EDITOR(S): Hornberger, Nancy H. ; Puetz, Martin TITLE: Language Loyalty, Language Planning and Language Revitalization SUBTITLE: Recent Writings and Reflections from Joshua A. Fishman SERIES: Bilingual Education & Bilingualism PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters YEAR: 2006
Iris Flannery, unaffiliated scholar
The purpose of this volume is to present an overview of some of the significant contributions which Joshua A. Fishman has made to the field of linguistics. This book should be read by anyone interested in endangered languages, language planning, language revitalization, sociolinguistics, Yiddish or the history of sociolinguistics. It is an edited collection of Fishman's essays by Nancy H. Hornberger, professor of Education at the University of Pennsylvania; and Martin Puetz, professor of linguistics and English Language at the University of Koblenz-Landau. The editors composed it with the purpose that Fishman's writings be accessible for future generations of linguists.
The essays included in this volume range from 1987 to 2002. The editors organized the essays into four sections: Personal Perspectives on Sociolinguistics; Loyalty, Shift, and Revitalization; Globalization, Power and the Status of Threatened Languages; and Yiddish Language and Culture. Each part of this collection provides the reader another perspective on the language planning and revitalization task.
The book begins with an interview of Joshua A. Fishman by Nancy H. Hornberger and Martin Puetz in May of 2005. During the course of the interview Fishman recounts his early experience with Yiddish, the influence of Max Weinreich, and the sociolinguistic enterprise. This interview provides biographical depth.
Part One: ''Personal Perspectives on Sociolinguistics'' starts with the essay ''My life through my work: My work through my life.'' This essay is biographical and provides insight into how Fishman's Yiddish upbringing made him aware at an early age about the importance of small, threatened languages and cultures. This awareness influenced and shaped his approach to linguistics and philosophy. In the second essay ''Bloomington, Summer 1964: The birth of American sociolinguistics'' Fishman describes the seminar and attendees that laid the foundation for the field of sociolinguistics. In the third essay ''Putting the 'Socio' back into the sociolinguistic enterprise'' (1991) Fishman discusses the seeming ''reciprocal ignorance pact'' between sociologists and linguists. In the final essay of this section, ''Diglossia and societal multilingualism: Dimensions of similarity and difference'' Fishman explores the relationship between diglossia and multilingualism. The essays in this first part provide the reader with an autobiographical account of Fishman, and his personal understanding of the practice of sociolinguistics.
The essays in Part Two: ''Loyalty, Shift, and Revitalization'' focus on language planning. In the fifth essay, ''What is Reversing Language Shift (RLS) and How Can It Succeed?'' Fishman clarifies what RLS movements are, not backwards looking, but identity confirming. He categorizes movements on a scale from one (strong) to eight (weak) and describes the special problems which beset movements at each stage. In ''Reversing Language Shift: Successes, failures, doubts and dilemmas'' Fishman debunks some false ideas about why certain languages successfully revive, and some do not. Additionally he elaborates on what criteria should be used to evaluate Reversing Language Shift problems. In ''Language Revitalization'' Fishman proposes an alternate, simplified model of the stages of language revitalization. In essay eight ''Good conferences in a wicked world: On some worrisome problems in the study of language maintenance and language shift'' Fishman considers the best conference practices, and questions whether conferences really accomplish enough. The final essay in this section ''Prospects for Reversing Language Shift (RLS) in Australia: Evidence from Aboriginal and immigrant languages'' describes the differing official policies towards the revitalization of indigenous and immigrant languages in Australia. The five essays that compose the second part describe language revitalization movements, and the problems that confront the revitalization movements at each stage. Each of the essays included in Part Two describe RLS theory and practices.
Part Three is entitled: ''Globalization, Power and the Status of Threatened Languages.'' This section includes essays on socio-political ramifications of language planning. Essay ten is '''English Only': Its ghosts, myths, and dangers'' (1988) which describes the shift in language policy in the U.S. and the motivating forces behind it. The second essay of this section ''On the Limits of Ethnolinguistic Democracy'' is a closer analysis of linguistic equality which is not extended to ''Sub-state mother tongues.'' In Chapter twelve, ''Language spread and language policy for endangered languages,'' Fishman details why both the intimate and the modern media domains are essential to the development of a robust language revitalization movement. In the final chapter of this section '''Business as usual' for threatened languages (On planning economic efforts for the greater benefit of Reversing Language Shift, or 'Keeping your eyes on the ball')'' Fishman confronts the idea that economic self-interest is in favor of complete merging with modern culture and language. Rather he argues, economic self-interest must be in maintaining the community for Reversing Language Shift to be sustained. This third part of the book focuses on threats and challenges that RLS movement face.
The last section of this book: ''Yiddish Language and Culture'' consists of two essays on holy languages. In chapter fourteen, ''The Holiness of Yiddish: Who says Yiddish is holy and why?'' Fishman empirically studies the status of Yiddish as a sacred language before the Holocaust and the shift afterwards. In the final chapter '''Holy languages' in the context of societal bilingualism'' Fishman describes the variety of holy languages that exist in relationship to other languages, and the resulting dynamic. This final part adds another layer to the complicated understanding of language's role in society provided by previous chapters.
This collection of Joshua A. Fishman's essays is well organized, providing just the right amount of breadth for an introduction. The editors chose an excellent organization for the volume -- presenting the autobiographical interview first allows the reader to develop a clear understanding of Fishman's background and inspiration. The second section focusing on Reversing Language Shift provided an essential conceptual framework for understanding the task which Fishman parameterized and dedicated his life to working on. The third section describes some of the problems that multilingualism faces. The last section focuses on Yiddish. The organization of the book makes it highly readable, and allows the reader to skip directly to the section that he/she might like. When finished with this short volume, the reader will certainly be left with the desire to read more of Joshua A. Fishman's essays and books.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Iris Flannery is a former Peace Corps Volunteer (in Niger), who now lives in Berkeley and works at the Haas School of Business. She will be beginning graduate study in Linguistics at UC Davis in the fall. Her research interests include endangered language revitalization, language planning, and sociolinguistics.