Language Revitalization

Language revitalization is an attempt to stop or reverse the decline of a language or to completely revive an extinct one. Languages go extinct for many reasons, for example a language might go extinct because there is a language shift in favor of a more common language. Lingusits, communities, and language fans attempt to revive languages for many reasons, like to prevent extinction, to unify an ethnic group, and even to restore the language of the colonized (rather than the colonizers).

Joshua Fishman created a model for the revitalization of endangered or dead languages, which included the 8 steps:

  1. Acquisition of the language by adults
  2. Create a socially integrated population of active speakers of the language while focusing on spoken, rather than written.
  3. Encourage the informal use of the language among everyone and bolster its daily use through the establishment of local neighbourhood institutions in which the language is encouraged, protected and used exclusively.
  4. In areas where oral competence in the language has been achieved in all age groups encourage literacy in the language but in a way that does not depend upon assistance from the state education system.
  5. Where the state permits it, and where numbers warrant, encourage the use of
    the language in compulsory state education.
  6. Where the above stages have been achieved and consolidated, encourage the
    use of the language in the workplace (lower work sphere).
  7. Where the above stages have been achieved and consolidated encourage the
    use of the language in local government services and mass media.
  8. Where the above stages have been achieved and consolidated encourage use
    of the language in higher education, government etc.

A popular language that has been revived is Hebrew. From the 7th century and on, Hebrew was often sought more in a written context, often in religious texts. By the beginning of the 20th century, a revival started to take place. The establishment of the state of Israel stated that Hebrew was the officail language in 1948 as to unify Jewish followers across the world. There were 3 stages to the Hebrew Revival:

  1. Hebrew schools established in the settlements around 1880s.
  2. Hebrew was to be used in assembly meetings and public activities in 1904 to 1914
  3. Hebrew was the language used to the Jewish population during the British Mandate period

All of this resulted in the establishment of Hebrew highschools, a Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and more!

Languages are a corner stone of cultural identity. Communities don’t need to give up their ancestral language because an “influencer” of languages makes its way into the lives of the population. Language acquisiton is difficult and it takes a lot of money; however, it’s important because langauges can change history and reclaim cultural ties that may have been forgotten.

Currently, on Reddit, there is a community of people that want to revive a language.
The subreddit is r/RaiseTheDeadLanguage. If you’d like to participate, I think the more the merrier!

Joshua Fishman’s 8 Stages
Language Revival
Oxford: Language Revitalization

Published by Elizabeth

Language learner - avid coffee drinker - and IT consultant

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