Christine Beier: Current Courses

Fall 2017. Linguistics 154: Language Revitalization: Theory and Practice

This course explores a range of theories and practices that undergird efforts by linguists and language activists to revitalize and revalorize endangered languages in communities around the world, with a focus on the Americas. Beginning with an exploration of how linguistic diversity, language vitality, and language politics interact, the course will narrow focus toward individual student projects that explore language revitalization issues in the context of a specific language or community, including the option to create usable revitalization materials for that community.

It is simultaneously true that individual languages become endangered for reasons that are rooted in their specific social, historical, and political contexts; and that large-scale patterns and causes of language endangerment can be identified and therefore redressed. If, in a given language community, language revitalization is a desired objective, then a clear understanding of the specific factors that led to endangerment can make the difference between success and failure in revitalization work.

This course takes a holistic view of the question of language vitality, approaching it as both a linguistic and a social phenomenon. Therefore, we will draw on a range of relevant perspectives -- from linguistics and language documentation to linguistic, social, and activist anthropology. Similarly, we will examine language endangerment and revitalization as experienced in non-westernized contexts along with westernized ones.