Presentation on theme: "Towards a framework for assessing ethnolinguistic sustainability Martin Ehala University of Tartu."— Presentation transcript:
Towards a framework for assessing ethnolinguistic sustainability Martin Ehala University of Tartu
No instrument powerful enough to assess language shift adequately on a large scale has yet been devised. (Clyne 2003: 21) RLS (reversing language shift) is one of the best ones available. Fishman (2001:452) admits that RLS is just the linguistic part of the pursuit of ethnocultural self-regulation, but is cautious as for a broader approach.
Prescribing more institutions, positive attitudes or prestige and active speakers for a threatened language is no better than giving a patient a peptalk, urging him / herto get a good grip on yourself (Fishman 2001:464) Instead, RLS theory helps to establish theoretically grounded priorities for practical RLS activities. Its weak point is the assumption that language shift is a disease.
Language shift is very often a symptom of a more profound change - ethnic identity shift. Although the cure of symptoms may help the patient to last longer, we need to go further to find the cure for the disease. We need to pass the peptalk stage when talking about the causes of the shift. We need a systemic approach to the problem which models the relationships between structural variables influencing ethnolinguistic shift.
Ethnolinguistic sustainability (Su) is a communitys ability to maintain its existence through times. Su is threatened mainly by environmental changes: –Increased contact with powerful outgroups –Loss of the main resources for economy Su is supported by: 1.the strength of the community (number, distribution, wealth, defence, social institutions etc); 2.ethnolinguistic vitality (ability to act as a collective entity)
Where and how to act: 1.To develop a standard assessment system to evaluate comparatively a groups sustainability, including a theory of vitality. 2.To educate potential leaders of techniques how to raise vitality 3.To protect threatened languages from too quick and massive environmental changes (not to create reservations, but to buy time for internal modernisation) 4.To assist modernisation. 5.To continue RLS.
References Fishman, Joshua A (ed) (2001). Can threathened languages be saved? Reversing language shift, revisited: A 21st century perspective. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. Clyne, M. (2003). Dynamics of Language Contact. English and Immigrant Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.