Different cultures, different attitudes

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The maintenance or restoration of vitality to endangered languages has becomean important part of many current language documentation projects, and thedevelopment of orthographies and primers is often seen as a key instrument inthis endeavor. The present contribution, which focuses on endangered languageson the African continent, takes a somewhat different perspective on thisissue. First, it is argued that the situation in many African countries differs fromthat in the United States or Australia in that language loss in these latter countriesoften leads to monolingualism; many people in Africa on the other handare multilingual, and consequently they have a more utilitarian attitude towardsthe obsolescence of specific languages, also because primary language andethnicity are not necessarily linked to each other. In spite of these differences,it is claimed here that the situation with respect to African minorities speakingendangered languages is not all that different from that in First World countries.The Tima language in Sudan and attempts to revitalize this endangered languageis taken as an example here. As argued below, language loss may be delayedin some cases, but in all cases it is an irreversible consequence of globalization.Consequently, language revitalization as such is a hopeless cause.


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