Ariana Bancu presented her paper at the 2017 Michigagoan Linguistic Anthropology Graduate Conference. Her paper was entitled, “Assessing the vitality of an endangered language in the homeland and diaspora.” Michicagoan is an annual event between students and faculty in the fields of anthropolgy and linguisics from U-M and the University of Chicago.


The present paper assesses language vitality (c.f. Giles et. al., 1977, Fishman, 1991; Grenoble, 2006) in two groups of trilinguals from Viscri, Romania, and delivers a concrete overview of language loss in each group. The languages of each group are Transylvanian Saxon (hereafter TrSax, an endangered language from Transylvania), German, and Romanian. The extent to which each language is used differs by location and group size. The home group has only 15 TrSax speakers left and overall a closer contact to Romanian. The immigrant group, which settled in Germany in the 80s and 90s has over 150 TrSax speakers and more contact with German. Seven participants (ages 30 – 78) from each group were recorded during sociolinguistic interviews, and filled out a language profile questionnaire (Gertken et. al, 2014). Using information from the interviews and results from the questionnaires, I present the current and past language ecology for each group, as well as a thorough overview of patterns of language use and language attitudes. Results show that language loss is imminent in the home group, but not necessarily in the immigrant group. The spheres of usage for TrSax have decreased in each group, being restricted to interactions with family and friends. However, more Romanian and/ or German are used in the family domain in Romania due to out-group partnerships, making language transmission less likely. Participants in Germany report using TrSax more often than participants in Romania, and there is a higher degree of in-group marriages, potentially facilitating language transmission.

About Michicagoan

The Michicagoan graduate conference organized by graduate students in the Linguistic Anthropology program is an annual interdisciplinary event that fosters intellectual exchange between graduate students and faculty in anthropology, linguistics, and area studies from the University of Michigan and the University of Chicago. The event is free and open to the public.

The Michicagoan conference is part of a broader project of intellectual exchange between the University of Michigan and University of Chicago Linguistic Anthropology programs, which are widely considered to be the most influential in the field. Over the past ten years the conference has provided essential professionalization for hundreds of graduate student presenters and organizers. In addition to professional development, the conference also functions as a laboratory for the presentation and discussion of cutting-edge research in its early stage. Graduate students present papers while faculty-moderated panels and audience members participate in critical discussions of the work. These informal discussions serve as a venue for lively debates that drive scholarly innovation. Paper presentations have spanned the globe with research in Europe, Africa, Asia, North America and Latin America.

The conference focuses on the social and cultural analysis of semiotic forms centering on language, providing graduate students with an attentive forum in which to present their work and have it discussed by faculty and students. The conference promotes ongoing scholarly exchange and collaboration among students and faculty of the University of Michigan and the University of Chicago. Michicagoan is is held in Ann Arbor on alternating years and consists of two days of panel presentations, which include student papers, faculty comment and moderation, and audience discussion.  Each year a keynote speaker is also invited to present work and take part in conference events. The conference organizers welcome work from graduate students at all stages and encourage participants to submit formal conference papers as well as to present their proposals and research reports. Commentators for each panel are drawn from participating faculty.