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16 Bi- and Multilingualism in Minority and Endangered Languages (2004)

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Chapter Summary

Languages regarded as endangered are in most cases the languages of minority peoples within the state where the population in question lives. The outlook for endangered minority languages is linked to the willingness of minority peoples to sustain the bi- or multilingualism that characterizes many of them now or to cultivate it deliberately in those cases where the ancestral language has become the valued possession only of the elderly. Such willingness is as much a matter of ideology and cultural values as of objective factors like population size, a viable economy, or political autonomy. Environments that favor the maintenance of multiple languages are not difficult to find, but they are reported largely from non-European cultural contexts where quite different language ideologies prevail. Extreme multilingualism is a well-recognized phenomenon where obligatory exogamous marriage practices prevail. Few minority-language groups expect or even wish to replace the majority language with their ancestral language.

Keywords: ancestral language; bilingualism; cultural values; endangered languages; marriage practices; multilingualism



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