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Title: The Welsh Language: A Case Study in Language Maintenance Theory
Authors: Davies, Eleanor
Advisors: Colley, Linda
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2015
Abstract: This study is an investigation into the policy mechanisms that serve to promote language revitalization and language maintenance among endangered languages. An endangered language is a language whose future is uncertain either due to language shift (i.e the language has shifted from a functional language to a ceremonial and/or traditional language) or demographic indicators (i.e. declining number of speakers). According to UNESCO, there are over 2,500 endangered or vulnerable languages, and linguists predict that half of the world’s languages will disappear by the end of the century. This study sought to test theories of language maintenance for their impact and practicality, suggesting that there is a robust role for policy-makers, not just linguists, in the preservation of endangered and minority languages. The methodology for this investigation used the Welsh language as a case study and as an example of a minority language that has, at least temporarily, reversed the trend of language erosion. The specific institutional and attitudinal policies from the Welsh case study serve to inform this study and provide actionable extrapolations for other languages seeking revitalization. Because each endangered language is facing a unique matrix of language attrition factors (socio-cultural, demographic, historical, economic, geographic, etc.), there is no singular minority language maintenance policy. However, based on the Welsh language success story, language promotion policies that are especially effective are those which: 1) Target a language’s institutional legitimacy to give the language both symbolic and logistical buoyancy, 2) Leverage the impact of attitudinal changes on language maintenance, 3) Recognize the reciprocity of institutional-directed and attitudinal-directed policies working together, and 4) Properly understand the goals of language maintenance and what constitutes success.
Extent: 109 pages
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2016

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