A cost-and-benefit approach to language loss

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The linguistics discourse on language endangerment and loss has been marked by a number of disputable assumptions about what languages are and about the terrible price humanity incurs in losing linguistic and cultural diversity as some of them die. I dispute some of those assumptions, including the claim that there are language rights. I also raise issues about the notions heritage and ancestral languages, which should not be confused with mother tongue. I argue that language loss is a consequence of the communicative habits of speakers, influenced in the here and now by their particular socioeconomic ecologies. The notion of population structure, which has to do with whether a population is integrated or segregated, who gets to interact regularly with whom, and who has to accommodate whom linguistically, plays an important role in my arguments.


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