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The Politically Incorrect Guide to Language Death Slide 1 The Politically Incorrect Guide to Language Death Slide 2 The Politically Incorrect Guide to Language Death Slide 3 The Politically Incorrect Guide to Language Death Slide 4 The Politically Incorrect Guide to Language Death Slide 5 The Politically Incorrect Guide to Language Death Slide 6 The Politically Incorrect Guide to Language Death Slide 7 The Politically Incorrect Guide to Language Death Slide 8 The Politically Incorrect Guide to Language Death Slide 9 The Politically Incorrect Guide to Language Death Slide 10 The Politically Incorrect Guide to Language Death Slide 11 The Politically Incorrect Guide to Language Death Slide 12 The Politically Incorrect Guide to Language Death Slide 13 The Politically Incorrect Guide to Language Death Slide 14 The Politically Incorrect Guide to Language Death Slide 15 The Politically Incorrect Guide to Language Death Slide 16 The Politically Incorrect Guide to Language Death Slide 17 The Politically Incorrect Guide to Language Death Slide 18 The Politically Incorrect Guide to Language Death Slide 19 The Politically Incorrect Guide to Language Death Slide 20 The Politically Incorrect Guide to Language Death Slide 21 The Politically Incorrect Guide to Language Death Slide 22 The Politically Incorrect Guide to Language Death Slide 23 The Politically Incorrect Guide to Language Death Slide 24 The Politically Incorrect Guide to Language Death Slide 25 The Politically Incorrect Guide to Language Death Slide 26 The Politically Incorrect Guide to Language Death Slide 27 The Politically Incorrect Guide to Language Death Slide 28 The Politically Incorrect Guide to Language Death Slide 29 The Politically Incorrect Guide to Language Death Slide 30 The Politically Incorrect Guide to Language Death Slide 31 The Politically Incorrect Guide to Language Death Slide 32 The Politically Incorrect Guide to Language Death Slide 33 The Politically Incorrect Guide to Language Death Slide 34 The Politically Incorrect Guide to Language Death Slide 35
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The Politically Incorrect Guide to Language Death

  1. 1. Disclaimer: There’s actually nothing offensive or politically incorrect about this presentation. How boring. 2
  2. 2. Overview 1. The standard story 2. Question the received wisdom 3. Reach the same conclusions Why bother with this exercise? 0 Conclusion: Language shift is complicated. Overly simplistic representations don’t give us the insights we need to address the issue. 3
  3. 3. The Received Story 0 Originally 10,000 0 Responses: languages4 0 Document them before 0 6,909 living languages they die out left10 0 Revitalization and 0 50% - 90% of those will go extinct by 210014, 7 reclamation programs 0 (Some) causes: 0 Government support for 0 Globalization endangered languages 0 Technology 0 Overt political repression 0 Cultural dominance 4
  4. 4. 100,000,0 10,000,00 2,014 1,038 00 to 999, 0 to 99,99 0% 0% 999,999 9,999 1,824 339 0% 1% 1% 1 to 9 1,000,000 0% 2% to 9,999, 895 133 10 to 99 999 5% 5% 5% 0% 100,000 t 304 100 to 99 o 999,999 16% 9 13% 8 16% 39% 77 10,000 to 1,000 to 9 99,999 39% ,999 28% 30% Languages as % of World Languages by Speaker Population10 Population10 5
  5. 5. Endangered Languages3 3,167 currently endangered 6
  6. 6. Language Vitality 9 4% 9% Extinct since 1950 10% Severely endangered Critically endangered Vulnerable 57% 10% Definitely endangered Safe or data-deficient 11% 7
  7. 7. Language Vitality 9 4% 9% Extinct since 1950 10% Severely endangered Critically endangered ??? Vulnerable Data-deficient 10% Definitely endangered Safe Data-deficient 11% ??? Safe 8
  8. 8. Why worry about language death? 0 Value to linguistic science 0 Irreplacable cultural heritage 0 Loss of indigenous knowledge about the world 0 Loss of indigenous perspectives on the world 0 Loss of cultural identity 0 Concommitant decline in biodiversity 0 Language as a human right 0 Benefits of mother tongue education and bilingualism 0 Language death is happening faster now than before 9
  9. 9. A Closer Look at Language Death “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” ~ Mark Twain 10
  10. 10. The Original Languages ante 8,000 BC 0 Neolithic population estimate: 10 million9 0 Hunter-gathering can only support small communities 0 Constant fracturing of groups into new branches 0 Each group speaks a slightly different language variety 0 Received wisdom: 0 < ~500 – 1,000 speakers per language7 0 ~ 5,000 – 20,000 languages as of 10,000 y.a. 11
  11. 11. NSW Department of Education and Communities: 12 http://www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au/shared/abmaps/nations.htm
  12. 12. 0 Question: Languages or dialect continuum? 0 Question: Can we meaningfully compare language statistics from today to the Paleolithic? 13
  13. 13. The Agrarian Revolution 8,000 – 5,000 BC 0 Sedentary lifestyle supports larger communities 0 Languages grow and crowd each other out / absorb other speaker communities 0 Received wisdom: 0 Languages have been continuously on the decline 0 Decrease in # of languages offset by population explosion7 0 Earliest instance of urbanization 0 Renfew-Bellwood Effect – decrease in deep-level diversity, i.e. the number of language families7 14
  14. 14. 0 Question: Is language death a modern phenomenon? 0 Question: Are the causes of language death today compared to in early history different in kind or simply degree? Is language death today a fundamentally different phenomenon? 15
  15. 15. Counting Languages 0 What’s a language? 0 Mutual intelligibility L1 L2 Dialect chain L3 L4 L5 16
  16. 16. Counting Languages 0 What’s a language? 0 Mutual intelligibility L1 L2 L3 L4 L5 17
  17. 17. Counting Languages 0 What’s a language? 0 Mutual intelligibility L1 0 Politics 0 Chinese L2 0 Serbo-Croation L3 = L1 or L2? 0 Language attitudes L3 0 Scandanavian languages L4 L5 18
  18. 18. Counting Languages 0 What’s a speaker? 0 Are the numbers 0 Cultural knowledge = accurate?5 linguistic knowledge 0 Self-reporting 0 Do younger speakers count? 0 Out-of-date data 0 Knowledge of 0 Under-reporting quotes, proverbs 0 Australian Native Title1 0 Do outsiders count? 0 Over-reporting 0 Linguists? 0 A few phrases = speaker 0 Non-ethnic community members? 19
  19. 19. Ecological Metaphors 0 Originally 10,000 0 Responses: languages 0 Document them before 0 6,909 living languages left they die out 0 50% - 90% of those will go 0 Revitalization and extinct by 2100 reclamation programs 0 (Some) causes: 0 Government support for 0 Globalization endangered languages 0 Technology 0 Overt political repression 0 Cultural dominance 20
  20. 20. Ecological Metaphors 0 Language death / extinction 0 Competition 0 Language ecologies 0 Preservation / revitalization 0 Question: Are languages like organisms? How so? Why not? 0 Question: Which of these metaphors are useful? In what ways? 21
  21. 21. Language & Ecology 0 Clear correlation between linguistic and biological diversity16 0 Language ecology – relationship between languages and the people who speak them5, 6 0 Strong version – theory of language competition13 0 Ecolinguistics – branch of language ecology5 0 Discounts notion of competition 0 Focus on connection between language and their ‘habitat’ or social, political, and economic contexts 22
  22. 22. 23
  23. 23. 0 Question: Are the causes of language death and biological extinction the same? 0 Question: Are the metaphors of language competition and ecologies useful? Or do they obscure the issues? 0 Question: Do languages compete/die/have habitats, or do speakers do, or both? 0 Question: What terminology could we use that might more accurately represent these phenomena? 0 Question: Do you think any of the terminology we’ve discussed is offensive or denigrating? 24
  24. 24. 0 Question: Languages naturally change and differentiate from each other over time. Is the rate of linguistic diversification equal to the rate of language shift / death? 0 Question: Should we distinguish different types of diversity? What types? 0 Question: Will dying languages be replaced by new ones? Will the rate of replacement equal the rate of extinction? 25
  25. 25. Language Birth 0 Chinglish (China) 0 Pidgins and creoles 0 Singlish (Singapore) 0 Revitalized languages 0 Sheng (Nairobi) 0 ol (Brazil) 0 Linguistic diversification 0 Latin > 0 Nubi (Arabic: Kenya) Spanish, Catalan, Corsic 0 Afrikaans (S. Africa) an, French, Italian, Galici 0 Gullah (S.E. U.S. coast) an, Mozarabic, Occitan, 0 Krio (Sierra Leone) 0 Kreyol (Liberia) Portugese, Romansh 0 Hatian Creole (Haiti) 0 Regular processes of 0 Patwa (Dominica) historical change 0 Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) 26
  26. 26. Hunting for the Roots of the Language Shift 0 Question: How true are the following statements? 0 ‘Indigenous languages are dying because they can’t express concepts needed for the modern world.’ 0 ‘Indigenous languages are dying because they’re some of the most complex and hardest to learn.’ 0 Question: What is globalization? 0 Is globalization a cause or a result of language shift, or both? 0 How can globalization actually support linguistic diversity? 27
  27. 27. Overt and Covert Causes 0 Natural catastrophes 0 Linguistic nationalism 0 War and genocide 0 Economic conditions 0 Language policy 0 Political autonomy 0 Compulsory education 0 Language attitudes and associations 0 Revitalization efforts? 0 Technology? 28
  28. 28. 0 Question: How is language shift in autochthonous communities similar or different to language shift in immigrant communities? 0 Question: Which is more important for understanding language shift – the language a person speaks, or the language they teach their children? 29
  29. 29. How should we respond? 0 “Let them die in 0 “it is most urgent to peace.”11 document languages before they disappear”7 0 “It is paternalistic of 0 “our global village must linguists to assume that be truly multicultural they know what is best and multilingual, or it for the community.”8 will not exist at all.”14 0 “Patwa is keeping back 0 “Language death is a the children.”15 terrible loss, to all who come into contact with it”5 30
  30. 30. Subjectivity and Language 0 Question: Is the value of language objective or subjective? (Note: subjective ≠ arbitrary) 0 Question: Are languages mutually exclusive? Are they even in direct competition? 31
  31. 31. Conclusion 0 Language endangerment is complicated. 0 (Sorry if you were hoping for a straightforward conclusion.) 0 Overly simplistic representations don’t give us the insights we need to actually address the issue. 0 A great deal more research needs to be done in understanding the precise causes of language shift, so that communities can best address this phenomenon in the way that is most appropriate for them. 32
  32. 32. Contact Information Daniel W. Hieber Rosetta Stone dhieber@rosettastone.com Slides and other presentations available on website: www.danielhieber.com 33
  33. 33. Further Reading 0 EndangeredLanguages.com 0 Dying Words by Nicholas Evans 0 When Languages Die by K. David Harrison 0 ‘Why do languages die?’ by Daniel W. Hieber 34
  34. 34. Sources 1. Boynton, Jessica. 2011. The cost of language mobilisation. SSILA Summer Meeting, Boulder, CO. 2. Crystal, David. 2000. Language Death. Cambridge University Press. 3. Endangered Languages. 2012. The Linguist List at Eastern Michigan University and The University of Hawaii at Manoa. http://www.endangeredlanguages.com 4. Evans, Nicholas. 2010. Dying Words: Endangered Languages and What They Have to Tell Us. Wiley- Blackwell. 5. Grenoble, Lenore A. 2011. Language ecology and endangerment. In Peter K. Austin & Julia Sallabank (eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Endangered Languages. 27-45. Cambridge University Press. 6. Haugen, Einar. 1972. The Ecology of Language: Essays by Einar Haugen. Stanford University Press. 7. Krauss, Michael E. 1992. The world’s languages in crisis. Language 68(1): 4-10. 8. Ladefoged, Peter. 1992. Another view of endangered languages. Language 68(4): 809-811. 9. Lee, R. B. & I. DeVore (eds.). 1968. Man the Hunter. Aldine. 10. Lewis, M. Paul (ed.), 2009. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, 16th edn. SIL International. Online version: http://www.ethnologue.com 11. Malik, Kenan. 2000. Let them die. Prospect, November. Online version: http://www.kenanmalik.com/essays/die.html 12. Moseley, Christopher (ed.). 2010. Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger, 3rd edn. UNESCO. Online version: http://www.unesco.org/culture/languages-atlas/en/atlasmap.html 13. Mufwene, Salikoko S. 2001. The Ecology of Language Evolution (Cambridge Approaches to Language Contact). Cambridge University Press. 14. Nettle, Daniel & Suzanne Romaine. 2000. Vanishing Voices: The Extinction of the World’s Languages. Oxford University Press. 15. Paugh, Amy L. 2012. Playing with Languages: Children and Change in a Caribbean Village. Berghahn Books. 16. Sutherland, William J. 2003. Parallel extinction risk and global distribution of languages and species. Nature 423: 276-9. 35
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