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Vanishing Languages in Context

Ideological, Attitudinal and Social Identity Perspectives


Edited By Martin Pütz and Neele Mundt

This volume grew out of the 36 th International LAUD Symposium, which was held in March 2014 at the University of Koblenz-Landau in Landau, Germany. There is general consensus among language experts that slightly more than half of today’s 7,000 languages are under severe threat of extinction even within fifty to one hundred years. The 13 papers contained in this volume explore the dramatic loss of linguistic diversity, why this matters, and what can be done and achieved to document and support endangered languages especially in the context of an ever increasing globalized world. The issue of vanishing languages is discussed from a variety of methodologies and perspectives: sociolinguistics, language ecology, language contact, language policy/planning, attitudes and linguistic inequalities.
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Britta Schneider - Language ideologies beyond ethnicity – Observing popular music styles and their potential relevance for understanding processes of endangerment


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Britta Schneider

Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

Language ideologies beyond ethnicity – Observing popular music styles and their potential relevance for understanding processes of endangerment

Abstract Languages are traditionally understood as indexing ethnic belonging while in this contribution I discuss non-ethnic symbolic functions of language. Languages can symbolize non-territorial, abstract matters, which may contribute to their (non)-prestige. I share observations on language ideologies in different popular music styles based on online data and ethnographic research. Although the examples given do not stem from endangered languages, they are potentially relevant for understanding discursive structures that lead to endangerment or loss. One example introduces the role of the Spanish language in Australian and German salsa communities; the other is concerned with the use of creolized Englishes in Caribbean dancehall. In both music styles, language choices are not necessarily explicable by ethnic belonging but are interwoven with discourses that are non-territorial, related to class identity, capitalist mass consumption, neoliberalism, colonial history and/or resistance to any of these. The article finally discusses that multiple symbolic meanings of language shed light on problems associated with evolutionary concepts in endangerment discourse.

Keywords: community of practice; creole; ethnography; language choice; language ideology; music styles; symbolic meaning

1. Introduction

Discourses on language endangerment problematize language loss and typically aim to support the use of particular languages among particular people. Recently, the constructed nature of linguistic boundaries and of the groups they relate to,...

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