ERIC Number: ED428926
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1999
Reference Count: N/A
Reversing Language Shift: Can Kwak'wala Be Revived?
Anonby, Stan J.
This paper discusses the status of the endangered Kwak'wala language on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, and efforts to revive it. Kwak'wala, also known as Kwakiutl, belongs to the Kwakiutlian group of the Wakashan language family. Following a description of Kwak'wala's historic decline and current status (mostly elderly speakers comprising about 4 percent of the population), the paper discusses characteristics of successful language revitalization efforts. Examples from indigenous populations around the world illustrate the importance of these five characteristics: a sense of group solidarity, emphasis on literacy, environments that allow immersion in the target language, use of the language in the media, and a large or isolated population of speakers and potential speakers. Drawing on the characteristics and activities of successful programs, suggestions are outlined for the design of a Kwak'wala revitalization program. Efforts to implement these suggestions had varying degrees of success. Most community members expressed a desire to revive Kwak'wala but were not willing to do much themselves, preferring instead to shift responsibility to the schools. After some initial enthusiasm, community interest faded and classes dwindled to a few individuals, although some were very motivated. The most successful community activity was a short-term culture and language immersion camp. It appears that unless the community is willing to radically change the way it approaches Kwak'wala, the language will die completely in a few decades. Contains 25 references. (SV)
Descriptors: American Indian Education, American Indian Languages, Canada Natives, Community Attitudes, Community Responsibility, Foreign Countries, Language Maintenance, Language Usage, Program Design, Second Language Instruction
Web site: http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~jar/RIL_Contents.html
Publication Type: Information Analyses; Reports - Descriptive; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A