Hieber - Language Endangerment & Nationalism


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Hieber, Daniel W. 2012. Language Endangerment & Nationalism. Invited talk. The College of William & Mary, 27 January.

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  • Harrison's quotes:"Language death typically begins with political or social discrimination against a language or its speakers. This may take the form of official state policies to suppress speech, or it may be benign neglect.“"Faced with such pressures, young speakers […] may abandon their ancestral language. When they grow up, they may fail (or refuse) to transmit it to their children. Many factors can interrupt successful language transmission, but it is rarely the result of free will. The decision tends to be made by the very youngest speakers, 6- and 7-year-olds, under duress or social pressure, and these children then influence the speech behavior of adults in the community. These youngest speakers - acting as tiny social barometers - are acutely sensitive to the disfavored status of their elders' language and may choose to speak the more dominant tongue.“Are there non-political means by which languages die as well?Are some languages inherently superior to others?Do speakers actually ‘abandon’ their language?Must a speaker abandon their language in order to acquire the dominant one?
  • My perspective:Praxeology, the study of human action qua action (basis of things like economics, particularly the Austrian school), public choice theoryLargely two types of language death – voluntary and coercive; these more or less align with economic and politicalNormativity issues – best to put those issues aside until after our analysis is complete
  • A good number of the data-deficient ones are probably endangered as well
  • 80% of the world’s population uses only 83 of the world’s languages
  • A point about data – it’s irrelevantThese numbers and the ones preceeding are all frankly hand-picked by linguistsThey’re meaningless without a theory of language decline
  • This was a new phenomenon – never before had a single language been spoken by so many peopleCeltic – replaced the original European inhabitants (possibly related to Basque); had horse and wheel technologyAkkadian – Assyrian and Babylonian empiresGreek – Alexander’s Greek empire; Byzantine empireHittite – First attested Indo-European language; Hittite empireAramaic – Persian empireSanskrit – Vedic scripts; later adopted by BuddhismArabic – Islamic empire (Caliphates)Latin – replaced the Celtic languages (Caesar conquers Gaul, invades England); Romance descendantsGermanic – Anglo-Saxon (English); invasions of RomeNahuatl – Aztec empire; arrival of Spanish under Hernan CortesQuechua – Incan empire; conquered by Francisco Pizarro
  • Irredentism - From the ideology of nationalism was also born the principle of irredentism, the policy of incorporating historically or ethnically related peoples into the larger umbrella of a single state, regardless of their linguistic differences.By one estimate, just 2 or 3 percent of newly minted "Italians" spoke Italian at home when Italy was unified in the 1860s. Some Italian dialects were as different from one another as modern Italian is from modern Spanish.This in turn prompted the Italian statesman Massimo D'Agelizo (1798–1866) to say, "We have created Italy. Now we need to create Italians."Still, even with this, dialect chains continued (and continue) to be commonIt’s simply not possible for a single linguistic variety to span such a large geographic area for an extended period of timeLook at Latin, and now English – even with global communications, English has fractured
  • Important to remember these are political borders, not linguistic ones- Even in 1898, the linguistic borders still looked a lot closer to the Australia map
  • Public Choice – Applying the insights of economics and praxeology to politics- Those in government follow their incentives as wellNationalism – postcolonial statesCalculation – standards nobody speaksInformation / Composition – Navajo and treatiesComposition – the language of the U.S. is NOT English
  • Sometimes what seems like economic means are actually political meansPuerto Ricans in NYC – belief that the dominant language is betterInhibits their children in the heritage languagePatwa children in DominicaNavajo - Most widely spoken indigenous language north of Mexico1970 – 90% of BIA boarding school children spoke Navajo1992 – 18% of preschoolers knew Navajo2011 – Less than 5% of school-aged children
  • Lingua francas are typically trade languages, which result in a stable, healthy bilingualismTrade generally enhances cultural exchange and intercultural acceptance – it doesn’t diminish itTrade is not a one-way phenomenon; look at the influence of Japanese culture in the U.S.Urbanization has been a persistent force ever since the Agrarian RevolutionEconomies of scale, decreased search costs, increased division of labor which allows for higher productivity and greater wealthNote that this is most frequently (but not always) a completely voluntary process – people prefer the benefits of a city to the benefits of network effects in their language
  • Guale and Timucua are now extinctSpanish had to learn the language in order to preachEstablished a printing press and cranked out grammarsPreviously unheard of – this was a huge boon for the preservation of indigenous languages
  • Jesse Baird Little Doe – Wampanoag
  • Chitimacha
  • I see Chomsky as a continuation of structuralismChomsky’s approach makes fieldwork unnecessaryFieldwork was still being carried out, but marginalized
  • Hieber - Language Endangerment & Nationalism

    1. 1. Daniel W. Hieber Rosetta Stone February 27, 2012Language Endangerment & Nationalism
    2. 2. Pat Gabori• One of the last 8 speakers of Kayardild• Passed away in 2009 Evans, Nicholas. 2010. Dying Words. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
    3. 3. Boa Sr• Last speaker of Aka-Bo• Passed away in 2010, at age ~85
    4. 4. Great Andamanese Languages• Aka-Bo • Extinct• Aka-Bea • Extinct• Akar-Bale • Extinct• Aka-Kede • Extinct• Aka-Kol • Extinct• Oko-Juwoi • Extinct• A-Pucikwar • Extinct• Aka-Cari • Extinct• Aka-Kora • Extinct• Aka-Jeru • 7 speakers (2006)
    5. 5. The Last Speakers of Chitimacha Photos courtesy of the National Anthropological Archives
    6. 6. Question:How does somebody become alast speaker?
    7. 7. More Questions (to think about)• Is this a recent phenomenon?• Should we care more now than previously?• Is it simply that we have the luxury of caring more now?• Is there something qualitatively different between language endangerment today versus in the Neolithic?• Is this a difference in kind or magnitude?
    9. 9. Country Size by Number of Languages Image courtesy of Worldmapper.com
    10. 10. Critically Endangered Languages UNESCO Atlas of the Worlds Languages in Danger
    11. 11. Languages by Vitality UNESCO Atlas of the Worlds Languages in Danger
    12. 12. • 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.
    14. 14. The Original State of Language ante 8,000 BCE • Language itself is 50,000 years old (at least) • Population estimate, dawn of Neolithic: 10 million • Size of communities is capped at several thousand until 5,000 BCE (city-states in the Fertile Crescent) • Most languages had fewer than ~500 speakers • Kayardild – probably never more than ~150 speakers • Gurr-goni – stable 70 speakers for as long as anyone remembers • Number of languages peaked 10,000 y.a. • ~ 5,000 – 20,000 languagesKrauss, Michael. 1998. The scope of the language endangerment crisis and recent responses to it. In Kazuto Matsumura (ed.), Studies in Endangered Languages. Tokyo: Hituji Syobo. 101-113.Evans, Nicholas. Dying Words. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
    16. 16. The Agrarian Revolution8,000 BCE – 5,000 BCE• Shift to sedentary communities• Speaker communities became larger• Decrease in # of languages offset by population expansion• Renfrew-Bellwood Effect • Decrease in deep-level diversity, i.e. the number of unrelated stocks or deep lineages • Decrease in number of language families• First massive extinction of languages• Didn’t happen everywhere • Papua New Guinea still fits the pre-Neolithic model Evans, Nicholas. 2010. Dying Words. Malden, Ma: Wiley-Blackwell.
    17. 17. Languages Outgrow Their Borders3000 BCE – 1500 ACE• Celtic (Europe, prehistory • Arabic (Middle East, North – 51 BCE Africa 622 – 750 ACE)• Akkadian (Mesopotamia • Latin (Europe, North ca. 2250 – 500 BCE) Africa, Middle East 753• Greek (Balkans, Persia, BCE onward) Eastern Europe 1600 BCE • Germanic (Northern – 1453 ACE) Europe (ca. 500 BCE• Hittite (Turkey 1750 – onward) 1180 BCE) • Mandarin (221 BCE• Aramaic (Mesopotamia ca. onward) 700 BCE onward) • Nahuatl (Central Mexico• Sanskrit (Southern Asia 600 – 1519 ACE 500 BCE onward) • Quechua (South America ca. 1100? ACE – 1572)
    18. 18. The Rise of the Nation-State(1500 – 1900)• Portuguese – Brazil, Southern Africa• Dutch – Indonesia, South Africa, New England• French – Europe, West Africa, North America, Madagascar• Russian – Northern Asia• English – North America, India, Eastern Africa, Australia• Nationalism old & new• Irredentism
    19. 19. World Empires - 1800
    20. 20. World Empires - 1898
    22. 22. The Political Means(1900 – today)• Public choice theory / praxeology• No language policy is neutral • State monopolies • Calculation problems (Misean) • Information problems (Hayekian)• Fallacies of composition • Nationalism and national language • Imagined communities• Institutionalization of coercion • English-Only legislation • Compulsory education
    23. 23. Paved with Good Intentions• Konmité Pou Etid Kwéyòl (KEK) – Dominica (Patwa)• Native Title Legislation – Australia• No Child Left Behind (NCLB) – United States• New Yoricans – Puerto Rico > New York City• BIA Schools – United States
    24. 24. The Three Generations ofLanguage Loss1. Elders • Fluent speakers • First to be affected by societal changes (schooling or urbanization) • Push their children to focus on the dominant language (can be defensive or economic)2. Adults • Conversant but with non-standard grammar • Possibly limited to receptive language skills only • Often semi-speakers of both languages (leads to creolization) • Unaware of language shift; defaults to dominant language • Lack economic resources (broad sense) to devote to language • Possibly denegrate their heritage language (peer pressures)3. Children / Young Adults • Little to no heritage language • Wish they were taught the language • Have the economic resources (broad sense) to devote to language
    25. 25. The Economic Means (& Others)• Killer languages?• Globalization?• Technology?• Trade?• Urbanization?
    27. 27. 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.
    28. 28. Colonial Explorations1700 – 1900• Jefferson lists• Bureau of American Ethnology• Roger Williams – Narragansett (Rhode Island)• Intense interest in comparative linguistics
    29. 29. The Boasian Linguists1900s – 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
    30. 30. The Rise of Generativism1950s – 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
    31. 31. Revitalization1990s – 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
    32. 32. Should We Care?• Should no language ever go extinct? What would that look like?• Are there qualitatively different types of language death?• Is there a difference in kind between language death in the past and language death today?• Should we care about all language death or just some?
    33. 33. Contact Information Daniel W. Hieber Associate Researcher, Rosetta Stone Labs (540) 236-7580 dhieber@rosettastone.com www.danielhieber.com