Language shift and linguistic insecurity

Abtahian, Maya Ravindranath
Quinn, Conor McDonough
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University of Hawai'i Press
Variation in language is constant and inevitable. In a vital speech community some variation disappears as speakers age, and some results in long-term change, but all change will be preceded by a period of variation. Speakers of endangered languages may perceive variation in an especially negative light when it is thought to be due to contact with the dominant language. This contributes to negative evaluations of young people’s speech by older speakers, and in turn contributes to the linguistic insecurity of young speakers, which may result in even further shift toward the dominant language. In this paper we discuss language variation in the context of shift with respect to the notion of linguistic insecurity and what we identify as three distinct types of linguistic insecurity, particularly in cases of indigenous language loss in the Americas. We conclude with some observations on the positive results of directly addressing linguistic insecurity in language maintenance/revitalization programs.
Ravindranath Abtahian, Maya and Connor McDonough Quinn. 2017. Language shift and linguistic insecurity. In Hildebrandt, Kristine A., Carmen Jany, and Wilson Silva. (Eds) Documenting Variation in Endangered Languages. Language Documentation & Conservation Special Publication no. 13. [PP 137-151] Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press
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