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Documenting variation in (endangered) heritage languages: how and why?

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Title:Documenting variation in (endangered) heritage languages: how and why?
Authors:Nagy, Naomi
Date Issued:01 Jun 2017
Publisher:University of Hawai'i Press
Citation:Nagy, Naomi. 2017. Documenting variation in (endangered) heritage languages: How and why. In Hildebrandt, Kristine A., Carmen Jany, and Wilson Silva. (Eds) Documenting Variation in Endangered Languages. Language Documentation & Conservation Special Publication no. 13. [PP 33-64] Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press
Series:LD&C Special Publication
Abstract:This paper contributes to recently expanded interest in documenting variable as well as categorical patterns of endangered languages. It describes approaches, tools and curricular developments that have benefitted from involving students who are heritage language community members, key to expanding variationist focus to a wider range of languages. I describe aspects of the Heritage Language Variation and Change Project in Toronto, contrasting a “truly” endangered language to a less clearly endangered language. Faetar, with <700 homeland speakers (in Italy) and some 200 in Toronto, and no transmission to a third generation in Toronto, is endangered by any definition. Heritage Italian, in contrast, is a diasporic variety related to a robust homeland variety as well as the mother tongue of 166,000 Torontonians. However, reports of strong English influence on the language and transmission statistics both suggest that it too is endangered in Toronto. Homeland and Heritage patterns are compared to better understand the processes of language variation and change in lesser-studied varieties, with a focus on null subject patterns. Analysis of the more endangered language helps interpret otherwise ambiguous patterns in the less endangered language. Results indicate that neither heritage language exhibits the simplification anticipated for small languages in contact with a majority language.
Rights:Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike License
Appears in Collections: LD&C Special Publication No. 13: Documenting Variation in Endangered Languages

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