Language ecology

Tove Skutnabb-Kangas
Table of contents

Language plus ecology = language ecology, linguistic ecology, ecolinguistics? Simple? No. The first serious sociolinguistic attempts to explore linguistic ecology pleaded for linguistics to be grounded in societal context and change. Trim 1959 and Haugen's seminal 1971 article entail multidisciplinarity and build on multilingual scholarship (of the works cited by Trim, eight are in German, six in English, and four in French; academia has become more monolingual in globalization processes). Haugen refers to status, standardization, diglossia, and glottopolitics, but not to language rights (the concept did not exist then – see Skutnabb-Kangas 2007). Today's interpretations of what language ecology is range widely. Many researchers use ‘ecology’ simply as a reference to ‘context’ or ‘language environment’, to describe language-related issues embedded in (micro or macro) sociolinguistic, educational, economic or political settings rather than de-contextualised. Here ‘ecology’ has often become a fashionable term for simply situating language or language study in some way, i.e. it is a metaphor.

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