Encyclopedia of Language and Education

2008 Edition
| Editors: Nancy H. Hornberger

Researching Language Loss and Revitalization

  • Leena Huss
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-0-387-30424-3_246


Language loss refers to a societal or individual loss in use or in the ability to use a language, implying that another language is replacing it. It is a very common phenomenon world‐wide wherever languages are in contact. Language loss may be the result of subtractive bilingualism where a new language is learnt at the cost of the mother tongue (Lambert, 1974), or it can be seen as the choice of a person who believes that ceasing to use a lower‐status mother tongue will result in a better position in society or in higher prospects for the next generation. While this type of shift is often framed as “speaker's choice,” we can question if this kind of choice is really “free” as it is strongly influenced by unequal power relations between languages and language groups (Dorian, 1993).

The issue of language loss on a large scale, ultimately leading to the extinction of entire languages, was brought to a wider audience by Krauss ( 1992) more than a decade ago. According to his...


Minority Language Indigenous Language Original Language Language Choice Language Dominance 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Aikio, M.: 1988, Saamelaiset kielenvaihdon kierteessä. Kielisosiologinen tutkimus viiden saamelaiskylän kielenvaihdosta 1910–1980, [The Saami in the process of language shift. A sociolinguistic study on language shift in five Sámi villages during 1910–1980], Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, Helsinki.Google Scholar
  2. Amery, R.: 2000, Warrabarna Kaurna! Reclaiming an Australian Language, Swets and Zeitlinger, Lisse.Google Scholar
  3. Baker, C. and Prys Jones, S.: 1998, Encyclopedia of Bilingualism and Bilingual Education, Multilingual Matters, Clevedon.Google Scholar
  4. Crawford, J.: 2000, At War with Diversity: U.S. Language Policy in an Age of Anxiety, Multilingual Matters Ltd., Clevedon, Avon, UK.Google Scholar
  5. Crystal, D.: 2000, Language Death, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  6. Dorian, N.: 1981, Language Death: The life Cycle of a Scottish Gaelic Dialect, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, PA.Google Scholar
  7. Dorian, N.: 1989, Investigating Obsolescence, Studies in Language Contraction and Death, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  8. Dorian, N.: 1993, ‘Discussion note, a response to Ladefoged's other view of endangered languages’, Language 69(3), 575–579.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dorian, N.: 1998, ‘Western language ideologies and small‐language prospects’, in L.A. Grenoble and L. Whaley (eds.), Endangered Languages, Language Loss and Community Response, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 3–21.Google Scholar
  10. Edwards, J.: 1991, Multilingualism, Routledge, Oxford, UK.Google Scholar
  11. Edwards, J.: 2002, ‘Forlorn hope?’ in L. Wei, J.‐M. Dewaele, and A. Housen, (eds.), Opportunities and Challenges of Bilingualism, Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin and New York.Google Scholar
  12. Eisenlohr, P.: 2004, ‘Language revitalization and new technologies: Cultures of electronic mediation and the refiguring of communities’, Annual Review of Anthropology 33, 21–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fishman, J.: 1966, Language Loyalty in the United States; The Maintenance and Perpetuation of Non‐English Mother Tongues by American Ethnic and Religious Groups, Mouton, The Hague.Google Scholar
  14. Fishman, J.: 1991, Reversing Language Shift: Theoretical and Empirical Foundations of Assistance to Threatened Languages, Multilingual Matters Ltd, Clevedon.Google Scholar
  15. Fishman, J.: 1992, ‘Conference summary’, in W. Fase, K. Jaspaert, and S. Kroon (eds.), Maintenance and Loss of Minority Languages, John Benjamins, Amsterdam and Philadelphia, 395–403.Google Scholar
  16. Gal, S.: 1979, Language Shift: Social Determinants of Linguistic Change in Bilingual Austria, Academic Press, NY.Google Scholar
  17. Grenoble, L.A. and Whaley, L.J. (eds.): 1998, Endangered Languages: Current Issues and Future Prospects, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  18. Haugen, E.: 1953, The Norwegian Language in America: A Study in Bilingual Behavior I‐II, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, PA.Google Scholar
  19. Hinton, L. and Hale, K. (eds.): 2001, The Green Book of Language Revitalization in Practice, Academic Press, San Diego, CA.Google Scholar
  20. Hornberger, N. (ed.): 2007, Can Schools Save Indigenous Languages? Policy and Practice on Four Continents, Palgrave Macmillan, Hampshire.Google Scholar
  21. Huss, L., Camilleri Grima, A., and King, K.: 2003, Transcending Monolingualism. Linguistic Revitalization in Education, Swets and Zeitlinger, Lisse.Google Scholar
  22. Jaakkola, M.: 1973, Språkgränsen: en studie i tvåspråkighetens sociologi [Language Border: A Study in the Sociology of Bilingualism], Aldus/Bonnier, Stockholm.Google Scholar
  23. King, K.: 2001, Language Revitalization Processes and Prospects: Quichua in the Ecuadorian Andes, Multilingual Matters Ltd., Clevedon, UK.Google Scholar
  24. Krauss, M.: 1992, ‘The world's languages in crisis’, Language 68(1), 4–10.Google Scholar
  25. Kulick, D.: 1992, Language Shift and Cultural Reproduction: Socialization, Self, and Syncretism in a Papua New Guinea Village, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  26. Lambert, W.E.: 1974, ‘Culture and language as factors in learning and education’, in F.E. Aboud and R.D. Mead (eds.), Cultural Factors in Learning and Education, Fifth Western Washington Symposium on Learning, Bellingham, WA.Google Scholar
  27. Lindgren, A.‐R.: 2000, ‘Language emancipation: The Finnish case’, in R. Phillipson (ed.), Rights to Language: Equity, Power and Education, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers, Mahwah, NJ.Google Scholar
  28. Maffi, L. (ed.): 2001, On Biocultural Diversity: Linking Language, Knowledge, and the Environment, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  29. McCarty, T.L.: 2002, A Place to be Navajo: Rough Rock and the Struggle for Self‐Determination in Indigenous Schooling, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah, NJ.Google Scholar
  30. Mufwene, S.S.: 2006, Language Endangerment: An Embarrassment for Linguistics, Keynote address at the 42nd Regional Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society, 7 April 2006.Google Scholar
  31. Nettle, D. and Romaine, S.: 2000, Vanishing Voices. The Extinction of the World's Languages, Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  32. Newman, P.: 2003, ‘The endangered languages issue as a hopeless cause’, in M. Janse and S. Tol (eds.), Language Death and Language Maintenance, John Benjamins, Philadelphia, PA.Google Scholar
  33. Norberg, M.: 1996, Sprachwechselprozess in der Niederlausitz. Soziolinguistische Fallstudie der deutsch‐sorbischen Gemeinde Drachhausen/Hochoza [Language Shift Process in Niederlausitz: A Sociolinguistic Case Study on the German‐Sorbian Community Drachhausen/Hochoza], Ph. D. Thesis, Department of Slavic Languages, Uppsala University, Uppsala.Google Scholar
  34. Robins, R.H. and Uhlenbeck, E.M. (eds.): 1991, Endangered Languages, Berg, Oxford.Google Scholar
  35. Reyhner, J.: 1999, ‘Introduction: Some basics of indigenous language revitalization’, in J. Reyhner, G. Cantoni, St. R.N. Clair, and E. Parsons Yazzie (eds.), Revitalizing Indigenous Languages, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ.Google Scholar
  36. Saxena, A. and Borin, L. (eds.): 2006, Lesser‐known Languages of South Asia. Status and Policies, Case Studies and Applications of Information Technology, Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin.Google Scholar
  37. Shohamy, E.: 2006, At What Cost? Methods of Reviving, Maintaining and Sustaining Endangered and Minority Languages, Plenary at the Georgetown University Round Table on Languages and Linguistics, March 3–5, 2006, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  38. Shoji, H. and Janhunen, J.: 1997, Northern Minority Languages: Problems of Survival, Senri Ethnological Studies 44, National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka, Japan.Google Scholar
  39. Skutnabb‐Kangas, T.: 2000, Linguistic Genocide in Education or Worldwide Diversity and Human Rights?, Mahwah, NJ.Google Scholar
  40. Stiles, D.B.: 1997, ‘Four successful indigenous language programs’, in J. Reyhner (ed.), Teaching Indigenous Languages, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, 148–262.Google Scholar
  41. Stordahl, V.: 1996, Same i den moderne verden. Endring og kontinuitet i et samisk lokalsamfun [To be Sámi in the Modern World: Change and Continuity in a Sámi Community], Ph. D. Thesis, University of Tromsø Davvi Girji, Karasjok.Google Scholar
  42. Todal, J.: 2002, “-jos fal gáhttet gollegielat”: vitalisering av samisk språk i Noreg på 1990-talet [“‐if only you safeguard your golden language”: Vitalization of the Sámi Language in Norway in the 1990's, Tromsø, Norway.Google Scholar
  43. Weinreich, U.: 1953, Languages in Contact, Mouton, The Hague.Google Scholar
  44. Wong Fillmore, L.: 1991, ‘When learning a second language means losing the first’, Early Childhood Research Quarterly 6, 323–346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leena Huss
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Multiethnic ResearchUppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden