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Sustaining Linguistic Diversity

Endangered and Minority Languages and Language Varieties

Publication Year: 2008

In the last three decades the field of endangered and minority languages has evolved rapidly, moving from the initial dire warnings of linguists to a swift increase in the number of organizations, funding programs, and community-based efforts dedicated to documentation, maintenance, and revitalization. Sustaining Linguistic Diversity brings together cutting-edge theoretical and empirical work from leading researchers and practitioners in the field. Together, these contributions provide a state-of-the-art overview of current work in defining, documenting, and developing the world's smaller languages and language varieties. The book begins by grappling with how we define endangermentùhow languages and language varieties are best classified, what the implications of such classifications are, and who should have the final say in making them. The contributors then turn to the documentation and description of endangered languages and focus on best practices, methods and goals in documentation, and on current field reports from around the globe. The latter part of the book analyzes current practices in developing endangered languages and dialects and particular language revitalization efforts and outcomes in specific locations. Concluding with critical calls from leading researchers in the field to consider the human lives at stake, Sustaining Linguistic Diversity reminds scholars, researchers, practitioners, and educators that linguistic diversity can only be sustained in a world where diversity in all its forms is valued.

Published by: Georgetown University Press

Series: Georgetown University Round Table on Languages and Linguistics series

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. 1-4

IN THE LAST THREE DECADES, what might be called the field of endangered and minority languages has evolved rapidly. In short order we’ve moved from the initial dire warnings of linguists such as Michael Krauss in the 1980s and early 1990s (Krauss 1992), to the explosion of media attention on “last speakers” throughout the 1990s, to, in more recent years, the development...


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1. Linguistic Diversity, Sustainability, and the Future of the Past

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pp. 7-22

ONE OF THE MOST STRIKING FEATURES of our world is its astonishing diversity. This diversity is reflected not only in the rich variety of plant and animal species and ecosystems in nature but also in the variety of cultures and languages in human societies. In his inimitable fashion Woody Allen once quipped, “I am [at] two with nature.”1 Allen, of course, is the quintessential...

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2. When Is an “Extinct Language” Not Extinct? Miami, a Formerly Sleeping Language

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pp. 23-34

MANY MIAMI PEOPLE, myself included, experience a paradox when we speak our heritage language, which is said to be “extinct.” But what does it mean to be extinct? While members of the Miami nation have a number of ways of viewing the world, I believe it is fair to assume that we...

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3. Evaluating Endangerment: Proposed Metadata and Implementation

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pp. 35-50

AS AWARENESS OF and concern for the loss of linguistic and cultural diversity has grown in the last two decades (e.g., Craig 1992; Fishman 1988, 1990, 1991, 2000, 2001; Hale 1992a, 1992b; Jeanne 1992; Krauss 1992; Nettle and Romaine 2000; Watahomigie and Yamamoto 1992), so too has interest in finding a way to evaluate the level of endangerment of the world’s...


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4. Endangered Language Varieties: Vernacular Speech and Linguistic Standardization in Brazilian Portuguese

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pp. 53-66

THE CENTRAL MOTIVATIONS for the attention paid to endangered languages by linguists and social scientists are twofold: above all there is concern for language as the embodiment or manifestation of the culture and history of the speakers and for the risk to that social and cultural heritage of a people that language loss entails. In addition, there is the professional...

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5. The Linguistic Negotiation of Complex Racialized Identities by Black Appalachian Speakers

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pp. 67-80

THE DEBATE OVER “where sociolinguistics ‘fits in’ with the main currents of social theory and how it might become more substantively engaged in social theory” has pervaded the consciousness of sociolinguistics since the inception of the discipline (Coupland 2001, 2), and calls for sociolinguistics to advance its relationship with social theory seem recently to have become...

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6. Working at “9 to 5” Gaelic: Speakers, Context, and Ideologies of an Emerging Minority Language Register

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pp. 81-94

SCOTTISH GAELIC is a minority language that has been undergoing language shift since approximately the twelfth century A.D. in Scotland (Withers 1984).1 Gaelic is currently the focus of language planning and revitalization efforts in Scotland. One interesting aspect of these efforts is the emergence of an ethnolinguistically identified Gaelicspeaking middle class...

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7. Voice and Biliteracy in Indigenous Language Revitalization: Contentious Educational Practices in Quechua, Guarani, and Maori Contexts

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pp. 95-110

TWENTY YEARS AGO, I wrote the following, based on my two-year comparative ethnographic study in two highland Quechua communities of Puno, Peru, and their schools, one in the midst of implementing an experimental Quechua–Spanish bilingual program and the other following the traditional Spanish-only curriculum, a study in which I had found...


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8. Endangering Language Vitality through Institutional Development: Ideology, Authority, and Official Standard Irish in the Gaeltacht

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pp. 113-128

CURRENT PERSPECTIVES on language policy suggest that, in order to be effective, governmental planning efforts must be consistent with a given community’s language practices and beliefs along with other contextual forces that are in play (Spolsky 2004) and that official language policies make up only one aspect of what is often a deeply rooted system of overt and...

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9. Scandinavian Minority Language Policies in Transition: The Impact of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages in Norway and Sweden

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pp. 129-144

THIS CHAPTER is devoted to recent developments regarding the situation of linguistic minorities in two neighboring countries in northern Europe: Norway and Sweden. In these countries formerly existing minority language policies, both overt and covert, have been challenged by the Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (or the Charter), which was created...

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10. Language Development in Eritrea: The Case of Blin

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pp. 145-158

Blin, also called Bilin or Bilen, is a Central Cushitic (or Agaw) language of Eritrea with approximately ninety thousand speakers. The Blin are located in the ‘Anseba Administrative Zone, centered around Keren, which is ninety-one kilometers northwest of the national capital, Asmara. Most Blin are agriculturalists, conducting mixed farming and breeding...

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11. Indigenous Language Policies in Social Practice: The Case of Navajo

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pp. 159-172

INDIGENOUS PEOPLES represent 4 percent of the world’s population, yet they speak 60 percent of the world’s languages (Nettle and Romaine 2000, ix, 12). The contexts in which Indigenous languages are spoken are as diverse as humankind itself, spanning language situations such as that of Quechua, spoken by 8 to 12 million people in six South American countries...

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12. Heritage Language Education in the United States: A Need to Reconceptualize and Restructure

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pp. 173-186

IN RECENT YEARS interest in the language proficiency of the U.S. population has increased significantly. Calls for individuals with professional-level proficiency in languages other than English have come from several quarters, and new initiatives and legislative actions focus on proficiency in languages considered critical to U.S. security and economic success. The...

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13. Language Diversity and the Public Interest

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pp. 187-204

THE CASUAL COMMENT of a chatty taxi cab driver to a van full of passengers attending the annual meeting of the Linguistic Society of America encapsulates the popular perception of dialect diversity in American society. On the one hand, language variation is so transparent that it can be assumed that most speakers of English, particularly native speakers but also...


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14. At What Cost? Methods of Language Revival and Protection: Examples from Hebrew

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pp. 205-218

THE THEME of this volume is “sustaining linguistic diversity: endangered and minority languages and language varieties”; thus most chapters focus on how to revive and protect languages that are perceived to be “endangered.” This chapter takes a different approach, discussing how such efforts can in fact entail oppressive, draconic, colonializing, and monopolizing...

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15. Unendangered Dialects, Endangered People

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pp. 219-238

THE TOPIC I deal with here is a difficult one, especially in a forum devoted to the struggle to save endangered languages and support endangered dialects.1 The majority of chapters in this volume are concerned with the problem of how to preserve linguistic and cultural diversity throughout the world. Nothing that I present here should be taken to diminish or undercut...

E-ISBN-13: 9781589014169
E-ISBN-10: 1589014162
Print-ISBN-13: 9781589011922
Print-ISBN-10: 1589011929

Page Count: 246
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: Georgetown University Round Table on Languages and Linguistics series