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Fwd: Endangered Language Breakdown

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  • Donald Z. Osborn
    This is a very interesting observation and question (along with a summary of replies) re what happens in an endangered language. I m forwarding both to MINEL
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 1, 2005
      This is a very interesting observation and question (along with a summary of
      replies) re what happens in an endangered language. I'm forwarding both to
      MINEL (since the topic of endangered languages is relevant there) and
      Code-switching (although the question is not limited to code-switching and the
      poster actually sought references not in that specific area).

      I've often wondered what happens to languages before they are officially
      "endangered," as the numbers of speakers declines and becomes more isolated in
      groups or grouplets in a sea of speakers of other languages (as seems to be the
      case with some less-widely spoken languages in Africa for instance). This
      probably describes part of the diagnosis. (2 messages, fwd'd from Linguist

      Don Osborn

      Date: 16-Sep-2005
      From: Serena Crivellaro <serena.crivellaro@...>
      Subject: Endangered Language Breakdown

      In studying the syntax of an endangered language with a very fragmented speech
      community, I have come to notice that the syntax varies across informants,
      demonstrating a disintegration of the language into a several separate
      extremely restricted dialects (almost idiolects).

      Different informants would produce the same sentence with an underlying L1
      syntax, and then 'switch' into L2 syntax in specific clauses (not unlike
      codeswitching). This syntactic mutation was regular within a speaker (always
      occurred in the same environment) but varied across speakers.

      I would be interested in knowing whether anyone had heard or noticed a similar
      situation in other languages, or could direct me towards relevant
      (non-codeswitching) literature on the topic.

      Thank you.


      Date: 27-Sep-2005
      From: Serena Crivellaro <serena.crivellaroyale.edu>
      Subject: Endangered Language Breakdown

      Regarding query: http://www.linguistlist.org/issues/16/16-2688.html#1

      Relevant Literature:
      DORIAN, NANCY, ed. 1989 Investigating Obsolescence: Studies in Language
      Contraction and Death. New York: Cambridge UP.
      DORIAN, NANCY. Language death : the life cycle of a Scottish Gaelic dialect.
      Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania Press, 1981.
      JONES, MARI. Language obsolescence and revitalization : linguistic change in two
      sociolinguistically contrasting Welsh communities. Oxford [England] : Clarendon
      Press ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1998.
      SCHMIDT, ANNETTE (1985): Young People's Dyirbal. An example of language death
      from Australia. Cambridge et al.: University Press, 1985 (= Cambridge Studies
      in Linguistics; Supplementary Volume).

      Similar behavior:
      Yan-nhangu people (Northern Australia) [dialectal variation]
      Zapotecan word order [syntax]
      Irish [incomplete acquisition by younger speakers]
      Australian languages, no further specification
      St'at'imcets (Lillooet, British Columbia) [phonetic variation]

      I would like to thank the respondents again for their efforts and timely answers
      to my query - you have been incredibly helpful!
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