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September 23, 2011-Barbra Meek

Friday, September 23, 2011
12:00 AM
2001 LSA Building

Barbra Meek, University of Michigan, Anthropology Rethinking Language Revitalization and Endangerment Abstract: In situations of language shift the endangered language is typically acquired in the home while the dominant language is learned at school. In situations of language revitalization the reverse is true; the dominant language is acquired at home and the endangered language is learned at school. Such changes in the sociolinguistic landscape are altering the ways in which people speak and experience endangered indigenous languages. Using evidence from my research on Kaska (Athabaskan)language revitalization in the Yukon Territory of Canada, I examine such changes, the ideological and practical disjunctures that emerge, and the possible trajectories these disjunctures suggest for situations of language endangerment. In particular, I focus on the various practices that are being used to revitalize the Kaska language, from the creation of texts and the teaching of literacy and language to the daily experiences and public performances involving Kaska speech. While similar strategies have worked for other languages, the problem remains; no new Kaska speakers. Given the range of opportunities to learn and speak the language, and the abundant support for such language projects and practices, it is clear that more than the sociolinguistic situation affects the fate of an endangered language: the ideological context, and its emergent disjunctures, affect its future. In sum, a theory of language revitalization and endangerment must be a sociology of language revitalization and endangerment. -- Barbra A. Meek, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Departments of Anthropology and Linguistics University of Michigan 101 West Hall 1085 South University Ave. Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1107 (734)936-3192