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80% of the world’s population uses only 83 of the world’s languages
Guale and Timucua are now extinctSpanish had to learn the language in order to preach- Established a printing press and cranked out grammars
I see Chomsky as a continuation of structuralismChomsky’s approach makes fieldwork unnecessaryFieldwork was still being carried out, but marginalized
You’ve come too late to learn our language, youshould have come earlier. Nowadays we are anumbered people.~ Marta Kongarayeva (born 1930), Tofa speaker Harrison, K. David. 2007. When Languages Die. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Pat Gabori• One of the last 8 speakers of Kayardild• Passed away in 2009 Evans, Nicholas. 2010. Dying Words. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Boa Sr• Last speaker of Aka-Bo• Passed away in 2010, at age ~85
The Last Speakers of Chitimacha Photos courtesy of the National Anthropological Archives
Overview1. State of Languages Today2. History of the Causes3. History of the Responses4. Language Profile: Chitimacha5. Language Profile: Navajo
How Many Languages?• Depends on how you define language.• Ruhlen (1987) estimates around 5,000.• Grimes (1988) estimates between 6,000- 6,500.• For our purposes, lets assume that there are about 6,000 languages in the world.
The Distribution of Languages in the World• Region # of languages• Asia + Pacific 3,000 (50%)• Africa 1,900 (30%)• Americas 900 (15%)• Europe + Mid. East 275 (4%)
Countries by Number of Languages Image courtesy of Worldmapper.com
Endangered Languages by Region Region # Extinct % Extinct• Siberia/Alaska 45/50 90• USA/Canada 149/187 80• Mesoamerica 50/300 17• South America 110/400 27• Australia 225/250 90• Russia 45/65 70
Critically Endangered Languages UNESCO Atlas of the Worlds Languages in Danger
Languages by Vitality UNESCO Atlas of the Worlds Languages in Danger
• Smallest languages • 8 million3,586 0.2% speakers • Mid-sized languages • 1,200 million2,935 20.4% speakers • Biggest languages • 4,500 83 79.5% million speakers Harrison, K. David. 2007. When Languages Die.
Moribund Languages• Are children learning the language?• “The question for us here is this: how many languages still spoken today are no longer being learning by children? This is a key question, as such languages are no longer viable, and can be defined as moribund, thus to become extinct during the *next+ century…” (Krauss, 1992)
Moribund Analysis• Krauss (1992) estimates, based largely on demographic information, that roughly half the world’s languages will be extinct by the close of the next century.• 3,000/6,000
A Another Analysis:• Consider the conditions where the concentration of languages is the highest.• 9 countries with over 200 languages• How stable are these countries?• How likely are minority language likely to be protected?
The Top Nine Countries• Papua New Gunea 850• Indonesia 670• Nigeria 410• India 380• Cameroon 270• Australia 250• Mexico 240• Zaire 210• Brazil 210(another 13 have 160-100 each)Top 22 countries = 5,000 languages
What leads to language mortality?• Some factors we might expect:• war• genocide• social or economic upheaval• displacement• forced assimilation
Some factors which we might not expect• nation state• universal education• television• radio• newspaper• globalization
What about “safe” languages?• Does official state support protect languages?• About 200 sovereign states• English (45)• French (30)• Spanish (20)• Arabic (20)• Portuguese (6)
Does number of speakers protect languages?• languages with one million speakers – between 200-250 (with a lot of overlap with previous category)• languages with .5 million speakers – about 300• languages with .1 million speakers – about 600
Number of speakers may not be enough protection• Breton had one million speakers in living memory, but now has few children learning it.• Navajo had .1 million a generation ago, but now has a very uncertain future.
Outcome of Analysis• The conclusion is that perhaps as much as 90% of the world’s languages could be extinct in one hundred years.
Compare to biological diversity• Mammals – about 4,400 species. – 326 endangered + threatened. – 7.4% worst case scenario.
Compare to biological diversity• -Birds – about 8,600 species. – 231 endangered and threatened. – 2.7% worst case scenario.
Reasons to be alarmed• Scientific reasons• linguistic diversity• UG – Ubykh (Northwest Caucasian language) – Has over 80 consonants.
Loss of Culture• “Of supreme significance in relation to linguistic diversity, and to local languages in particular, is the simple truth that language— in the general, multifaceted sense—embodies the intellectual wealth of the people who use it.” (Krauss, 1992)
Loss of Culture• “Some forms of verbal art—verse, song, or chant—depend crucially on morphological and phonological, even syntactic, properties of the language in which it is formed. In such cases the art could not exist without the language, quite literally.” (Krauss, 1992)
Cultural reasons• classifiers• kinship systems• space
What to do?• Documentation of endangered languages before they disappear. – Grammar – Lexicon – Corpus of texts – Audio/video of native speakers
For ‘unsafe’ languages• Children still learning the language• Change language policy to support the language and culture of minority language.• Produce pedagogical materials in the endangered language.
Responses to threats to linguistic diversity• Do nothing• Document endangered languages• Engage in revitalization activities
1. The Spanish Missionaries2. Colonial Explorations3. The Boasian Linguists4. The Rise of Generativism5. RevitalizationRESPONSES & REVITALIZATION
The Spanish Missionaries 1500s – 1700s• Alonso de Molina – Nahuatl• Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians each wanted their own Nahuatl grammar• Tradition continued in S. America (Quechua), N. America (Guale, Timucua; Florida), and Brazil• Jesuits were excellent field linguists – Numerous manuscripts lost when they were expelled from Paraguay• By 1700, 21 grammars were published• Missionary work was (and is – SIL) common globallyShobhana L. Chelliah & Willem J. de Reuse. 2011. Handbook of Descriptive Linguistic Fieldwork. Dodrecht: Springer.
Colonial Explorations 1700 – 1900• Jefferson lists (Unkechaug)• Bureau of American Ethnology• Roger Williams – Narragansett (Rhode Island)• Intense interest in comparative linguistics
The Boasian Linguists 1900s – 1950s• Franz Boas – describing each language and culture in its own terms• Sparked a whole cadre of field linguists – Mary Haas – Morris Swadesh – Edward Sapir – Benjamin Lee Whorf – J. P. Harrington – Margaret Mead – Ruth Benedict
The Rise of Generativism 1950s – 1980s• Leonard Bloomfield, Language (1933) – Structuralist linguistics – Comprehensive description of N. American languages – Meaning is irrelevant to understanding how language operates• Noam Chomsky, Syntactic Structures (1959) – Transformational grammar – Universal Grammar (later works) – Introspection as a method
Revitalization 1990s – 2010s• 1992 – Language publishes seminal article – Ken Hale – On endangered languages and the safeguarding of diversity – Ken Hale – Language endangerment and the human value of linguistic diversity – Krauss – The world’s languages in crisis• Training indigenous speakers as linguists (Hale)• Journals (LD&C), Conferences (LD&D, SILS, SSILA), Organizations (FEL, ELF)• Recognition and support from the field
Prehistory – 1940• Lived in the Louisiana area for 2,500 – 6,000 years• Language isolate – possibly the first inhabitants• 1700 – diseases halved the population• ca. 1706 – 1718 – French colonists actively enslaved tribe• 1727 – Chitimacha rediscovered west of Mississippi• 1802 – Jefferson list collected by Martin Duralde• 1881 – 1882 – Documented by Albert S. Gatschet• 1907 – 1920 – Documented by John R. Swanton• 1917 – sold tribal land to the government• 1930 – population dropped to 51 people• 1930 – 1934 – Language documented by Morris Swadesh• 1934 – Chief Benjamin Paul, last expertly fluent speaker, dies• 1940 – Delphine Ducloux, last proficient speaker, dies• Documentation
Revitalization 1990? - 2011• 2000 census – 720 registered Chitimacha• 3 beginner – intermediate speakers• 1995 – Revitalization program begins• 2008 – Chitimacha Rosetta Stone begins – Constructed from Swadesh’s documentation• 2010 – Chitimacha Rosetta Stone released – Being learned by every student in school• 2010 – Preschool immersion program begins• In progress – Chitimacha dictionary and grammar
Navajo Today• Most widely spoken American Indian language• 1970 – 90% of BIA boarding school children spoke Navajo• 1992 – 18% of preschoolers knew Navajo• 2011 – Less than 5% of school-aged children• 2006 – Navajo Language Renaissance• 2010 – Rosetta Stone released• In progress – Navajo workbooks
• It is unfortunately true that very few people (including most of their own speakers) care about the impending demise of small languages. Joshua Fishman 1995. On the limits of ethnolinguistic democracy. p. 60.
Let them die?• What if half the worlds languages are on the verge of extinction? Let them die in peace. Kenan Malik 2000. Let them die. Prospect. November.