Can a language endanger itself?

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This chapter presents a case study of how Wolof has cohabited the linguisticecology of urban Senegal with a colonial language, French, over the past threehundred years. Specifically, it explores how this contact has reshaped the repertoire,giving rise to a way of speaking that scholars have dubbed ‘urban Wolof,’and how urban Wolof has diverged from other dialects of the language. The factthat Wolof became an urban language has contributed to its expansion, but alsoto its hybridity, leading to a situation in which it has been perceived as both athreat to minority languages within Senegal, and as an endangered language,because of its increasingly mixed nature. This chapter presents a brief history ofurban Wolof, as well as a means of reconceptualizing it as a practice rather thana language, followed by a discussion of how hybridity plays into questions oflanguage ideology in the Senegalese context to answer the question of whether alanguage can endanger itself.


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