Study Guides (400,000)
US (230,000)
UCSC (500)
LING (1)

LING 80C Study Guide - Final Guide: Language Death, Habitat Destruction, Intellectual Property

Course Code
Mc Closkey
Study Guide

of 3
Kiera Jordan
Professor Jim McCloskey
Linguistics 80C
3 June 2016
Presently our world is faced with a linguistic epidemic of dire proportions and
consequences. This epidemic is the swiftly occurring, vast loss of linguistic diversity, or as one
could call it, the mass extinction of languages. This extinction is occurring all over the globe, and
is one that is linked with the loss of biological and cultural diversity. Languages that feel the
most threat from this mass extinction are those of indigenous and native communities, whose
languages have been pushed aside and replaced by looming metropolitan languages that seem
to promise economic opportunities and opulence.
Any linguist could rave about the severe consequences we face as a result of this loss of
linguistic diversity. These consequences include a degradation or complete loss of cultural and
intellectual properties of many different communities. From ancient mythologies and epic tales,
to native histories and philosophies and ideas, we stand to lose a great deal from the mass
extinction of languages.
But this mass extinction is not one that is occurring without opposition. In fact many
linguists, as well as native speakers or proponents of threatened languages, have put forth a
great deal of effort and work into the act of preserving and rescuing languages globally. Their
efforts are seen at varying “constitutional, institutional, and governmental” levels and have in
many cases been deemed successful (Craig). One example of these efforts include the
Hualapai Bilingual/Bicultural Program, which was implemented in 1981 and has led to the
reestablishment of “pride in Hualapai language and culture among children and adults in the
community” as well as encouraged “the active use of Hualapai and English at school and at
home” and developed “a body of knowledge about the language and culture” (Watahomigie and
Yamamoto). Another example of linguistic rescue efforts, seen at a constitutional level in this
case, is the Autonomy Statute that was adopted into the National Constitution of Nicaragua in
1987. This statute was set forth to “promote national culture...including their historical, artistic,
linguistic, and cultural heritage” (Craig).
So they’re are indeed efforts to recover, restore, and revive dying languages. But what
causes these languages to fade away in the first place?
The circumstances that lead to a linguistic mass extinction the likes of which the Earth is
experiencing are many. They range from “outright genocide, social or economic or habitat
destruction, displacement, demographic submersion, language suppression in forced
assimilation or assimilatory education, to electronic media bombardment” (Krauss). But what is
most striking about the linguistic loss of diversity is that “all the crucial interactions [needed for
language extinction] take place in intimate and private spaces” (McCloskey). What this means is
that a language dies when individual family and community members decide they are not to
speak said language anymore. It is not a government decree that causes language extinction,
but rather the choices made by family and community members of what language they speak to
their children, parents, or peers. These choices are influenced by all the aforementioned
circumstances, for all the circumstances listed above create a pressure upon the families and
communities to speak a language separate from their mother tongue.
find more resources at
find more resources at
This pressure families feel to not speak their native tongue comes from the idea that
metropolitan languages grant “access to a new and higher economic order” (McCloskey). And
so, to teach their kids their native language would be a “burden”. Therefore they should only
teach their children a metropolitan language “so they can miraculously achieve access to
opportunities that were denied to their parents” (McCloskey). This “quasi-magical association”
between a metropolitan language and economic possibilities is one of the biggest impediments
to preserving languages that linguists face. Though the association is unreal and irrational
(because learning the mother tongue and a metropolitan language is both doable and
unburdensome for children), it causes many parents to go silent and keep their mother tongue
from their children. Then, because the children were never taught the native language, its use in
society gradually declines as the generation of children matures and then has new children who
only learn the metropolitan language and so on.
Another challenge to preserving and rescuing languages comes from the cynical attitude
some native speakers possess towards their native language. Some view their native language
as not a real or attractive language when compared to metropolitan languages. For instance, in
Nicaragua, the dying language of Rama was considered “no language” and “ugly” according to
some of the last speakers of Rama Cay. The speakers possessed this attitude due to the “swift
shift from Rama to English enforced by Moravian missionaries in the second half of last century”
Australia is currently experiencing the endangerment, extinction, and effort to revive
many different indigenous languages. In fact, Australia faces a very grave situation concerning
the mass extinction of languages: “90% of 250 aboriginal languages that are still spoken are
now moribund, most of those very near extinction” (Krauss). These aboriginal languages are
part of cultures that date back for thousands of years and the “unique languages are primarily
oral, not written down or recorded, and in many cases they are still relatively poorly documented
by scientists” (NATGEO). Because of their poor documentation, the languages proximity to total
extinction is extra frightening because they may be forever lost, and the culture that is
associated with the language may be lost as well.
But not all is bleak, as demonstrated in the endangerment and ensuing efforts of the
Australian indigenous language Yawuru. Yawuru, which reportedly got down to “three fluent
speakers and perhaps a dozen speakers of other levels of fluency” has began to be revitalized
through efforts made by elders of the Yawuru community and speakers of the language.
One of these Yawuru community members, Ms. Appleby, can remember a time when
speaking her aboriginal language was forbidden, but says how nothing could “deter the old
people from keeping their law and culture within themselves” (Parke). Another Yawuru speaker,
Dalisa Pigram, speaks about how she “wasn’t taught [the Yawuru] language as a first language
from the beginning and my elders were encouraged not to speak [the Yawuru] language, to
learn English because of the Stolen Generation (Parke). The Stolen Generation refers to the
time period between 1910 and 1970 where “many Indigenous children were forcibly removed
from their families as a result of various government policies”, an act that “left a legacy of
trauma and loss that continues to affect Indigenous communities, families and individuals”
(‘Australians Together). This act was a key component in the disintegration of indigenous
culture and languages, and is a prime example of how genocide can cause a language to
become endangered or extinct.
find more resources at
find more resources at
Rescue efforts to save the Yawuru language and culture started with Yawuru
Agreements, which were “officially registered by the National Native Title Tribunal in August of
2010. These agreements included two Indigenous Land Use Agreements and provide “an
opportunity for Yawuru to influence the future development of Broome, where Yawuru have
opportunities in this development and can continue to safeguard Yawuru culture, way of life, and
strengthen [their] identity” (‘Our Language’).
Among one of the challenges of reviving the Yawuru language has been “recruiting a
younger generation of Yawuru people to train as specialist teachers” (Parke). But despite this,
the revival efforts have been by and large very successful. Currently, “many Yawuru and non-
Yawuru children and adults alike are learning Yawuru language in schools and at Mabu Yawuru
Ngan-ga; the Yawuru language centre” and “Yawuru language is being woken up in the
community” (‘Our Language’).
The example of Yawuru grants an optimistic outlook towards the future of endangered
languages in Australia, as well as the rest of the globe. If indigenous communities everywhere
and the constitutions that house them could cooperate together to enact steps towards
preservation of language such as the Yawuru community or the Rama community did, then the
future of native languages and cultures might still have a chance.
Works Cited
"Australia Expedition." National Geographic. National Geographic Society, Aug. 2007.
Web. 04 June 2016.
"Australians Together." Australians Together. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 June 2016.
Hale, Ken, Michael Krauss, and Collette Craig. "Endangered Languages." Linguistic
Society of America (1992): n. pag. Print.
"Our Language." Yawuru. Nyamba Buru Yawuru, n.d. Web. 4 June 2016.
Parke, Erin. "Yawuru Aboriginal Language Rediscovers Voice in Kimberley." ABC News.
N.p., 06 May 2016. Web. 04 June 2016.
1318 word count
find more resources at
find more resources at