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LINGUIST List 20.3878

Thu Nov 12 2009

Diss: Lang Documentation/Socioling: Sayers: 'Reversing Babel:...'

Editor for this issue: Di Wdzenczny <dilinguistlist.org>

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        1.    Dave Sayers, Reversing Babel: Declining linguistic diversity and the flawed attempts to protect it

Message 1: Reversing Babel: Declining linguistic diversity and the flawed attempts to protect it
Date: 10-Nov-2009
From: Dave Sayers <dave.sayerscantab.net>
Subject: Reversing Babel: Declining linguistic diversity and the flawed attempts to protect it
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Institution: University of Essex
Program: PhD Sociology
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2009

Author: Dave Sayers

Dissertation Title: Reversing Babel: Declining linguistic diversity and the flawed attempts to protect it

Dissertation URL: http://www.essex.ac.uk/linguistics/theses/2009/Sayers_ReversingBabel.pdf

Linguistic Field(s): Language Documentation

Dissertation Director:
Yasemin Soysal
David Britain
Peter Trudgill
Peter L. Patrick
Ewa Morawska

Dissertation Abstract:

This is an investigation about linguistic diversity, examining its decline
in different societal conditions over the last century, and interrogating
claims in language policy and planning to be 'protecting linguistic
diversity', using the UK as its main example.

Chapter 1 comprises a review of variationist sociolinguistics, showing how
it has never fully defined linguistic diversity. Adjustments are suggested,
and a working definition of linguistic diversity offered.

Chapter 2 presents data from two major nationwide dialect surveys, in 1889
and 1962, showing how local dialects were weakening in this period. The
main focus is declining diversity, but information is presented about
possible conditioning factors, primarily increases in literacy.

In the absence of such nationwide reports after 1962, Chapter 3 collates
individual dialect studies from two regions of England, the northeast and
southeast, describing dialect convergence across these large geographical
areas. These changes are contrasted to those reported in Chapter 2. Again
the main theme is declining diversity, but information is reviewed to help
explain these contrasts, primarily increases in geographical mobility in
the latter half of the 20th century, concentrated around these regions.

Chapter 4 examines dialect weakening that some researchers have attributed,
at least in part, to the media. This also represents a change in societal
conditions undergirding declining diversity. Some theoretical work is done
to distinguish such changes from those observed in Chapter 3.

Chapter 5 reviews the rhetoric of minority language policy and planning,
and its frequent and explicit claims to be 'protecting linguistic
diversity'. The insights developed in Chapters 1-4 are applied to two
modern UK language revivals, Cornish and Welsh, to see how diversity
overall is faring here.

The conclusion sums up the gaps in our thinking about linguistic diversity,
and clarifies the limitations of planned interventions upon language.

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