Language matters : linguistic relativism and Native American language revitalization
Brown, Jordan Friedman
May 10, 2014
The developing prominence of Native American language revitalization efforts demands a renewed consideration of the theoretical tradition of linguistic relativism, as it pertains to the varied contexts of language shift in which revitalization is pursued. Such a reexamination of relativist theory is crucial, particularly because much of the debate concerning the validity and effectiveness of revitalization efforts can be traced back to basic and conflicting notions of language and its relationship to human thought and culturally-rooted intellectual practice. In order to engage this deeper theoretical debate, the present paper adopts a modified version of Paul Friedrich's "poetic" approach to linguistic relativism. Examined on the basis of various case studies, this poetic approach -- which emphasizes diachronic and associational processes largely ignored by recent mainstream linguistic theory -- shows itself exceedingly well-suited to grappling with the linguistic questions of revitalization. A final chapter considers the implications of such a theoretical approach in some detail, both as regards the practices of linguists involved in revitalization work, and the broader picture of language that might eventually arise from detailed investigation of its use in settings of shift and revitalization.
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