Theme: Endangered Languages Networking: Values and Benefits for the Future
Date: 13 September, 2014
Place: Gakushuin University
Description and goals:
While language shift continues to undermine and reduce linguistic diversity across Asia, and other parts of the world, subtle signs that the tide is turning can be witnessed across many states. In order to comprehensively understand these developments, we need to shift attention from language to speakers. More concretely, we need to focus on an analysis of the language networks of endangered languages.
Placing the focus on speakers of endangered language networks requires researchers to address a range of topics, which have often been treated rather lightly in classical language revitalization theory. For instance, these networks often grow and flourish despite an absence of supportive policies. Complementary functions between the dominant and the dominating language are not sought, because competition between these languages is simply sidestepped by using the endangered language in all domains, and by making efforts to use or learn the endangered language a necessity for joining the network. Speakers switch and mix languages in order to facilitate language learning of new speakers. New speakers are often not bound by shared place, time, or by ethnicity or nationality.
In more concrete terms, this symposium has a twofold agenda. One focus is on language networks and the respective values and benefits instrumental for their formation, maintenance and expansion. Putting an endangered language back to use and into new uses requires a positive vision of those speaking the language. Networking is crucial for policy and strategy, but also for the adaptation of endangered languages to new communicative needs. The second focus is regional. The Ryukyu Islands in the southwest of the Japanese Archipelago provide for a fascinating example, where language networks are in the process of formation and growth. The Ryukyuan language networks thus provide for a welcome case to study the emergence of endangered language networks at a very early stage. We seek to connect experts of language maintenance and revitalization and to share experiences and transfer knowledge among all participants of this symposium.
Invited presentations to this symposium will address questions such as the following: Who are the pioneers putting an endangered language back to use? To whom do they speak the endangered language? Where do they speak the endangered language? What obstacles stand in the way of using the endangered language and on what support can they rely? What strategies have been adopted to increase the network of endangered network speakers? How close are the ties between members of the endangered language network? What are the benefits of joining this network? Are there limitations who can join? Are there different types of speakers in this network?