ERIC Number: ED395735
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1996
Reference Count: N/A
Maintaining Languages: What Works? What Doesn't? Conclusion.
This paper addresses problems facing endangered languages and strategies for maintaining Native languages. The most serious case involves languages whose last fluent speakers are elderly or already gone. Speakers of severely endangered languages no longer constitute speech communities. They cannot interact with other speakers because other speakers are exceedingly few or far between. A strategy for maintaining these languages is to develop an archival collection through recording the spoken language before it is lost entirely. Although some might view an archive as a mausoleum rather than "really living," it is a better alternative than complete extinction. However, perhaps the language can aspire to societal reattachment or even more--to intergenerational transmission as the mother tongue of a vibrant speech community. Revernacularization or native language acquisition is so difficult because it requires informal spontaneous bases, outside any formal institution. Schools are normally programmed and not intergenerational, while mother tongues are intergenerational and not programmed. Revernacularization requires not only intergenerational language transmission, but societal change as well. In order for the old language to be transmitted from parent to child, informal role relationships that have already been established in a new language must come to be implemented in the old language. Every infant acquiring their native language at home must have ample out-of-home experiences for informal use of the language. As well, every student who acquires their native language at school must have ample out-of-school experiences to use that language. To be successful, reversing language shift through intergenerational mother-tongue transmission requires both community and family building. (LP)
Descriptors: Activism, American Indian Education, American Indian Languages, Community Action, Community Role, Cultural Maintenance, Elementary Secondary Education, Family Role, Language Acquisition, Language Maintenance, Language Skill Attrition, Native Language Instruction, Native Speakers, School Role, Social Change
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Endangered Languages
Note: In: Stabilizing Indigenous Languages; see RC 020 517.