The Mongghul experience: consequences of language policy shortcomings

Limusishiden 1  and Keith Dede, 2
  • 1 Qīnghăi University Affiliated Hospital
  • 2 Lewis & Clark College

Abstract

Mongghul is a Mongolic language spoken in northwestern China. Though the precise number of speakers is unknown, estimates are that around 50,000 people currently speak it. Most speakers of Mongghul are also bilingual in the local dialect of Chinese. We argue that the current contact between Mongghul and Chinese is best understood as a form of “massive borrowing” within Thomason and Kaufman's (1988) framework. Moreover, the borrowing is leading to the endangerment of the language in part because the government has failed to help it adapt to changing socio-economic conditions. Evidence that the language is failing to adapt is presented in lists of loanwords and a transcribed conversation. The government's failure to assist the language is evidenced by its withdrawal of support for the language's writing system. We apply a UNESCO assessment and conclude that while it is not in imminent danger of extinction, the language is endangered.

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IJSL is dedicated to the development of the sociology of language as a truly international and interdisciplinary field in which various approaches - theoretical and empirical - supplement and complement each other, contributing thereby to the growth of language-related knowledge, applications, values and sensitivities. The journal features topically-focused issues with individual contributions on small languages and small language communities.

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