Can Threatened Languages Be Saved? by Joshua A Fishman

By Joshua A Fishman

Defenders of threatened languages world wide, from advocates of biodiversity to committed defenders in their personal cultural authenticity, are frequently humbled by way of the dimensity of the duty that they're confronted with whilst the vulnerable and the few search to discover a safe-harbour opposed to the ravages of the robust and the numerous. This booklet presents either useful case experiences and theoretical instructions from all 5 continents and advances thereby the collective pursuit of "reversing language shift" for the larger advantage of cultural democracy far and wide.

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Where we appear pessimistic, perhaps even fatalistic, about the shift, our aim is to bring attention of the dire threat to Navajo language and culture to the most important audience for this chapter and indeed for our life-work – Navajo activists, policymakers, educators, and community leaders. Where we highlight important developments that Navajo family members, educators, linguists, and policy-makers have heroically enacted, our aim is to support such efforts. All along, we will validate the model for conceptualising language shift, and for outlining the work that is needed to reverse it, as established by Joshua Fishman in Reversing Language Shift (1991).

Holm and Holm (1995) reported that despite favourable data showing the effectiveness of these schools in student achievement and Navajo literacy, these programmes have not been widely replicated in other schools. The funding situation of these schools has not changed: they are still dependent on the federal government, state government, or a combination of the two. One high school that established itself with the intention of making Navajo integral to its curriculum chose to seek state funding because of continual under-funding by the federal government.

RLS and Civil Nationalism The RLS ethos is still very much a child of the age of ethnonationalism. Although this age has not yet played itself out (not even in Europe, not to 18 Can Threatened Languages be Saved? mention in the infinitely more diverse regions of Africa and Asia), it has pretty much run its course in the view of influential intellectuals in most European polities (Fishman, 1972). In those settings gravitating toward post-national EU-EC-Nato-OSCE membership, there is often a distinct weariness with the incessant efforts of ethnolinguistic minorities to preserve their own identities, regardless of whether such efforts are accompanied by the aspiration for independent statehood.

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