Skip to content

Language maintenance

April 28, 2013

Name: Fatimah
NIM: 2201410061
Language Maintenance
(Davis, Alan and Catherine Elder. 2004. The handbook of applied linguistics. Cornwall: Blackwell Publishing Ltd)
29.1 Defining Language Maintenance
In fact investigating language maintenance is often done through the identification of domains and situations in which the language is no longer used or is gradually making way for the use of another language. The term language maintenance is used to describe a situation in which a speaker, a group of speakers, or a speech community continue to use their language in some or all spheres of life despite competition with the dominant or majority language to become the main/sole language in these spheres.

29.2 LM and LS in the Context of Language Contact

Although language contact does not always involve linguistic competition in which only one language survives, there are many situations of language contact in which one language (gradually) loses ground in the face of another language. The most drastic effect is undoubtedly language death. The language dies because it no longer has a community of users (including speakers) and all its functions or uses have been usurped by another language. Language death is usually irreversible, especially for those languages of which no written and/or oral records exist. In some cases language revival or language revitalization are possible either because of existing records of the language or through reconstruction based on similarities with neighboring languages or dialects.
A less drastic effect is often known as language shift. The language itself, however, survives because it continues to be used in other contexts or communities. Linguistic groups and communities threatened by LS can or may undertake efforts of various kinds to reverse LS or to maintain their language in all or some spheres of usage.
29.3 LM and LS as Cross- and Interdisciplinary Fields of Research

The study of LM and LS is a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary enterprise involving and/or bringing together (sub)disciplines such as sociology, sociology of language, anthropology (in particular anthropological linguistics), social psychology, sociolinguistics, contact linguistics, and applied linguistics as well as others such as (linguistic) demography and political science
The focus is on some aspects of the study of LM (and LS) which are of particular relevance to the field of applied linguistics and which highlight contributions applied linguists have made to the study of LM and LS.

29.4 Researching LM and LS: Methods, Tools, and Data

29.4.1 The use of census and other large-scale surveys
Census surveys which include questions about language use, language proficiency, or language choice can provide useful data on LM and LS. Their main shortcomings include that they are almost always based on self-reports and self-assessments with people often over-estimating or under-estimating their usage patterns or practices.
Census and other large-scale data are apt at identifying if LS is taking place in one or several speech communities and the extent of LS by comparing intra- and intergenerational language use as well as comparing data from several censuses. Increasingly the results of census surveys are used as the starting point for in-depth studies of specific factors (e.g., gender, marital patterns, generation) affecting LM or LS across or in particular speech communities.

29.4.2 Questionnaires
Questionnaires have been used to document various features crucial to LM and LS. These include investigating the language use patterns of bi- or multilingual persons in specific context (domain analysis), their language proficiency, and their attitudes toward the languages and LM/LS. Domain is a crucial concept in the study of LM as it allows for the identification of contexts in which the minority language or language under threat is best maintained and in which situations it is least maintained.
A domain analysis is of particular use to the study of LM and LS, not only because it identifies which language(s) is/are used in a particular situation or domain, but also because it identifies domains (and their constellations of interlocutors, locales, topics) which are central to LM and domains which are prone to intrusion from another language and thus act as an agent of shift.
Questionnaires have also been used to obtain self-assessments of proficiency in the languages involved. Language proficiency assessments assist in identifying the degree of LS or language attrition an individual or a group is experiencing. They also contribute to informing what actions and efforts are needed to ensure or foster LM.
The open-ended and closed-ended questions allow the researcher to probe individual or group attitudes to the role, functions, and relevance of the ethnic/minority language in the marking of that group’s identity. The findings of such studies are then used to make prognoses about LM or LS in that community.

29.4.3 Participant observation
Such studies focus on documenting the linguistic choices that individuals make in their community and on exploring the reasons why they make these choices or which factors/ forces shape their choice or usage patterns. Researchers frequently become “part” of the community by living and working there for a considerable period of time or by regular engagement with the group/community over an extended period of time.

29.4.4 Integrative and multi-method approaches to LM and LS research
Scholars in the field of LM and LS also often prefer to combine methods or to adopt an integrative approach to research methods because of the perceived advantages of such a combination in examining and understanding the phenomena of LM and LS.

29.5 Factors and Forces Promoting LM or LS
A key objective of studying LM and LS is to be able to address the questions: how can LS be halted or reversed and/or how can LM be effected? Making their expertise and knowledge available to inform and assist individuals, groups, communities, and indeed governments in relation to linguistic matters, including LM, is seen as pertinent to being an applied linguist.
29.5.1 Clear-cut and ambivalent factors promoting LM

Kloss (1966) identified a range of factors which he categorized as either clear-cut (clearly promoting LM) or ambivalent because they could promote either LM or LS. Kloss’ clear-cut factors include:

1. early point of immigration,
2. the existence of linguistic enclaves
3. membership of a denomination with parochial schools
4. pre-emigration experience with LM.

The ambivalent factors identified by Kloss (1966) include both individual and group factors:
1. Educational level of the immigrant
2. Numerical strength of the group
3. Linguistic and cultural similarity with the dominant group
4. Attitude of the dominant or majority group toward the language and/or group
5. Sociocultural characteristics of the group

29.5.2 Language as a core value

Smolicz’ theory is built around the notion that each group subscribes to a particular set of cultural values which are vital to its continued existence as a separate entity. LM is assumed to be more important to those groups for which language is a core value.

29.5.3 Ethnolinguistic vitality
The core value theory, the theory of ethnolinguistic vitality is concerned with identifying factors (i.e., vitality factors) which a group needs or relies on to operate as a separate and distinctive entity. A group with high ethnolinguistic vitality will continue to operate as a distinctive entity whereas a group with low ethnolinguistic vitality is less likely to maintain itself as a distinctive entity or group. Giles, Bourhis, & Taylor (1977) list a range of variables/components which comprise objective ethnolinguistic vitality, they are: status, demographic, and Institutional support.

29.5.4 The market value of language
In a contact setting it is the language or languages which are perceived as useful in a socioeconomic sense that will persist. This theory explains why there are class differences in LM patterns within the same ethnolinguistic groups.

29.6 LM Efforts: Community and Individual Strategies and Initiatives

LM efforts can cover a very wide range of strategies and initiatives and can have variable goals and outcomes. Comprehensive and useful model within which to describe LM efforts is Fishman’s (1991) work on Reversing Language Shift. He proposes an eight-stage model to provide insights into the necessary steps which need to be taken by a community in order to reverse LS.
Stages of Reversing Language Shift: Severity of Intergenerational Dislocation
1. Education, work sphere, mass media and governmental operations at higher and nationwide levels.
2. Local/regional mass media and governmental services.
3. The local/regional (i.e., non-neighborhood) work sphere, both among Xmen and among Ymen.
4. a. Public schools for Xish children, offering some instruction via Xish, but substantially under Yish curricular and staffing control.
b. Schools in lieu of compulsory education and substantially under Xish curricular and staffing control.

II RLS to transcend diglossia, subsequent to its attainment
5. Schools for literacy acquisition, for the old and for the young, and not in lieu of compulsory education.
6. The intergenerational and demographically concentrated home-family-neighborhood: the basis of mother tongue transmission.
7. Cultural interaction in Xish primarily involving the community-based older generation.
8. Reconstructing Xish and adult acquisition of XSL.
Note: Xish refers to minority language, Yish refers to the majority language.

29.6.1 Language maintenance efforts in the family, home, and neighborhood domains

The language practices of parents, grandparents, and other relatives or kin considered important in child rearing are crucial in laying the foundations for the maintenance of a minority language among future generations.
The LM efforts of the home and family can be strengthened through language practices and efforts in the neighborhood. Other community-based efforts which transcend the neighborhood include the establishment of cultural and social organizations (clubs/societies), the development of media services (printed and electronic media) in the minority language as well as the continuation of ethno-religious practices which further LM.

29.6.2 LM in the educational domain
Communities and scholars agree that minority language teaching is an important tool for language maintenance. The quality of the tuition also varies greatly depending on the linguistic and financial resources of the community.

29.7 Concluding Remarks

In a globalizing world characterized by multinational expansions, increasing voluntary and involuntary transnational movements, and accompanied by the need or desire for a global communication code, there will be even greater pressures on and challenges for ethnolinguistic minorities if they wish to maintain their cultural, ethnic, or linguistic distinctiveness.

1. Q: What is the definition of Language maintenance?
A: it is a situation in which a speaker, a group of speakers, or a speech community continue to use their language in some or all spheres of life despite competition with the dominant or majority language to become the main/sole language in these spheres.
2. Q: From Fishman stage in the LM process, which stage is most crucial? why?

A: Stage 6 is the most crucial stage in the LM process (or the process of reversing LS) – the reinforcement of the language in the home, the family, the neighborhood, and the community. It is because without continued language use in these domains further stages (5 to 1) will not enhance the intergenerational linguistic transmission process.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: