P33
Language movements: endangerment, revitalisation, and social transformation

Convenors:
Debra McDougall (University of Melbourne)
Location:
The Cairns Institute, D3-144
Session slots:
2

Short abstract:

Amidst discourses of language death, this panel focuses on social movements aimed at revitalising or reforming language. We ask how people seek to transform their lives by transforming their languages.

Long abstract:

Among the many manifestations of human creativity that seem to be under threat today are languages. Predictions of language death have prompted linguists and others to document languages they fear may not survive the onslaught of globalisation. Scholars and laypeople alike are seeking to revitalise moribund languages or relearn the languages of their ancestors. Often, though, discourses of language endangerment focus primarily on the health of language, not the lives of the people who are remembering or forgetting old languages and embracing or inventing new languages. In this panel, we explore questions including, how is the flourishing of a language related to the flourishing of a community? How do linguistic practices shape or constrain socio-economic mobility or a sense of belonging? How are people seeking to transform their lives by transforming their languages? Or, how are changes in language transforming their lives in ways they may not recognise? We invite papers that focus on the revitalisation of small languages, the development of new linguistic repertoires, or negotiations around national or global languages. While the specific focus of the panel is language movements, the broader aim is to foster new conversations among anthropologists interested in any aspect of the social dynamics of language.