This article deals with language death phenomena within a wider framework of languages in contact. A few relevant issues of language death research are critically discussed in order to focus on the peculiarities of this phenomenon as opposed to other outcomes of contact, such as the development of pidgin and creole languages. In particular, the article deals with the role of imperfect native speakers in communities characterized by language shift, with the interaction between language-external and language-internal aspects, and with the kinds of structural consequences that are expected in long-lasting attrition phases. Finally, an emphasis on environmental factors to explain linguistic phenomena is advocated.
Teaching disappearing languages: the case of Australia
2000, Vol. V-1, pp. 61-69
Numerous initiatives are currently underway in Australia to try to prevent the dramatic loss of traditional Aboriginal languages. Teaching these languages at school is one of them. However, this process of language revival raises issues that go beyond the pedagogical framework: Is there still enough data available to save all the languages? Are there enough trained staff to provide quality teaching? Following a general presentation of these issues, I account of my own endeavour to produce a teacher's guide of Bardi, an Aboriginal language of Western Australia. Although no one doubts the benefits of saving endangered languages, the issues that crop up once "in the field" are not the only ones that might have been expected.