Book notice: Discourses of Endangerment: Ideology and Interest in the Defence of Languages

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Thu May 1 14:36:31 UTC 2008

Discourses of Endangerment: Ideology and Interest in the Defence of Languages
Series Title: Advances in Sociolinguistics
Published: 2008
Publisher: Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd

Book URL:

Editor: Alexandre DuchĂȘne
Editor: Monica Heller


Note: This is the paperback edition of a previously announced title.

Current academic discussions and public debates about language frequently
focus on the importance of defending languages against various kinds of
dangers. Many of these current debates attach great importance to
linguistic diversity. The debates focus on defending institutionalized
languages against multilingualism, or conversely defending minority
languages against the incursion of larger ones, especially the spread of
English. In both cases, languages are constructed as autonomous wholes,
held to need defending against attack. This book challenges such a view of
language, to argue that the discussions in question are not in fact about
language itself. The internationally renowned contributors claim that we
are witnessing ideological struggles which are taking place on the terrain
of language.

'Discourses of Endangerment' addresses such questions as:
*What does language represent in discussions of multilingualism?
*Why is it constituted as an organic whole?
*In whose interest does it lie to construct language in this way?
*Who has an interest in taking various positions for or against official
*In what way is the linguistic order tied to the social order?

The book addresses these issues through a set of case studies which locate
the terms of the discussion in broad discourses of language, identity and
power. Covering a wide-range of languages including Catalan, Swedish,
Corsican, Ukrainian and French, from different sociolinguistic
perspectives, this book is essential reading for students and academics
interested in language endangerment and sociolinguistics.

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