LINGUIST List 25.4604

Mon Nov 17 2014

Diss: Itzá; Sociolinguistics: Cru: 'From Language Revalorisation to Language Revitalisation...'

Editor for this issue: Danuta Allen <>

Date: 17-Nov-2014
From: josep cru <>
Subject: From Language Revalorisation to Language Revitalisation? Discourses of Maya Language Promotion in Yucatán
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Institution: Newcastle University
Program: School of Modern Languages
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2014

Author: Josep F. Cru

Dissertation Title: From Language Revalorisation to Language Revitalisation? Discourses of Maya Language Promotion in Yucatán

Dissertation URL:án_Mexico

Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics

Subject Language(s): Itzá (itz)

Dissertation Director:
Rosaleen Howard
Peter G. Sercombe

Dissertation Abstract:

Against the background of worldwide processes of language abandonment that are taking place at an unprecedented and rapid pace, in the last two decades language revitalisation has become an ever more prominent area of academic research. This thesis looks at the ideological underpinnings of Yucatec Maya language promotion in the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, based on the discourses of both official institutions and grassroots actors. After presenting the historical processes that have led to the present sociolinguistic minorisation of speakers of Maya in the Yucatán Peninsula, I analyse salient themes for language policy and planning pointed out by activists and institutions. Both official and grassroots discourses gathered in the field overwhelmingly revolve around the key concepts of revalorisation and rescate. These notions undergird the strategies that most participants consider as necessary for Maya language promotion, namely, the drafting of specific language legislation; the use of Maya in the education system; and an emphasis on the development of literacy in Maya. While policies in these areas may have a positive impact on raising the status and public profile of Maya and, therefore, lead to its legitimation, I argue that they present considerable limitations for actual revitalisation, which I believe should be part of a wider sociopolitical movement coming from the grassroots. On the one hand, vertical language policies that emanate from official institutions, the school being a prominent one, have been central in the cultural and linguistic assimilation to Spanish of indigenous peoples in Mexico. On the other hand, institutional policies that replicate the essentialist tenets of hegemonic languages on minorised languages, such as standardisation, actually devalue plurilingual and mixed practices on the ground and raise the issue of purism, which in the case of Yucatán may be contributing to language shift to Spanish and hindering the revitalisation process. Seen as an alternative and complementary project that comes above all from the ground up, I maintain that horizontal language promotion beyond institutional settings and control is effectively working towards the revitalisation of Maya. Along these lines, the use of this language in social media and modern music genres by youths, as part of their expanding linguistic repertoires and heteroglossic practices on the ground, is opening up promising spaces for its maintenance and reproduction.

Page Updated: 17-Nov-2014