fieldwork or cultural theft (part 3)

Peter Keegan pkeegan at
Thu Feb 6 01:02:03 UTC 1997

At 01:19 PM 2/5/97 -0500, Allan Wechsler wrote:
>Before we complacently reassure ourselves that, pace Peter Keegan,
>linguists are usually benign or indifferent influences, let's consider
>fieldwork from an economic and game-theoretic viewpoint.  I will

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to work out if linguistic field
work is
considered from an economic and game-theoretic viewpoint then less would get
done and languages would disappear at a faster rate.

I certainly don't ascribe to an ideology that suggests market forces should
permeate all aspects of society including language.

My point was to outline an example (i.e. New Zealand) whereby "the market"
has raised cultural capital (Maori language) into a highly marketable

This is probably rare in 1997 that a government, in this case the New
Zealand government, supports and funds efforts to retain an endangered
language. This support is certainly to be commended and  we know we are
very fortunate by world standards.

>Maori, with its hundred thousand speakers and its hard-won legal
>status, might have held out for better if they had infinite solidarity
>and played their cards right from the beginning: I can understand

According to current NZ Government sources Maori has less than 30,000
fluent speakers. Most of these speakers are probably over 50 years old, all
are bilingual in English. We have already completely lost 2 dialects,
Mooriori and South Island Maori. This suggests that the language is very
much an endangered language.

Peter Keegan

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