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Endangered Uralic languages in the (Bermuda) triangle of documentation, theory, and application

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Title: Endangered Uralic languages in the (Bermuda) triangle of documentation, theory, and application
Issue Date: 12 Mar 2015
Description: The relationship between theory, documentation and application can be conceptualised as a triangle in which documentation feeds into theory and theory is realised in application (language education and language policies). In the other direction, theory influences the process of documentation and application produces feedback to theory. Moreover, documentation and application are interconnected: authentic language material, reflecting actual language use, should be used in language teaching and language planning, and language documentation today is inevitably influenced by language teaching and language policies – already because in our days, speakers of endangered languages are more and more often exposed to formal language education and institutional language use.

In the case of the endangered Uralic minority languages, none of these interconnections work properly. In traditional Uralic studies, dominated by the historical-comparative paradigm and the traditions of relatively young national philologies, theory was built on idealisations and reconstructions rather than directly on documented language usages, involving variation and multilingualism. Language education in Uralic minority languages, in turn, has (for diverse political reasons) often been completely absent, or its connections to theoretical linguistics and/or language documentation have (until recently) been very poorly developed. The results and data of Uralic studies are often not accessible in a form which could be used in language education and language revitalisation.

In this presentation, we will focus on some possible means of activating the connections within the triangle model. The relationship between documentation and theory will be illustrated with a brief analysis of the role of multilingualism in Uralic field linguistics. The relationship between theory and applications will be discussed in the light of some recent textbooks of Uralic minority languages and the often-neglected special problematics of teaching heritage languages. Finally, we will discuss the practical effects of language education and language policies on the documentation of language as well as the representation of language diversity in school curricula. The key question is how to promote awareness and information flow between institutions and individuals working at the “tips” of the triangle.

The Uralic languages, covering the broadest possible range of endangerment, from almost extinct to relatively well-established minority languages, offer a wide array of examples of both successful and disastrous practices. Our empirical material comes partly from individual studies, partly from current or recent international research projects: the EU-FP7 projects ELDIA and INNET, and the ESF-EuroBABEL project “Ob-Ugric languages”.
URI/DOI: http://hdl.handle.net/10125/25300
Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Appears in Collections:4th International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)



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