ERIC Number: ED395731
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1996
Reference Count: N/A
Seven Hypotheses on Language Loss Causes and Cures.
Objective evidence indicates that despite public fears and the claims of those who would make English the official language of the United States, it is not English, but minority tongues that are threatened in this country today. In the last 5 years, educators have noticed a sharp decline in native language skills among Native American children. Despite the end of punitive English-only policies and the advent of bilingual education, the shift to English is accelerating in many Indian communities. Seven hypotheses related to this shift are presented, drawing on historical research into U.S. language policy and anecdotal observations in Native American communities. First, language shift is very difficult to impose from without. Second, language shift is determined primarily by internal changes from within language communities themselves. Language choices are influenced, consciously and unconsciously, by social changes that disrupt community. These dislocations include demographic factors, economic forces, mass media, and identifiers of social status. Third, language shift reflects changes in social and cultural values, including the encroachment of individualism, pragmatism, and materialism. Examples of factors in language shift are offered for Navajo, Hualapai, Pasqua Yaqui, and Mississippi Choctaw. Fourth, efforts to reverse language shift must also involve a change in values. Fifth, language shift cannot be reversed by outsiders but depends upon community action. Sixth, successful strategies for reversing language shift demand an understanding of the current stage of language loss. Finally, at this stage, the key task is to develop indigenous leadership. (SV)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Language Shift; Native Americans
Note: In: "Stabilizing Indigenous Languages"; see RC 020 517.