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8 Abrupt Transmission Failure in Obsolescing Languages: How Sudden the ‘Tip’ to the Dominant Language in Communities and Families? (1986)

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Chapter Summary

In general the twentieth century seems to be notable for the large number of languages which are either obviously dying out or showing marked signs of contraction such as simplifying structure, functional restriction, and loss of speakers at the margins of the community. Where there is a deep gulf between the minority-language group and the dominant-language group, as with certain Native American tribes, the home language may be jealously guarded from members of the majority language group, treated along with things like religious ceremonials as a privileged form of in-group knowledge, not to be casually exposed to outsiders or shared with them. There are entire societies in which the home language has good standing but has been traditionally restricted in use without any threat to its ultimate viability and of course quite a lot of societies exist in which the language of highest prestige is not the local language.

Keywords: community; dominant-language group; functional restriction; loss of speakers; minority-language group; simplifying structure



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