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Endangered languages, sociolinguistics, and linguistic sentimentalism

  • ABRAM DE SWAAN (a1)
Abstract

It is a recurrent theme in sociolinguistics that besides fully documenting endangered languages, it is important to ensure somehow that they will continue to be used. The basic trope is that of ‘language death’, analogous to the extinction of species. But the analogy fails: languages do not die, although their users may abandon them, usually in favour of a more widely spoken language. Nor does linguistic diversity increase cultural diversity — or the equal treatment of language groups mitigate inequality between and within groups. In addition, promoting minority, local and immigrant languages, which are all too often ill-equipped for modern life, actually strengthens the position of the dominant language as the only common language of communication: the more languages are spoken, the sooner English will take over. This process can be seen at work both in post-Apartheid South Africa and in the European Union as it undergoes enlargement.

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European Review
  • ISSN: 1062-7987
  • EISSN: 1474-0575
  • URL: /core/journals/european-review
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