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A Tale Of Two Worlds: A Comparative Study Of Language Ecologies In Asia And The Americas

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Title: A Tale Of Two Worlds: A Comparative Study Of Language Ecologies In Asia And The Americas
Authors: Anonby, Stan
Eberhard, Dave
Issue Date: 05 Mar 2017
Description: A common notion among those working in endangered language documentation and maintenance, is that most communities speaking small, endangered languages pattern in a similar way. Having spent most of our careers studying minority and endangered languages in the Americas, we the authors, came to share this notion. For example, we believed that preserving the language in the home domain was essential for its survival (Fishman, 1991). Another pattern we saw from the Americas was that literacy could have the effect of speeding up language shift (Fishman, 2002; Luykx, 2011). In 2013, we moved to Borneo and Thailand, respectively, and began studying minority languages there. There were several ways we gained access to information about Asian languages. (1) One of the writers spent almost three years immersed in one minority community, (2) Another writer supervised linguistic theses at a Thai university, (3) We conducted language surveys, and (4) We held sociolinguistic workshops involving several tribes in various places in Asia. Our work in Asia, has brought us to the gradual realization that we are dealing with very different ecologies than those in the Americas. We have identified fourteen traits that characterize ecologies in general, and explain how they are expressed in the Americas versus Asia. They are as follows: (1) Size/prestige gap, (2) Literacy rate, (3) Literacy transference: L2 to L1, (4) Literacy domain, (5) Literacy/shift connection, (6) Elders’ criticism/shift connection, (7) Language/culture connection, (8) L2 in home/shift connection, (9) Multilingualism/shift connection, (10) Target of shift, (11) National identity, (12) Diglossia, (13) Genetic relationship L1/L2, and (14) Colonial history. Interestingly, the effects of these factors play out very differently. In the Americas, they tend to contribute to language shift. In Asia, they set the stage for language maintenance. We discuss linguistic values in the Americas, and explain how these are more favorable to language shift. Then we talk about values in Asia, and show how these are more conducive to language maintenance. In our paper we apply these fourteen traits to two groups, the Mamainde from Brazil and Sebuyau from Malaysia. These languages represent somewhat prototypical examples from each area. They also respond in opposite ways to the fourteen traits discussed in the paper. We conclude with some comments about how these traits can be useful for those engaged in language development work. References Fishman, J. A., 1991, Reversing language shift, Clevedon, UK, Multilingual Matters Ltd. Fishman, J. A. 2002. Personal communication, 6 October 2002. Luykx, Aurolyn. 2011. “Paradoxes of Quechua Language Revitalization in Bolivia: Back and Forth along the Success-Failure Continuum.” In Handbook of Language and Ethnic Identity. v. 2, The Success-Failure Continuum in Language and Ethnic Identity Efforts, edited by Joshua Fishman
URI/DOI: http://hdl.handle.net/10125/41983
Appears in Collections:5th International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)



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