LING 410/510: Language Endangerment
Instructor: G. Tucker Childs
The general purpose of this course is to alert participants to the scope and alarming rate at which languages are disappearing, and to explore the causes of their endangerment. Lectures will explore these topics on a world level and particularly in Africa; students will independently research a language and report on their findings to the class.
The course begins with a world survey, introducing the major sites where languages are disappearing and the significant factors causing the endangerment. At the end of this survey, students will be asked to choose a language for their own case study, which they will present to the class as a whole at the end of the course.
The second part of the course discusses language endangerment in Africa, looking at the Khoisan (click) languages in southern Africa and the Atlantic languages in West Africa. A central case study to the course will be the instructor’s own work in West Africa, specifically, on the “Mani Documentation Project”, and the effort to document the dying Mani language spoken by some several hundred people in the coastal Samou region of Sierra Leone and Guinea. Students will be exposed to the forms such documentation can take to ensure its value to present-day speakers and to future generations.
Prerequisites: LING 390
Major Assignments: Students will be evaluated in the following areas:
- Presentation 1: a short presentation (10 min), with a one-page hand-out, map, and a limited bibliography (including web resources) of at least ten items, with a sentence of characterization for each source. In the talk, introduce the language providing information as to its: location, classification, historical background, number of speakers and their other (second, third, etc.) languages, as well as a brief typological overview of the language's structure
- Presentation 2: Assess the degree of endangerment, state what the causes are, and make predictions as to the language's future
- two 10-mark evaluations, one at the end of the fifth week, another at the end of the course.
- factual content of lectures, readings, and presentations (based on handouts provided by presenters)
Grads vs. undergrads:
- Graduate students will be required to submit a 7-10 page paper on a topic to be determined in conference with the instructor.
Weighting of the various components:
|Class participation 1||10%||10%|
|Class participation 2||10%||10%|
As part of the final class, students will be introduced to the sorts of remedial action that have been and can be taken, and discuss how such actions already have or could influence the course of their chosen languages. This discussion will form the basis for a part of the final exam that can be prepared ahead of time.
Other Relevant Information: