This afterword looks back over the articles in the book, using a developmental metaphor to identify the stage that endangerment linguistics seems to have reached. Pure and applied aspects of the subject are identified. It reviews some of the myths associated with endangerment studies, and brings together themes addressed in various chapters, such as rate of loss, the nature of collaboration, and community concerns. Several chapters explore exactly what is involved in such notions as intergenerational transmission, immersion, minority status, contact situations, correctness, and metadata. A comparative perspective is seen to be of particular importance, with the emergence of a more standardized methodology for data gathering and description, and fresh opportunities for hypothesis testing and case studies, especially in a digital world. Terminological issues are also addressed, especially the mind-set switch from endangerment to empowerment.
There are many paths language revitalization can take, but they are not mutually exclusive. A central aspect of language revitalization is the creation of new speakers. One path is for families to learn and transmit the endangered language at home. Schools are major venues for language learning. Language nests and immersion schools have been especially effective. Adult language education has also become a critical part of language revitalization. Universities and “bootstrap” methods such as the Master-Apprentice Program have been able to bring adults to high proficiency. Linguistic archives have been useful for access to language, especially when there are no speakers left. Modernization of the language is also unavoidable, including new vocabulary and the development of writing systems if necessary. Most importantly, language revitalization should involve increased use of the language, by native speakers and learners alike.
Nala H. Lee and John R. Van Way
The need for accurate measures of language endangerment is now more important than ever, given the global problem of language endangerment. In this chapter, different vitality measures are introduced and their advantages and disadvantages are discussed. In particular, this chapter draws attention to the Language Endangerment Index. Learning from the strengths and weaknesses of previous approaches, LEI was developed for assessing the level of endangerment for any language in the world. It takes into account four separate factors: intergenerational transmission, absolute number of speakers, speaker number trends, and domains of use. LEI combines these four factors to obtain an overall rating, which can be used for quick reference or comparison. The scale also generates a certainty level, based on how many of the four factors were used in the assessment, which allows it to be used and interpreted accurately, even when little is known about a language’s situation.
Christopher P. Dunn
Climate change is arguably one of the most pressing issues facing humanity. The implications for natural ecological (terrestrial and marine) and agricultural systems are enormous. The diminishment and extinction of native species and the increase in number and impact of invasive species are well documented. As natural systems are altered, the local communities and indigenous groups that have co-evolved with, and depend on, native plants and animals are challenged to maintain their integrity and livelihoods. Thus, the erosion of biological diversity can lead directly to the erosion of cultural and, thusly, linguistic diversity. Here the ramifications of climate change with respect to cultural and language endangerment are examined, with particular emphasis on island systems, ecological calendars, civil conflict, and migration. Strong mitigation and adaptation strategies will be essential for cultural and language survival.
Gabriela Pérez Báez, Rachel Vogel, and Eve Okura
Language revitalization aims at reversing language shift. This chapter seeks to expand knowledge about ongoing efforts to sustain the use of languages by means of a study that goes beyond the relatively limited number of often cited case studies that have been reported in the relevant literature, and endeavors to document the diversity of efforts around the world for the purposes of comparative analysis. The authors report on the results of a pilot of the Global Survey of Language Revitalization Efforts carried out by Recovering Voices (National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian) in collaboration with the Linguistics Department at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. This survey is, to their knowledge, the first attempt at analyzing revitalization comparatively across cultural and geographic contexts to shed light on correlations among variables that foster positive outcomes in language revitalization—and on correlations that may represent challenges.
Kenneth L. Rehg
Dictionaries play an essential role in documenting and conserving endangered languages. However, many such languages lack dictionaries, for a variety of reasons. A fundamental one is that relatively few linguists have had any training in lexicography. The purpose of this chapter, therefore, is to provide a preliminary guide to compiling a dictionary by envisioning that task as the production of a product. The creation of any successful product entails at least five steps—research, preliminary planning, design and construction, distribution, and support. Each of these steps is briefly discussed here, with an emphasis on dictionary design, described in terms of the dictionary’s macrostructure, microstructure, and megastructure. Legal and ethical issues are also briefly considered. The primary goal of this chapter is to urge researchers to undertake the creation of a dictionary, and to provide them with a conceptual framework to do so.
David Harmon and Jonathan Loh
Numerous studies have confirmed that there is a striking congruence between the global distributions of species diversity and language diversity. In both, richness and diversity generally increase at latitudes closer to the Equator. A variety of explanations has been offered; fundamentally, it appears that similar evolutionary processes, working on key biogeographic and environmental factors, are the cause. Advances in statistical analysis promise a deeper understanding of the overlap. The status of and trends in species and language diversity also show remarkable similarities when two leading indicators, the Living Planet Index and the Index of Linguistic Diversity, are compared at a global scale. Likewise, an analysis using IUCN Red List criteria reveals comparable levels of threat. At regional scales, however, differences emerge between trends. An integrated, biocultural approach to conservation is proposed as the most effective response to the parallel extinction crisis of species and languages.
This chapter analyzes the specific characteristics of corpora of endangered languages from a corpus linguistic perspective. Therefore it starts with a definition of the central notions of corpus and text and then investigates how the heterogeneous language documentation corpora may fit into a general typology of corpora. The third section looks at the genres and registers that for methodological and theoretical reasons are typical for language documentations, whereas the fourth section deals with the structure of corpora and how texts of a particular content, genre or register can be accessed in archives. The format of the texts, which are typically annotated audio and video recordings, is described in the fifth section and deals with metadata, transcription, orthography, translation, glossing, and syntactic annotation. How annotated corpora can be analyzed for grammatical and lexical research is shown in the sixth section. The last section summarizes the specific features of language documentation corpora.
Anthony K. Webster
This article argues for the continuing importance of ethnopoetics/cultural poetics in the work of linguists and anthropologists. A heuristic definition of ethnopoetics (or cultural poetics) is given as the various traditions of such recurrent patternings of linguistic forms (and the thwarting of such expectations of such patternings). The continuing relevance of a Hymesian-inspired anthropological philology is noted. After framing the discussion of poetry and poetics as both linguistic and ethnographic questions, this article engages questions of linguistic relativity and its relationship to poetics, as well as poetry and poetics as social practices. Examples of parallelism and metaphor are given and discussed both in relation to their poetic form and to their social work. A final extended illustration is given concerning Navajo poetry as an example of a cultural poetics informed by both linguistics and anthropology. It is argued that research on cultural poetics/ethnopoetics encourages patience and reflection.
Academic work with endangered languages has been criticized for failing to consider speech community members' needs. Recent calls to better integrate speech community needs have led many researchers to explore the notion of collaborative language documentation. This chapter outlines phases in the planning and implementation of a community-collaborative language documentation project drawing from models of sustainable community development and the author’s own experience working with members of the Konomerume, Suriname community. The emphasis is on working with members of a speech community from the outset of a project rather than on “giving back” after academic needs have been met. Collaborative language documentation is defined, phases of a project are described, and potential challenges are discussed.
The goal of this chapter is to provide a blueprint for planning a language documentation project. The scope is limited to the documentation of languages with average vitality but the chapter has relevance to other levels of endangerment as well. Language documentation is improved by key partnerships. By seeking out a supportive network of similarly motivated researchers, the language documenter can learn how to sequence and budget for documentation activities and how to plan workflow and data management so that dissemination and archiving goals are met. Implementing a documentation project as a lone academic or community member is possible, but having partners with complementary expertise can lead to the best results. Creating such teams requires funding and infrastructure so seeking out financial and institutional support is also part of the planning process for a documentation project.
Speakers of the world’s endangered languages are rapidly gaining access to broadband internet on mobile devices. Meanwhile, social mobile technologies continue to transform the way people work together. I believe that conditions are ripe for the development of a new generation of software for endangered languages. This software will enable new ways for linguists to collaborate with speakers in ancestral homelands and worldwide diasporas to produce high-quality large-scale documentation. This chapter sets out a conceptual framework and describes some concrete steps for designing mobile applications for endangered languages, recognizing the special challenges they present, such as reliance on oral materials, lack of established orthography, and lower digital literacy.
This chapter addresses the relationship between language documentation and linguistic theory, focusing on linguistic typology and formal grammar, with particular attention to the understanding of linguistic diversity. It reviews the goals of documentation and of the theories under consideration, and outlines the types of data considered in documentation as well as preferred data types in the two theoretical perspectives. It concludes that, while the questions and preferred types of data are different in linguistic typology and formal grammar, nevertheless language documentation has made strong contributions to each of them, and each of them has made strong contributions to language documentation.
This chapter provides an introduction to endangered sign languages specifically designed for linguists who know little about sign languages but who may have an interest in the documentation of endangered sign languages. Focusing on ten Southeast Asian sign languages, nine of which are endangered or dying and six of which are being documented by fluent Culturally Deaf users trained through the Asian-Pacific Sign Linguistics Program in The Centre for Sign Linguistics and Deaf Studies at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, this chapter provides information about: the historical relationships of these sign languages, sign language phonology, “alphabetization” of signs by formational parameters, sign language morphology, sign language syntax, and sign language lexicons and lexicography. Finally, the chapter provides some discussion about the possible future of the documentation, conservation, and possible revitalization of endangered sign languages.
The increasing emphasis that linguistics has placed on the documentation and revitalization of the world’s endangered languages has brought more scholars of language into contact with communities whose cultures, needs, and interests diverge greatly from their own. Moreover, in many countries, research involving human subjects has become the target of increasing scrutiny, and the rise of digital means of information dissemination that has made contemporary documentary linguistics possible has foregrounded issues of rights and access to language resources. These contexts of “culture clash” have prompted serious considerations of ethical practices in documentation and revitalization. This chapter looks at these issues through the examination of five case studies which clarify the ideological underpinnings of key ethical concerns in language documentation and revitalization. Insights from the previous literature are incorporated into the discussion, and additional topics such as archiving and compliance with institutional regulations are also discussed.
The funding of documentation and revitalization projects within the field of endangered languages can be challenging. There are few, but significant, sources that are directed toward this effort worldwide. For this chapter, two potential audiences are recognized: (1) those who may be seeking funding for the first time and could use some general guidelines to get started and (2) those who may have had previous funding but need to think about some new ways to expand on it. In either case, it is good to be mindful of the basics of good grant writing. This chapter offers some general guidelines and some specific strategies to help researchers and community members alike strategize their funding efforts. The chapter concludes with an appeal for more language activism aimed at encouraging more funding for endangered languages worldwide.
Richard Rhodes and Lyle Campbell
How is language documentation defined and what constitutes language documentation? What counts as having an adequate language documentation, and how is that assessed? In this chapter we address these questions and attempt to provide useful perspectives on what must go into answering them.
Teresa L. McCarty
Drawing on the international literature in language planning and policy, this chapter examines Indigenous language rights. Like the diagnostic “miner’s canary,” the rights accorded or denied to Indigenous peoples reflect larger issues of equity and justice for minoritized- and endangered-language communities. The chapter begins with background on Indigenous peoples, their distinctive status as originary peoples and inherent sovereigns, the present state of Indigenous language vitality and endangerment, and the stakes involved in Indigenous language loss and reclamation. Following is an examination of research and practice in Indigenous language rights. A third section examines those rights in a key public domain: education. The chapter concludes with the implications of this work for the revitalization and sustainability of Indigenous languages and their associated cultural and knowledge systems. An aspirational alternative to the “miner’s canary” metaphor is offered, in which language rights are rooted in the principle and practice of Indigenous self-determination.
Alice Taff, Melvatha Chee, Jaeci Hall, Millie Yéi Dulitseen Hall, Kawenniyóhstha Nicole Martin, and Annie Johnston
Supported by qualitative eyewitness accounts and reported quantitative experimental evidence, this chapter makes a case that using Indigenous languages has beneficial effects on the health of descendant language users. The chapter draws connections between traditional lands–culture–language, and suggests that the oppression of each of these affects the well-being of the people. Quantitative data correlates language use with lower suicide rates, diabetes symptoms, and reduction in risk factors for youth. Being bi- or multilingual, not necessarily in an ancestral language, appears to improve cognitive function throughout the life of an individual, and maintain gray and white matter such that aging of the brain is delayed. The chapter concludes with suggestions for action.
Documenting the linguistic practices of an endangered-language community necessarily crosses the boundaries of fields other than linguistics, as these practices encode a rich knowledge of the natural world. In pursuing a language documentation project linguists will encounter questions which cross into the domains of biology, astronomy, geology, mathematics, nutrition, agriculture, and more. Adequate recording of these domains requires collaboration with specialists from relevant disciplines, in order to ensure that the resulting documentation is useful to a broad range of scholars. Interdisciplinary language documentation brings additional benefits in the form of insights which can be gained only when indigenous language experts work with disciplinary peers. This chapter outlines some of the benefits of interdisciplinary language documentation as well as some of the challenges and suggestions for overcoming those challenges. Examples of interdisciplinary fieldwork are illustrated through case studies in ethnobotany, cultural astronomy, and ethnomathematics.