Language support and revitalisation

Key information

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Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of Linguistics

Module overview

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

This module will investigate what it means to ‘support’ and ‘revitalise’ a language, using examples from around the world. Students will examine case studies and examples of revitalisation projects in terms of their methods, appropriacy, effectiveness, and applicability elsewhere.

By the end of the module, students will be able to demonstrate a broad understanding of the main issues in language support and revitalisation, and an understanding of the complex factors that affect the success or otherwise of projects.

Students will be guided towards in-depth reading on the topics and given the opportunity to develop their the skills of analysis and synthesis of theoretical and methodological issues. Students will also be equipped with the core analytical skills necessary to engage in research on language support and revitalisation, including baseline surveys, programme evaluation and presentation.


Total of 10 weeks teaching with 2 hours classroom contact per week consisting of a lecture.

Scope and syllabus

This module complements modules on Applied Language Documentation; Language, Society and Communication, and Language Planning and Policy. It will help students to gain an understanding of the processes and causes of language shift and endangerment, and issues involved in attempting to reverse it. It will be useful for students on the MA in Language Documentation and Description and others interested in language maintenance.

The module considers language support not only as preservation through documentation, but as an active process involving the whole community, both speakers and non-speakers. Emphasis is put on developing ways to support language communities’ own revitalisation efforts, e.g. through resource development. The main focus will be on bottom-up approaches rather than top-down official language policy, although areas of overlap will be considered.

The module will also examine the role of the researcher and external ‘expert’ in language revitalisation, e.g. in developing awareness of issues and procedures, links with other communities, or through advocacy.

The module will cover areas such as:

  • Why support endangered languages?
  • Issues in language revitalisation
  • Language rights, education
  • Models for revitalisation and case studies
  • Literacy and orthography (with case studies)
  • Creating a language revitalisation programme: assessing needs, goals, attitudes
  • The role of the researcher and external ‘expert’ (and case studies)
  • Maintenance, revitalisation, revival: ‘dead’ or ‘sleeping’ languages
  • Related factors: language ideologies, religion, identity, social networks, etc.

This module is CORE for students on the Language Support and Revitalisation pathway of the MA in Language Documentation and Description.

Method of assessment

  • 60% - Essay 2,500 words
  • 40% - Group presentation, 30 minutes
  • The exact assessment deadline dates are published on the relevant module Moodle/BLE page

Suggested reading

Recommended textbooks:

  • Grenoble, Lenore A., and Whaley, Lindsay J. 2006. Saving Languages: An Introduction to Language Revitalization . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Hinton, Leanne Leena Huss, Gerald Roche (eds) 2018. The Routledge Handbook of Language Revitalization , Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Other recommended readings:
  • Austin, P.K. and Sallabank, J. (eds) 2011. Cambridge Handbook of Endangered Languages . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Austin, Peter K. and Julia Sallabank (eds) 2014. Endangered Languages: Beliefs and Ideologies in Language Documentation and Revitalization . OUP/British Academy.
  • Amery, Rob. 2001. Language Planning and Language Revival. Current Issues in Language Planning 2:141-221.
  • Bradley, D. 2010. Resilience Linguistics: Revitalising Indigenous Languages. Anthropological Linguistics 52/3.
  • Fishman, Joshua A. (ed.) 2001. Can Threatened Languages be Saved? Reversing Language Shift, Revisited: A 21st Century Perspective . Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
  • Goodfellow, Anne Marie (ed). 2009. Speaking of Endangered Languages: Issues in Revitalization . Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
  • Grenoble, Lenore A., and Whaley, Lindsay J. (eds.) 1998. Endangered Languages: Language Loss and Community Response . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Hinton, Leanne, and Hale, Ken (eds.) 2002. The Green Book of Language Revitalization in Practice . San Diego/Oxford: Academic Press.
  • Hinton, Leanne. 2003. Language revitalization. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics 23: 44-57.
  • King, Kendall A. (2001). Language revitalization processes and prospects: Quichua in the Ecuadorian Andes. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
  • Miyaoka, Osahito, Sakiyama, Osamu, and Krauss, Michael E. (eds.) 2007. The Vanishing Languages of the Pacific Rim. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Kroskrity, Paul V. and Margaret C. Field, eds. 2009. Native American Language Ideologies: Beliefs, Practices, and Struggles in Indian Country . Tucson: University of Arizona Press.
  • Leonard, Wesley Y. 2012. Reframing language reclamation programmes for everybody's empowerment. Gender and Language 6, 2: 339-267.
  • Leonard, Wesley Y. 2017. Producing language reclamation by decolonising ‘language’. Language Documentation and Description 14: 15-36, Special Issue on Reclaiming Languages.
  • Pauwels, Anne. 2016. Language Maintenance and Shift . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Reyhner, Jon and Louise Lockard (eds). 2009. Indigenous Language Revitalization: Encouragement, Guidance & Lessons Learned Flagstaff, AZ: Northern Arizona University.
  • Rehg, Kenneth L. and Lyle Campbell (eds) 2018. The Oxford handbook of endangered languages . New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Sallabank, J. 2013. Attitudes to Endangered Languages: Identities and Policies . Cambridge University Press.
  • Sallabank, Julia (2017) Purism, Variation, Change and ‘Authenticity’: Ideological Challenges to Language Revitalisation. European Review, 26 (1): 164-178.


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