Researching Language Loss and Revitalization

  • Leena HussEmail author
Reference work entry
Part of the Encyclopedia of Language and Education book series (ELE)


Language loss refers to a societal or individual loss in the use or in the ability to use a language, implying that another language is replacing it. Revitalization, in turn, is commonly understood as giving new life and vigor to a language that has been decreasing in use and is today a rapidly growing field of study. Both fields are highly multidisciplinary, drawing from linguistics, sociology, education, psychology, anthropology, political science, and other disciplines.

Since the 1990s, the research interest in endangered languages and consciousness of the need to contribute to their survival have grown among researchers, and numerous studies have been undertaken to present what has been done to curb language decline and to explain why some languages survive and others do not. Researchers have also tried to pinpoint the most relevant factors and the ways in which they interact. Still, to establish language revitalization more firmly as an independent field of study, more research and theorization are needed.

Many revitalization efforts are connected with ethnic revival movements as revitalization of the language is often seen as a crucial part of the overall ethnic revival. As a reaction to former forced assimilation and oppression, revitalization movements are often seen as ways to healing, redress, and empowerment. Therefore, a growing part of revitalization research is today being done by, or in close collaboration with, researchers and other members coming from the language communities themselves.

The chapter deals with research approaches in the field of language loss and revitalization, as well as challenges faced by scholars in this area.


Assimilation Language maintenance Language shift Language revitalization Minority languages Indigenous languages The Sámi The Kven Tornedalians 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Hugo Valentin CentreUppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden

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