Identity, territoriality and minority language survival

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This paper contrasts two language ideologies, one associating language with individual identity and the other associating language with specific territory (McRae, 1975), in terms of their effect upon language ecology. These ideologies are commonly invoked by linguists concerned with such ecology, and there appears to be a tacit understanding that both can be useful tools for helping to preserve endangered languages.The presentpaper argues,however, that in fact these ideologies are in direct conflict with each other. Arguments for the inherent relationship of language with individual identity undermine the efforts of those working to preserve indigenous minority languages threatenedby demographic swamping, as speakers of mainstream languages move into the areas historicallydominated by indigenous languages but do not learn or use these indigenous languages; on the other hand, arguments for the inherent relationship of language with territory undermine the efforts of advocates of immigrant language rights. The direct conflict between these principles is not discussed or even acknowledged in the literature, but it leads to many contradictions which need to be addressed and resolved by linguists concerned with maintaining linguistic diversity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-50
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1999

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
(supported by the language- minorities (supported by the

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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