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Endangered Languages, Knowledge Systems and Belief Systems

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David Hirsh

Many of the world’s 7000 documented language groups are endangered due to falling rates of language and culture transmission from one generation to the next. Some endangered language groups have been the focus of efforts to reverse patterns of linguistic and cultural loss, with variable success. This book presents case studies of endangered language groups from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and the Pacific (including Bisu, Iban, Iquito, Quechua, Wawa, Yi and sign languages) and of their associated knowledge and belief systems, to highlight the importance of preserving linguistic and cultural diversity. Issues of identity and pride emerge within the book, alongside discussion of language and culture policy.

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Contents 1. Introduction ...................................................................................... 9 1.1. Endangered languages ............................................................. 9 1.2. Language and culture ............................................................. 10 1.3. Knowledge systems ............................................................... 11 1.4. Belief systems ........................................................................ 13 1.5. Language policy ..................................................................... 14 1.6. Identity ................................................................................... 15 2. Language situation .......................................................................... 17 2.1. Scales of language vitality ..................................................... 20 2.2. Language situation in Africa .................................................. 23 2.2.1. Endangered languages of Nigeria ............................. 24 2.2.2. Endangered languages of Cameroon ......................... 25 2.2.3. Endangered languages of Democratic Republic of the Congo .............................................................. 26 2.3. Language situation in the Americas ....................................... 27 2.3.1. Endangered languages of Mexico ............................. 29 2.3.2. Endangered languages of Brazil ............................... 30 2.3.3. Endangered languages of the United States of America ................................................................ 32 2.4. Language situation in Asia .................................................... 35 2.4.1. Endangered languages of Indonesia .......................... 36 2.4.2. Endangered languages of India ................................. 37 2.4.3. Endangered languages of China ................................ 37 2.5. Language situation in Europe ................................................ 39 2.5.1. Endangered languages of the Russian Federation ..... 40 2.5.2. Endangered languages of Italy .................................. 42 2.5.3. Endangered languages of Germany .......................... 42 2.6. Language situation in the Pacific ........................................... 43 2.6.1. Endangered languages of Papua New Guinea .......... 44 2.6.2. Endangered languages of Australia ........................... 45 2.6.3. Endangered languages of Vanuatu ............................ 47 6 2.7. Summary ................................................................................ 48 3. Endangered languages .................................................................... 51 3.1. Sign languages of North America .......................................... 52 3.2. Languages of Alaska .............................................................. 53 3.3. Languages of South America ................................................. 54 3.4. Languages of Thailand ........................................................... 55 3.5. Languages of Australia .......................................................... 56 3.6. Languages of Papua New Guinea .......................................... 57 3.7. Languages of Vanuatu ........................................................... 59 3.8. Languages of Russia .............................................................. 60 3.9. Languages of the Cameroon-Nigeria borderland ................... 60 3.9.1. The Wawa ................................................................. 61 3.9.2. The Kwanja ............................................................... 61 3.9.3. Response to threats ................................................... 62 3.10. Languages of Brunei .............................................................. 63...

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