Presentation on theme: "Language death, maintenance and revival"— Presentation transcript:
1 Language death, maintenance and revival people stop speaking a language and start speaking another – language shiftIf every speaker shifts the language is no longer spoken anywhere – language death
2 Language deathVery old – languages replaced by Latin and Greek in the Roman Empire, Arabic in West AsiaDistinction – slow peaceful change as a language changes into another – Latin – French and Italian – Sanskrit – Hindi and Punjabi – Classical Malay – Modern Malay – is not language death
3 continued Language death – one language is replaced by another Death of speakers – Australian Aborigines, Native Tasmanians and Native Caribbeans – mainly by diseaseMost frequently – all speakers shift to other languages – Australia and Americas
4 Language Suicide Gradual replacement by a closely related language Decreolisation in the CaribbeanMaybe Tok Pisin in PNG
5 Causes of deathOccasionally by force – boarding school policy for American Indians from 1890sSometimes disease (Tasmania), flood, earthquakes, AIDS in Africa
6 continuedMore often cultural and economic – migration to cities, intermarriage, education, conversion to scriptural religionsEconomic rewards for language death – social and cultural penalties for speaking old language
7 continuedAcceleration with rise of modern empires – French, English, Russian -- and migration(note also simultaneous rise of new languages, pidgins and creoles and new varieties – New Englishes)
8 Today6-10,000 world languages – at least half threatened with extinctionOne century or two – only languages left?Any language with less than 1 million (100?) speakers is in danger of extinctionEspecially Americas, Africa, Australia
9 Examples California – 98 indigenous languages Shift to Spanish before 19th C., then English45 -- no fluent speakers17 – 1-5 speakers in 200136 spoken by old people0 spoken by children
10 continued World -- at least 400 languages have only elderly speakers E.g. Busuu (Cameroon) – 8Lipan Apache (US) – 2 or 3Wadjigu (Australia) – 1?Maybe one died while you were writing
11 Who are the murderers?European languages --English, Spanish, PortugueseRegional languages – Hausa, Swahili, MalayOther local languages – esp. in Africa
12 When does a language die? Common sense – when the least speaker dies (or penultimate?)But Cornish died in 1696 (last monoglot speaker), 1777 (last native speaker), early C19th (last naturalistic learner), 1891 – last student of a native speaker (?) – 1940s Cornish words used for counting fish
13 Is there a life after death? Dead languages may survive as languages of religion – Coptic, some languages of the Roman Empire – prophecies, magic and ceremony -- ManxOften provide words for local animals and plants and geographyE.g. mysterious place names in Britain
14 continuedKhoisan languages in southern Africa – words to Zulu and English – gogga (insect) kudu (antelope)North American English – moose and squash (Narragansett), raccoon, pecan hickory (Powhatan), skunk (Abenaki)
15 continuedAustralian English – dingo, koala, wallaby (Dharuk) – also boomerangTaino (Caribbean) – maize, cassava, yuccaArawak (Caribbean) – cannibalWords for counting sheep in N. England – Celtic language dead for 1000 years
16 Consequences2003 UNESCO paper – language death results in the loss of unique biological and ecological knowledgeReduces knowledge about human language and mindDeath of unique cultures
17 continuedSapir-Whorf hypothesis – language determines culture e.g. Hopi – lack of a sense of timeBut criticisedClose relationship of Australian languagesContradicted by Chomsky and UG
18 Distinctive features of languages Hawaian – no consonant clusters – only five vowelsKhoisan – clicks
19 Loss of local knowledge North Frisian – word for pituitary gland indicated awareness that stress damages the glandAmazon -- place names indicate where fish can be foundAfrica – Names for plants indicate medicinal properties
20 Military value?US army – codes in Navaho – also Cherokee (WWI) and ZuluRedundant now?
21 Can dying languages be maintained? Serious attempts from mid-20th century in US, Australia, EuropeSubjects in school, media, educationSuccess is limited – economic and cultural factors in North America and Australia
22 continued Absence of realistic domain except ceremonial and political Requires motivation to overcome economic disadvantagesAt best – will be used in formal situations
23 continuedSuccess requires political support – usually absent with small languagesAlso fairly large populationSuccess stories – French in Canada, Welsh, Maori, Hawaian, Catalan, IrishBecomes a taught second language
24 Canada Language shift from French to English reversed Coercion – signboards – immigrants and minorities required to be taught in French – control of immigrationRequired control of provincial govt.Signs that shift is starting again
25 Ireland Shift from Irish to English almost complete by 1920s Govt required signs in 2 languages – pass in Irish for govt employment – economic subsidies to Irish speaking areasRevival as a taught 2nd language – continued decline as a 1st language
26 continuedLanguage death can be prevented or language death reversed ifSupporters control local or national govtGroup is distinct for historical or ethnic reasonsLanguage is culturally valued
27 Is revival possible? Can a dead language be revived? Maybe Hebrew in Israel? – but exceptionalReligious and cultural valueTradition of language shiftRejection of spoken languagesContinued written and formal useMaybe modern Hebrew a new language
28 continuedDead languages may be studied as a hobby (Cornish), symbol of group identity (Sanskrit) or for religious reasons (Coptic)But no (maybe one) examples of real revivalLanguage creation is just as pointless.
29 Problems Some dead languages not written Some died before they could be recorded (Cornish)Even if recorded may be problems – last speaker of Dalmatian had no teeth (dental fricatives?)Which variety? – from what period?
30 Final observationNew varieties come into existence – Beduin Sign language – pidgins – new dialects – New EnglishesIn time may become languages – laissez-faire policy for language birth as well as language death?