Edited by Elena Mihas, Bernard Perley, Gabriel Rei-Doval and Kathleen Wheatley
[Studies in Language Companion Series 142] 2013
► pp. 243–270
Remembering ancestral voices
Emergent vitalities and the future of Indigenous languages
Language endangerment is a global tragedy that has prompted a surge in research and advocacy on behalf of those communities whose languages have been diagnosed as endangered. Indigenous languages in the Americas and Australia are the most at risk of becoming extinct by the end of this century. Graded scales from “safe” to “extinct” present diagnostic frames of reference that influence the kinds of approaches toward documentation and revitalization that community activists/advocates and language experts develop and initiate. Those languages deemed “extinct” and/or “severely endangered” are hampered by the prevailing metaphors that unduly constrain possible actions for language vitality. This paper offers a re-conceptualization of the metaphors regarding language endangerment away from “death” and “extinct” to “sleeping” and from documentation toward “emergent vitalities”. This is especially critical for indigenous communities living in their ancestral homelands where remembering ancestral voices plays a significant role in possible futures for indigenous languages.
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