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13 The Ambiguous Arithmetic of Language Maintenance and Revitalization (2011)

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Chapter Summary

Language is well recognized for its special culture carrying capacity, so that learning another language, or keeping up one from your home, gives a gateway to the culture embodied in that language. It is true that when a language gains in practical value, it also gains in speakers: people see a need for it and are willing to go to the trouble of acquiring it. Where smaller languages have been swept into the orbits of expanding languages, language shift has followed in what seems like an irresistible process, creating what many consider a crisis of language endangerment. In committing their time and effort, local-language supporters are testifying to the value that an ancestral, non-mainstream identity has for them. Efforts in support of languages perceived as threatened by their speakers are so widespread that the absence of native-speaker support for a sharply receding language has become a reportable matter.

Keywords: culture; irresistible process; language maintenance; language shift; native-speaker; practical value



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