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date: 26 April 2017

Abstract and Keywords

Language shift refers to “the gradual displacement of one language by another in the lives of the community members” manifested as loss in number of speakers, level of proficiency, or range of functional use of the language. The contrasting term has traditionally been language maintenance, which “denotes the continuing use of a language in the face of competition from a regionally and socially more powerful or numerically stronger language”. Language shift and language maintenance as a field of inquiry dates back to the earliest days of sociolinguistics, in particular the work of Joshua Fishman—above all, his monumental and groundbreaking Language Loyalty in the United States. Factors contributing to language maintenance and shift are diverse and complex, making the science of prediction elusive if not impossible, though scholars have proposed models and typologies of relevant factors. The issue is, the defining question of the field, how do we predict which languages will shift, which will be successfully revitalized?

Keywords: shift, language shift, language maintenance, sociolinguists, language revitalization, typology

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