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Indigenous Language Publishing in the North American Context

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Title: Indigenous Language Publishing in the North American Context
Authors: Gref, Emily
Issue Date: 05 Mar 2017
Description: Developing Indigenous literacy is often seen as a key component of successful language revitalization and maintenance programs (Fishman 1991, Watahomigie and McCarty 1997, Bernard 1997, Grenoble and Whaley 2005), particularly in contexts such as North America (i.e., Native American and First Nations communities) where literacy in the language of wider communication is widespread and necessary for participation in daily life. To date, however, there has been no systemic evaluation of the types of literature available to readers of Indigenous languages, the methods of production and distribution, nor the effects of Indigenous literature on perceptions of language prestige. This paper provides a strategic analysis of discoverable and accessible reading material available in Indigenous languages across North America, surveying over 2,100 titles across 80 languages and dialects in North America, taking stock of the state of the art of Indigenous language book publishing and exploring how these publications can affect language attitudes. Cultivating positive language attitudes and language prestige is especially crucial in the North American context, where the great majority of Indigenous languages are highly endangered and most Indigenous people acquire English (or French, in some parts of Canada) as their mother tongue. Likewise, most Indigenous people acquire literacy in English or French first, and are exposed to literature that encompasses a wide variety of subjects, reading levels, and genres. I present the results of the survey of 2,100 Indigenous language publications in North America in terms of the subjects, reading levels, and genres available to Indigenous readers as compared to the literature available in the languages of wider communication, and identify the challenges faced by language revitalization programs that prioritize Indigenous literacy, including the difficulty of expanding literacy beyond the domain of education (Grenoble and Whaley 2005) and the economic hurdles in creating an Indigenous literary tradition. Bernard (1997) in argues that building an Indigenous literary tradition via publishing important for preserving Indigenous languages; I extend this argument by noting the role literature can play in building cultural capital (Bourdieu 1986) and prestige planning, particularly in the North American context where literature is so highly valued. Finally, I highlight some of the features found across successful Indigenous literature publishing endeavors and attempt to provide guidelines for future publishing projects. References Bernard, H. Russell. 1997. ‘Language Preservation and Publishing.’ In Nancy Hornberger (Ed.) Indigenous Literacies in the Americas: Language Planning from the Bottom Up. 139-156. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. Bourdieu, Pierre and Richard Nice (translator). 1986. ‘Forms of Capital.’ Reproduced in Imre Szeman and Timothy Kaposy (Ed.). 2011. Cultural Theory: An Anthology. Wiley-Blackwell. Fishman, Joshua A. (Ed.) 1991. Reversing Language Shift: Theoretical and Empirical Foundations of Assistance to Threatened Languages. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. Grenoble, Lenore A. and Lindsay J. Whaley. 2005. Saving Languages: An Introduction to Language Revitalization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Watahomigie, Lucille J. and Teresa L. McCarty. 1997. ‘Literacy for what? Hualapai literacy and language maintenance.’ In Nancy Hornberger. (Ed.) Indigenous Literacies in the Americas: Language Planning from the Bottom Up. 95-113. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.
URI/DOI: http://hdl.handle.net/10125/42011
Appears in Collections:5th International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)



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