Sustaining Linguistic Diversity:Endangered and Minority Languages and Language Varieties

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Sustaining Linguistic Diversity:Endangered and Minority Languages and Language Varieties
This book explores how endangered and minority languages from Appalachia and Brazil to Ireland and Eritrea are classified, documented, described, and developed. In the last three decades the field of endangered and minority languages has evolved rapidly, moving from the initial dire warnings of linguists through the explosion of media attention on 'last speakers' to the development and refinement of theoretical frameworks for assessing linguistic health and endangerment. There has also been a swift increase in organizations, funding programs, and community-based efforts, with members of endangered language communities rightly playing an increasingly vocal role. Yet while general interest, scientific investigation, and practical work have exploded, efforts have also become more diffuse and more embedded in academic sub-areas and in local situations. Making connections and comparisons has become more difficult, and there is growing recognition that some of the current terminology, frameworks, and research approaches are inadequate. This volume brings together the work of leading researchers and practitioners around the globe to tackle these increasingly complicated issues. The first section of the book addresses the very definition of 'endangered' or 'minority, ' who makes such classifications, and what is at stake in linguistic, political, and ideological terms. The second part presents best practices in documenting and describing these languages, including the pressing practical question of how to maintain both the trust and confidentiality of the speakers while making data widely accessible. The third section analyzes current practices in developing endangered languages and dialects, especially language revitalization efforts and outcomes-and the human costs and personal sacrifices which may be involved.
Publication Date: 
March 6, 2008