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11 Language Loss and Maintenance in Language Contact Situations (1982)

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Chapter Summary

There are a good many possible outcomes of extensive language contact, and by no means all of them include language loss, whether on the community level or on the individual level. One common result of extensive language contact on the community-wide level is language shift, the gradual displacement of one language by another in the lives of the community members. This occurs most typically where there is a sharp difference in prestige and in levels of official support for the two (or more) languages concerned. Two factors which have undoubtedly played a role in the shift characteristic of historic conquest situations have been identified in contemporary cases of impending language extinction as well: pragmatism, and a cultural stance which either does or does not favor language maintenance. Job and career opportunities, or pay scales which reward foreign-language skills, create a more favorable climate for foreign-language learning in the first place.

Keywords: community level; culture; individual level; language contact; language loss; language shift; pragmatism



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