[NDNAIM] Activists . . . Endangered Languages

Rankin, Robert L rankin at ku.edu
Sun Jul 6 15:21:16 UTC 2008

I'd add a third way.  Modern Hebrew has been seriously reconfigured, some would say creolized.  Paul Wexler at Tel Aviv Univ. goes so far as to call it a "Slavic language in search of a Semitic past."  His contention is that it is relexified E. Slavic (he simply called it "Ukrainian" in a lecture he gave at KU).  It was relexified with German vocabulary to form Yiddish and with Hebrew vocabulary to form modern "Hebrew".  So eastern European immigrants don't actually learn a Semitic language in Israel -- just vocabulary.  To the extent that this may be true, it pretty much erases the only really convincing case of revival.  Wexler's website has the details if you're interested.
It hadn't occurred to me that Czech fell into the category of formerly-endangered language, but I'll defer to David and Jan on that.  The Polynesian cases are interesting and tend to confirm that any language can be successfully taught, but they don't confirm that the languages can be restored to *use*.  This will depend on what happens to the graduates of the programs when they enter society.  We won't know that for certain for a couple of generations yet.  Suffice it to say that a language has to have a social function or it will fall out of use -- again.


> The Hebrew revival differs from the situation faced by most endangered languages in two ways.  

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