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The correlation between language and wellbeing: preliminary data from a global survey on language revitalization

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Title: The correlation between language and wellbeing: preliminary data from a global survey on language revitalization
Authors: Vogel, Rachel
Pérez-Báez, Gabriela
Issue Date: 04 Mar 2017
Description: Although literature on language revitalization is rapidly growing, it remains heavily focused on case studies and somewhat restricted to the United States, Canada, and Australia. In order to move toward more comprehensive and comparative analyses of revitalization practices worldwide, we have conducted a pilot survey of 26 language practitioners from Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe. The pilot includes 24 questions about the origins of revitalization efforts, their objectives, specific activities, and practitioners’ perceived achievement of their objectives. We present the results of both this survey and a full-scale version that is now underway. Prompted by the theme of ICLDC 2017, we focus on the correlation between language use and the wellbeing of its community of speakers. As Whalen et al. (2016) shows, the language-wellbeing correlation is still an emerging area of research; the earliest study cited is Coe et al. (2004). Since the cases Whalen et al. cite focus on the US, Canada, and Australia, it is not clear whether the correlation extends to other geo-cultural contexts, or reflects particular regional trends or historical patterns. It is also not clear whether the correlation is evident to members of language communities themselves. This is the focus of the present paper. Strikingly, given the findings cited above, none of the respondents in our pilot, even the five from US tribes, overtly recognized a correlation between language use and wellbeing. A possible interpretation of this finding is that the correlation is less salient to revitalization practitioners than it is to researchers. In this case, our results would suggest that more outreach is necessary to disseminate the information cited in Whalen et al. The measurable correlation between language and wellbeing offers strong justification for language revitalization and could help draw support for community initiatives. Alternatively, the pilot survey design might not encourage respondents to express their views about their language’s connection to wellbeing. Although the pilot included a number of open-ended questions about the initiatives’ aims and efforts, we have changed the full-scale survey to provide more opportunities for practitioners to reflect on connections between language and wellbeing. We thus present details and implications of the pilot results as well as preliminary results from the full-scale survey. We also advocate for the pursuit of more socio-culturally and geographically diverse data, in order to facilitate comparative analysis and ultimately increase our knowledge of factors associated with language revitalization at a more global level. References Coe, K., Attakai A., Papenfuss M., et al. 2004. Traditionalism and its relationship to disease risk and protective behaviors of women living on the Hopi reservation. Health Care Women Int. 25(5): 391–410. Whalen, Doug H., Margaret Moss, and Daryl Baldwin. 2016. Healing through language: Positive physical health effects of indigenous language use [version 1; referees: 1 approved with reservations]. F1000Research 2016 5:852 (doi: 10.12688/f1000research.8656.1).
URI/DOI: http://hdl.handle.net/10125/42055
Appears in Collections:5th International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)



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