THE NATURE OF LANGUAGE DEATH Summary of David Crystal (2000). Language death. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Dr. Alicia Pousada 2007
I. What is language death? • The language pool • The size of the problem • Levels of danger
II. Why should we care? • Because we need diversity • Because languages express identity • Because languages are repositories of history • Because languages contribute to the sum of human knowledge • Because languages are interesting in themselves
III. Why do languages die? • Factors which put people in physical danger • Natural disasters leading to death or destruction of habitat • Disease (especially AIDS) • Economic exploitation • Political conflict leading to civil war, ethnic murder, or genocide
Factors which change the people’s culture • Cultural assimilation • Military dominance • Urbanization • Media • Bilingualism • Opposition
Stages of assimilation • Immense pressure on people to speak dominant language • Emerging bilingualism (point at which L1 can be saved) • Shift on part of younger generation • L2 along with shame at using L1 • self-conscious semilingualism L2 monolingualism
Bilingualism as salvation • Dominant language used for outward movement • Dominated language used for inward identity (preserves pedigree) • Healthy bilingualism has 2 languages as complementary not competing • Requires changes in attitudes
Forms of opposition • Open antipathy from governments that see linguistic diversity as divisive-suppression and punishment • Indifference • Folklorization of indigenous languages • Language murder vs. language suicide
Establishing top priorities • Information gathering • Establishing of general theoretical framework • Bottom-up and top-down initiatives • Long term campaign on many fronts simultaneously
Fostering positive community attitudes • Negative attitudes very common among small language speakers • Need to understand reasons for these
Vital to deal with basic physical needs of people before language issues
Role of outsiders • Outsiders have important role in seeing more objectively the language issues and bringing linguistic expertise—also training native linguists
Need for language awareness efforts & preventive linguistics to annihilate linguistic apathy (cf. disease prevention) • Dispelling of myths about language learning • Raising of morale, prestige, self-esteem without falling into elitism
Promoting authenticity of community • All varieties must be recognized • Native speakers must be prepared for changes to language as it expands and takes in outside influences—if not, younger generations won’t continue to use it • Unyielding traditionalism and purism will lead to death • Core of language rescue must be in community and families
Seeing language as part of culture • Issues of group membership and role of language in same • Possibility of cultural continuity despite language shift • Language as pre-eminent but not exclusive badge of ethnicity • Important to provide support for cultural milieu of language
V. What can be done? • Factors which contribute to minority language maintenance • Vary from community to community • Most common • Geographical isolation • Economic self-sufficiency • Little intermarriage • Strong community involvement in education
Most common factors cont… • Strong government policies regarding language protection • Sympathy from language majority population • Presence of professional linguists to render assistance Professor Juan de Dios Yapita Moya, Bolivian linguist and Aymara speaker.
Crystal’s postulates for theory of language revitalization Endangered languages progress if speakers: • Increase prestige within dominant community • Increase wealth relative to dominant community • Increase legitimate power in eyes of dominant community • Have strong presence in educational system • Can write language down • Can make use of electronic technology
Akira Yamamoto’s factors that help maintain and promote small languages (see pp. 143-4)
Role of linguist • Diagnosis and assessment—determination of priorities • Description and analysis—creation of corpus • Intervention and re-assessment • Consideration of people, not just language • Problems of physical danger and interference from opposing forces—very political act
Revitalization team • Only community can ultimately save language • Steps to take (see p. 155-6) • Teamwork necessary • Care to protect and not exploit ownership of language materials
Recent demonstrations on Mother Tongue Day by speakers of the Hindko language in Peshawar, Pakistan, a population of 3,000,000 speakers as of 1993.
Cases of exemplary language revival • Hebrew in Israel • Kaurna in Australia • Cornish in the U.K.
Hebrew Eliezer ben Yehudah, Jerusalem, 1921
German missionaries, Clamor Schürmann and Christian Teichelmann, learned and described the Kaurna language. In 1839, they published a grammar, vocabulary of about 2,000 words, and about 200 translated sentences.
Cornish Reduction of Cornish-speaking areas 1300-1750
Types of Cornish • “Unified Cornish” (1935)-- drawn from Robert Morton Nance’s first full set of grammars anddictionaries • “Kemmyn” (1986)—revisions made by Ken George which dealt with spelling, pronunciation and lexical problems--utilized by Cornish Language Board which has produced most language activity—most common today • “Late Cornish” (1990)– developed by Richard Gendall based on modern vernacular and written forms.
Conclusion • Need for linguistics departments to make language rescue an intrinsic part of training of students • Need for funds to be raised and allocated • Time is running out