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ERIC Number: EJ936313
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 18
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0161-6463
Failing American Indian Languages
Meek, Barbara A.
American Indian Culture and Research Journal, v35 n2 p43-60 2011
This article critically examines the mediating role of scholarly expectations and the unexpected in the management--and transcendence--of failure/success as these concepts relate to language revitalization. Deloria remarks that, "expectations tend to assume a status quo defined around failure, the result of some innate limitation on the part of Indian people. Success is written off as an anomaly, a bizarre little episode that calls up a chuckle (2004, 231). As a series of episodes, this article begins with a popular misconception regarding American Indian Englishes, the perception of dysfluency read as the failure of American Indians to acquire English. Portrayed across a range of media, these representations of mythical speech encourage an expectation with consequences, at least for young First Nations students who dare to produce a nonstandard utterance for a teacher of standard training. The next episode depicts indigenous languages as shifting toward nonexistence. A commonly recurring institutional line, the discourse of elders often reinforces this conception with the emerging expectation being one of language death rather than a more complicated scenario of language change and linguistic diversity. Again younger generations are depicted as failing to acquire a language, in this case their ancestral tongue. These expectations coalesce in the third episode, the (eventual) failure of language revitalization. Given the "inability" of younger generations of Indians to acquire any language fluently, how could language revitalization ever succeed? Chuckling, one might say, "dene yeh dene zaagi laat'a." (Contains 1 figure and 36 notes.)
American Indian Studies Center at UCLA. 3220 Campbell Hall, Box 951548, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1548. Tel: 310-825-7315; Fax: 310-206-7060; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A