Endangered Languages

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Endangered Languages *

Linguistics 5540, Spring 2011

Th6:30-9:20, ABD202

Instructor: Shobhana L. Chelliah

Office Hours in Language 408J: MTH5-6 and by appointment

Phone: 940-369-8955, Email: chelliah@unt.edu

About the Course

By some estimates half of the 6,500 languages spoken in the world today could be lost within the present century. In this course we will investigate why languages become endangered and methods used to stabilize and revitalize languages.

Required Readings

Evans, Nicholas. 2009. Dying Words. Endangered Languages and What They Have to Tell Us. Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell.

Hale, Kenneth, Colette Craig, Nora England, LaVerne Jeanne, Michael Krauss, Lucille Watahomigie and Akira Yamamoto. 1992. Endangered Languages, Language 68:1-42

Ladefoged, Peter. 1992. Discussion note: Another view of endangered languages. Language 68: 809-811.

Dorian, Nancy C. 1993. Discussion note: A response to Ladefoged’s other view of endangered languages. Language 69: 575-579.

  • Chapters from

    • Chelliah, Shobhana L. and Willem J. de Reuse. Handbook of Descriptive Linguistic Fieldwork. Dordrecht: Springer.

    • Gippert, Jost, Nikolaus P. Himmelmann, and Ulrike Mosel, eds. 2006. Essentials of Language Documentation. (Trends in Linguistics. Studies and Monographs 178.) Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

    • Grenoble, Lenore and N. Louanna Furbee. 2010. Language Documentation, practice and values. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

    • Grenoble, Lenore, and Lindsay J. Whaley, eds. 1998. Endangered languages: Current Issues and Future Prospects. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    • Grenoble, Lenore, and Lindsay J. Whaley. 2006. Saving languages: An introduction to language revitalization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    • Harrison, K. David. 2007. When Languages Die. Oxford University Press.

    • Hinton, Leanne, and Kenneth Hale, eds. 2001. The Green Book of Language Revitalization in Practice. San Diego, Ca.: Elsevier Science.

    • Nettle, Daniel and Suzanne Romaine. 2000. Vanishing Voices, the extinction of the world’s languages. Oxford University Press.


LING 4040 or 5040 is an absolute must.

Attendance Policy

Three or more absences will result in your grade being lowered by one letter grade.

Grading Policy

The assignments for this course and grading policy are as follows:

  1. Survey of endangered languages: You will select an area from the Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger (I’ll explain how in class). You will prepare a report (to present in class and turn in) on the linguistic situation of the area you’ve selected. You will provide reasons why languages in that area are endangered. How does the language fit into typologies of endangerment? What are the domains of use? Have there been efforts at revitalization? Two to 4 pages due Feb 3, 10 minute presentations on Feb 3. [20%]

  2. Orthography/Standardization: Discuss the writing system or prescriptive grammar of a language. Questions to consider: How were orthographic/ prescriptive decisions made? In what contexts is the written language used? What are the political and ideological issues surrounding the standard variety or the writing system? Four to 5 pages due Feb 24, 10 minute presentations on March 3 [20%].

  3. Website review: You will review the website of an endangered language project, e.g. http://qenaga.org/ . What is the general design of the website? What multimedia recourses are linked to for revitalization purposes? How does the website deal with orthography? For which audiences is it meant? How is the resource to be used by the community? Three to 4 pages due April 21, 10 minute presentations. [20%]

  4. Pedagogical materials prepared for a language I will select. Due May 12, Presentations on May 12th [20%]

  5. Summary and commentary (2 pages each) on 5 articles of your choice on the topic of endangered languages to be handed in May 12th. Three of the articles you read should be from the class readings [20%].

Makeup/Late Assignment Policy

You must have your presentations ready as scheduled. I will email a finalized presentation schedule to you by the second week of class. No make-up presentations will be possible. Written assignments must be handed in on time to receive full credit.

Academic Dishonesty

Please refer to the following website for the UNT policy on academic dishonesty: http://www.vpaa.unt.edu/academic-integrity.htm .

Reading and Assignment Schedule:

Jan 20

What is an endangered language; why do we care about language death; ideologies: small versus big languages

Read: (1) Evans Chapters 1-3; (2) Hale; (3) Dorian in Grenoble and Whaley (1998)

Skim: (1) Ladefoged (2) Dorian (1993)

Jan 27

Endangered knowledge: calendars and maps

Read (1) K. David Harrison Chapter 3 and (2) catch up on Jan 20th reading

Feb 3

Endangered grammar: phonological, morphological, and syntactic diversity

Read (1) Evans Chapters 4-5; (2) Nettle and Romaine Chapter 3

Presentations on Endangered Language

Feb 10

Factors influencing language loss

Read (1) Evans 6-7; (2) Fishman Chapter 3

Feb 17

Language, culture and thought

Read (1) Evans 8-9

Feb 24

Orthographic concerns and language maintenance

Read: (1) Grenoble and Whaley (2006), Chapter 6; (2) Hinton and Hale, Section 6; (3) Gippert et al. Chapter 11

March 3

Factors influencing language maintenance and revival

Read (1) Evans 10; (2) Grenoble and Whaley (2006), Chapter 3; (3) The Green Book: Language Revitalization

Presentations on Orthography

March 10

Guest Lecture: Example of an Endangered Language Documentation Project

March 14-19

Spring Break

March 24

Documentary Linguistics

Read: (1) Grenoble and Furbee (2010) (2) Gippert Chapter 1; (3) Gippert Chapter 5

March 31

Fieldwork Products: Grammars, Text Collections,

Read: (1) Chelliah and de Reuse Chapter 13; (2) Catching Language: real descriptions; (3) Catching Grammar: writing culture in grammar

April 7

Fieldwork Products: Dictionaries

Read: (1) Chelliah and de Reuse 9

April 14

Revitalization case studies; videos

April 21

Website development
Read: Golumbia in Grenoble and Furbee

Presentation: Website review

April 28

Materials Development of Language Maintenance: Speaking and Listening Skills

Read: (1) Woodbury

May 5

Materials Development of Language Maintenance: Reading and Writing Skills

May 12

Student Presentations

* The University of North Texas is on record as being committed to both the spirit and letter of federal equal opportunity legislation; reference Public Law 92-112 – The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended. With the passage of new federal legislation entitled Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), pursuant to section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, there is renewed focus on providing this population with the same opportunities enjoyed by all citizens.”

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