Beyond expertise

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We linguists see ourselves as knights in shining armor, while Natives see us as a necessarily evil. They are quick to criticize, control, and even block linguistic work. Why this gap? First, there is misunderstanding about what linguists do. Second, linguists cannot help with the most crucial needs of an endangered language. Finally, including outsiders entails a loss of community autonomy. The socio-political agenda can easily override the urgency of the work. Understanding differences in viewpoint can foster an environment of mutual respect, leading to a successful project. The linguist must learn to function as part of a team, and the community must learn to get the most out of their linguist in order to attain the shared goal – the revitalization of the language.


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