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International Journal of the Sociology of Language

Founded by Fishman, Joshua A.

Ed. by Duchêne, Alexandre / Coulmas, Florian

CiteScore 2018: 1.10

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 1.062
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.933

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Volume 2012, Issue 218


A framework for language endangerment dynamics: the effects of contact and social change on language ecologies and language diversity

John Wendel / Patrick Heinrich
Published Online: 2012-11-21 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ijsl-2012-0062


This paper argues for a new perspective on the study of language endangerment dynamics where diversity serves not only as a yardstick for assessing equality, but represents the very basis of equality. To this end, we propose a unified framework accounting for the ecology of languages and language diversity loss. Different ways of economically organizing communities result in power differentials. In cases of contact between them, the language ecologies of the less powerful communities are disrupted through language shift and attrition processes. While these processes have taken place in all competitive language ecologies across time and space, two major waves of language diversity loss can be attested. The first wave began 11,000 years ago following the Neolithic revolution when agrarian societies expanded into the territories of hunter-gatherer communities. The second wave was initiated by the French Revolution when dynastic realms transformed into modern states. The promotion of linguistic nationalism and social mobility in societies imagined to be linguistically homogenous undermined the value and utility of minority languages. Two basic possibilities exist for maintaining linguistic diversity: one is limiting contact to dominating communities; another is finding ways of regulating inter-community relations by mechanisms that do not rely on power alone. Ongoing processes in glocalizing societies suggest that a combination of both options may become a viable way to halt language diversity loss.

Keywords: language ecology; language contact; language shift; language attrition; inequality

About the article

Dokkyo University, Japan

Published Online: 2012-11-21

Published in Print: 2012-11-21

Citation Information: , Volume 2012, Issue 218, Pages 145–166, ISSN (Online) 1613-3668, ISSN (Print) 0165-2516, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ijsl-2012-0062.

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©[2012] by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston.Get Permission

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