Linguicide or Linguistic Suicide?: A Case Study of Indigenous Minority Languages in France
McNulty, Stephen Joseph
This paper considers two, frequently opposing, perspectives to describe the decline and death of minority and endangered languages, namely linguicide (e.g. Skutnabb-Kangas & Phillipson, 1995) and linguistic suicide (Beck & Lam, 2008). After critically overviewing the key implications of each perspective, it argues for the consideration of a framework which incorporates both: with linguicidal ideologies, internalised by speakers, prompting the changes in language attitudes which motivate their decisions abandon their mother or ancestral tongues. Following this, the case of French indigenous minority languages (or langue régionales) is analysed, and attempts are made to identify the salient “active” and “passive” linguicidal ideological devices present in the “declared” (Shohamy, 2006) and “perceived” (Bonacina-Pugh, 2012) language policies from France’s history. An analysis of several sources attesting to the “attitude shifts” on the part of speakers (cf. Sallabank, 2007), influenced by these language policies, is also included. The paper ends with an overview of more recent policies that could potentially reverse these negative attitudes, and, thus, perhaps, the effects of linguistic suicide.
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