropology Association.

Established in 2001, the Sapir Book Prize is being awarded in alternate years to a book that makes the most significant contribution to the understanding of language in society, or the ways in which language mediates historical or contemporary sociocultural processes. In this first contest, books published in the last three years were eligible.

“I’m just very excited to be recognized like this,” said Jaffe, whose interest in Corsica dates back to her dissertation research in 1988 and continued through a yearlong stay on the island in 2000 with her husband and child. “I still can’t quite get over it.”

Jaffe received the prize for her 1999 book “Ideologies in Action: Language Politics on Corsica,” which was published in Berlin by Mouton de Gruyter. The award will be presented to her on Friday (Nov. 22) in New Orleans at the American Anthropology Association’s annual meeting.
“Alexandra Jaffe's book addresses issues of minority language maintenance in Corsica, in the light of Corsicans' relation to the French and Italian states, and in the context of the local valuation of diversity and creativity in language use,” wrote the Selection Committee in selecting Jaffe’s book. “With its discussion of European language ideologies as well as the diversity of ideologies within Corsica itself, the book makes a powerful contribution to current studies of language in its socio-political setting.”

Jaffe spent the summer of 2002 on the French island of Corsica as part of her study of the political and cultural context involved with reviving the Corsican language. Corsica, legendary birthplace of Napoleon, is home to Jaffe’s research on language and identity. Her interest in Corsica dates back to her dissertation research in 1988 and continued through a yearlong stay on the island in 2000 with her husband and child.

“I visited Corsica to study their schools,” said Jaffe, who speaks Italian and French plus Corsican and English. “I wanted to find out more about bilingual schools and how they work to revitalize the Corsican language. Like other minority languages, its use has fallen over the years, the victim of economic and cultural pressure from the dominant French. Most of the kids still speak French as their first language while it is the older people who speak Corsican.”

Before joining CSULB, Jaffe earned her B.A. in English and French literature from the University of Delaware and her M.A. and Ph.D. from Indiana University. She went on to serve as an associate professor at the University of Southern Mississippi for five years.


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