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Language vitality among school students in Ayutla Mixe

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Title: Language vitality among school students in Ayutla Mixe
Authors: Romero-Mendez, Rodrigo
Issue Date: 04 Mar 2017
Description: In this paper I will show the results of three tasks for assessing the vitality of Ayutla Mixe (AyMi), a Mixe-Zoque language spoken in Southern Mexico. Particularly, it discusses the vitality among primary and secondary school students. According to the official numbers, as of 2010, there were around 136,736 Mixe speakers in Mexico. However, this number refers to a subgroup of languages as diverse as Romance; the number of speakers for each Mixe language is smaller. Just taking into account the absolute number of speakers can be misleading (Dwyer 2011). Most importantly, the Mexican Government does not have a reliable method for obtaining information about the number of speakers of indigenous languages. Also, it does not say anything regarding the speakers’ proficiency or the domains in which the language is used. As will be shown, taking into account the UNESCO’s nine factors in language vitality (UNESCO 2003), AyMi is endangered. Since intergenerational transmission of the language is not uniform (Grenoble & Whaley 2006), a growing number of families are favoring Spanish over Mixe. AyMi is between the level 6 and 7 on Fishman’s (1991) Graded Intergenerational Disruption Scale. This paper focuses on the vitality of the language among primary and secondary school students in order to have a better understanding of the vitality of the language in the “next generation”. The data for this paper comes from three different sources: a questionnaire, a picture elicitation task and a set of instructions and interactions in Mixe. Some methodological issues will be discussed. The number of Spanish monolingual speakers among those kids is higher than the census reports. Many kids learned Spanish in their homes and do not speak Mixe to parents or grand parents. Even those who can speak Mixe only use Spanish to communicate with friends. I discuss the relationship between language assessment, documentation and revitalization, since the vitality of the language should be linked to the production of materials derived from documentation projects. Particularly, it is used to determine whether a monolingual or a bilingual dictionary is needed. One of the reasons why the assessment was focused on students is because schools could be a natural environment where people would use a dictionary. This paper is among the first ones that focus on assessing the vitality of any Mixe language. References Dwyer, Arienne M. 2011. Tools and techniques for endangered-language assessment and revitalization. In Vitality and Viability of Minority Languages. New York: Trace Foundation Lecture Series Proceedings. Fisherman, Joshua. 1991. Reversing Language shift. Clevendon: Multilingual Matters. Grenoble, Lenore & Lindsay Whaley. 2006. Saving Languages. An Introduction to Language Revitalization. Cambridge: CUP. UNESCO Ad Hoc Expert Group on Endangered Languages. 2003. Language vitality and endangerment. Document submitted to the International Expert Meeting on UNESCO Programme Safeguarding of Endangered Languages, Paris, 10-12 March 2003.
URI/DOI: http://hdl.handle.net/10125/42051
Appears in Collections:5th International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)



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