Review of Language Loyalty, Language Planning and Language Revitalization
|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
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,