LINGUIST List 28.3227

Sat Jul 29 2017

Review: General Ling; Socioling: Pauwels (2016)

Editor for this issue: Clare Harshey <>

Date: 17-Mar-2017
From: Tyler Anderson <>
Subject: Language Maintenance and Shift
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Book announced at

AUTHOR: Anne Pauwels
TITLE: Language Maintenance and Shift
PUBLISHER: Cambridge University Press
YEAR: 2016

REVIEWER: Tyler Kimball Anderson, Colorado Mesa University



Anne Pauwels’ monograph entitled “Language Maintenance and Shift” serves as an introduction to the field of language maintenance (LM) and language shift (LS). As the author notes, to date, no book has been entirely dedicated to this field. Therefore, the main purpose of the book is to focus on how LM and LS have been investigated, discuss the foremost scholars associated with the fields of study, present the trends and patterns in LM, and provide an overlook of what efforts have been implemented to support LM or to reverse LS. The author also proposes inquiries for future research and paradigm development in these two arenas.

After a brief introduction, the book is divided into five main sections. Part I focuses on the pioneers of LM studies and the roots of this field in language contact scholarship. To begin, in Chapter 1, “Pioneers in the study of language maintenance and shift,” the reader is presented with information on the works of key figures, including Einar Haugen, Uriel Weinrich and Joshua Fishman. Chapter 2, “Concepts, contexts and approaches to the study of language maintenance and shift,” then explores the development of LM and LS as a field of its own, stemming from a subfield of language contact. The remainder of the chapter defines key concepts (i.e. language shift, maintenance, revival and revitalization, multilingualism and diglossia) and key settings for investigating LM (i.e. migrant and territorial minority settings). The chapter concludes by looking at other fields (e.g. language planning) that influence or are influenced by LM and LS.

Part II then turns to how LM and LS are investigated. Chapter 3, “Linguistic demography,” begins the discussion, providing an in-depth overview of the use, benefits and drawbacks of census records in the study of LM. The author then turns to the use of surveys and questionnaires in Chapter 4, “Reporting language use and exploring language attitudes.” The chapter includes a discussion on the challenges of using questionnaires, including the difficulty of including randomness in the sampling process and what language(s) to use in the questionnaires. Considered in this section is also the link between language attitudes and LM. In Chapter 5, “Beyond surveys,” the author examines the strengths and weaknesses of interviews, participant observation and experiments (specifically the matched-guise technique). The chapter then includes information on less commonly used forms of data collection, including diaries, autobiographies, language memoirs and correspondence.

After having set the stage in chapters one through five, in Part III the author reveals some of the findings from various studies on LM and LS, beginning in Chapter 6, “Trends and patterns in language maintenance and shift.” Here, Pauwels specifically addresses the central question to these studies: who speaks what language to whom, when. Included in this section is a discussion of speaker characteristics, including generation, age, gender and marital practices (i.e. endogamy or exogamy). Contexts of use are also described, including specific domains such as family, home, friendship, worship, education and employment. Following the presentation of trends found in the above-mentioned areas, the author then shifts to “Understanding the dynamics of language maintenance and shift” in Chapter 7, where the author presents several approaches to analyzing LM and LS. To begin Pauwels describes the usefulness of Heinz Kloss’ ‘clear-cut and ambivalent factors.’ In turn, we are introduced to the strengths and weaknesses of J.J. Smolicz’s ‘core value theory.’ Other frameworks and taxonomies are similarly discussed, followed by an analysis of the possibility of someday developing a model that will satisfactorily address LM and LS in an ever-changing world.

Following the theoretical considerations behind analyzing LM and LS, part IV then turns to specific efforts that have been implemented to deter LS, beginning with Chapter 8, “Efforts, agencies and institutions for language maintenance.” Here, the most dominant factor in LM, the family structure, is discussed at length. In turn, the author then discusses other entities that play a role in LM or LS, including community schools, the religious domain, secular community based organizations and the domain of media. The chapter ends by looking beyond the community, particularly at the role of government support in LM. Chapter 9 then turns to “Reversing language shift,” where the author summarizes Fishman’s Graded Integration Disruption Scale. Also entertained is the question of whether LS should be reversed at all.

To conclude this manuscript, Pauwels discusses future developments in the study of LM and LS in Chapter 10, “Opportunities and challenges for the future study of language maintenance and shift.” Discussed at length is the idea of how increased mobility, technology, and globalization have necessitated the creation of a new paradigm in the investigation of LM. In a similar fashion to Blommaert (2010), the author exemplifies this need through vignettes from two families grappling with LM and LS issues. She concludes the chapter (and the book) by stating that perhaps even the very terms LM and LS will soon no longer be appropriate to describe the processes described in her manuscript.


Anne Pauwels’ work serves as a welcome addition to the fields of language contact and sociolinguistics. As previously mentioned, this is the first of its kind, with all other treatises on LM and LS being included as a subdiscussion in some other general work (the author providing a sample list of such works in her introductory chapter). The main purpose of the book is to introduce the reader to the field and discuss the reasons why some linguistic minorities are able to maintain their language(s), while others shift quite rapidly to the dominant language. The author adeptly takes the reader through these topics and encourages further investigation along the way.

The book flows nicely as the author moves the reader from topic to topic. As Pauwels switches from Part II to Part III, for example, she provides a wonderful transition between the two sections, where she introduces the new material to be discussed in the future chapters. This is likewise the case between Part III to Part IV; however, such a transition is missing between Part I and Part II, where the reader is not provided any overview of the material to be discussed. Furthermore, while the author provides a logical structure and movement between topics, the reader has to wait until nearly half-way through the book before factors and trends of LM were discussed. Again, although the sequence in presentation is reasonable, the appearance of factors that contribute to or impede LM seemed excessively late in the book.

While never explicitly stated, the book appears to be written for the upper-level undergraduate linguistics student, but the tome could undoubtedly be used in graduate-level courses as well. Included in the conclusion of each chapter is a section titled ‘points for discussion and tasks.’ Each of these tasks is purposeful and will serve nicely for in-class discussions or further research. Some of these discussion points ask the student to further develop a topic that was considered in the chapter, while others encourage further out-of-class research applying an issue discussed in the chapter to a specific language setting.

Also included at the end of each paragraph is a list of several titles in ‘Suggestions for further reading.’ While the format of some of these sections is difficult to navigate and inconsistent from chapter to chapter, the author has provided relevant resources on LM and LS, from seminal studies to recently released manuscripts. These readings serve to take the reader beyond the introductory nature of the book to an advanced understanding of the topics at hand.

Pauwels’ chapter on questionnaire development is especially helpful for the beginning researcher. She adeptly discusses the development of a research project, from participant sampling to question formulation. While overall this section is well developed, at one point the author discusses the use of different types of methods for sampling populations, stating that “the ‘friend to friend’ approach that works quite well … within a ‘monolingual’ community does not work well for … a multilingual community” (p. 50); however, she never discusses why it is less than ideal for this situation. This section also includes several useful examples of closed-ended questions using Likert-scale responses; nevertheless, the author includes a poorly written example of a yes/no question followed by a Likert scale where the respondent is required to mark a level of agreement, not a binary response.

Similarly perplexing, in her discussion on the matched-guise technique, Pauwels provides an adequate overview of the research method and its use in language attitudes studies but fails to show how it is useful in LM and LS research, the focus of this book. The reader is directed to a subsequent chapter in the book for further information, but never is the technique discussed again.

Throughout the book the author uses various terms for which no working definitions are provided, including ‘polity,’ ‘languaging,’ ‘translanguaging’ and ‘constellations’; as an introductory tome, readers might require exemplification or explanation of such terms. In addition, the term ‘generation’ is nowhere explained, and because its meaning can vary from author to author, a definition is warranted. Most problematic, however, was the lack of definition for the terms ‘code-mixing’ and ‘code-switching,’ as well as a lack of distinction between the two, which in other investigations are often used interchangeably. What constitutes code-switching, for example, is highly variable and hotly debated. In the edited volume The Cambridge handbook of linguistic code-switching, the first five chapters attempt to unravel what code-switching is and what it is not (see also Torres and Potowski 2016). While it is not expected that a volume on LM delve into this debate, delineating what the author means by the use of such terms would be useful.

Although this manuscript provides a broad scope of the fields that inform LM and LS, one area of discussion that is lacking is that of ‘linguistic (in)security’ and its implications on LM. While arguably an extension of language attitudes, linguistic insecurity does vary in that it reflects the attitudes a speaker has towards his or her own language use. This concept has been investigated in language change at all levels, from sound alternation (Carrera-Sabaté 2005) to grammatical modifications (Woods and Rivera-Mills 2012) to complete language shift (Cohn and Ravidnranath 2014). While this omission by no means takes away from the overall quality of the book, the inclusion would enhance this section of the book.

Of greater concern was the paucity of discussion on speaker characteristics presented in Chapter 6. While the author indicates that there are indeed many speaker variables that impact language use, she only provides a discussion on the four most widely studied: age, generation, gender, and marital status. While this delimitation may be justified, in a book where LM and LS is the focus, a more exhaustive presentation of the factors that contribute to LM is merited. Even those areas that were included are rather scarcely treated; for example, the discussion on ‘generation’ included only one paragraph.

Similarly, when considering ‘reversing language shift’ in Chapter 9, there seemed to be an absence of analysis on whether LS should be reversed. In fact, in the opening sentence of this section, she states that this question ‘has engendered much debate’ (p. 160), but in spite of its polemic nature, only two-pages are dedicated to the question.

These omissions aside, Pauwels’ tome includes many wonderful discussions on a very broad range of topics that others might have overlooked (i.e. linguistic landscapes and globalization). The author is adept at including ideas for future research in LM and LS throughout the book. Especially relevant here is Chapter 7, where the author presents various frameworks and taxonomies for understanding and predicting differences in language-use patterns from group to group. Here, she discusses the strengths and failings of three such frameworks and then proposes that in spite of the lack of success in developing a predictive model, the goal should not be abandoned.

The appearance of “Language maintenance and shift” is a welcome addition to the field of sociolinguistics, and the text fills a need heretofore inexplicably left void for decades. Pauwels encourages further research into the field and broadens our understanding of the factors that contribute to LM in our globalized world. It clearly will serve as an invaluable resource for students interested in this field of study.


Blommaert, Jan. 2010. The sociolinguistics of globalization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Carrera-Sabaté, Josefina. 2005. Inseguridad lingüística y cambio fonético en catalán noroccidental. Estudios de Sociolingüística 6(1). 65-86.

Cohn, Abigail C. & Maya Ravindranath. 2014. Local languages in Indonesia: Language maintenance or language shift? Linguistik Indonesia, Agustus 2014. 131-148.

Toribio, Almeida Jacqueline & Barbara Bullock (eds.). 2009. The Cambridge handbook of linguistic-code-switching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Torres, Lourdes & Kim Potowski. 2016. Hablamos los dos in the Windy City: Codeswitching among Puerto Ricans, Mexicans and MexiRicans in Chicago. In Rosa E. Guzzardo Tamargo, Catherine M. Mazak & M. Carmen Parafita Couto (eds.) Spanish-English codeswitching in the Carribean and the US (pp. 83-105). Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Woods, Michael R. & Susana V. Rivera-Mills. 2012. El tú como un “mask”: Voseo and Salvadoran and Honduran identity in the United States. Studies in Hispanic and Lusophone Linguistics 5(1). 191-216.


Tyler K. Anderson is Associate Professor of Spanish at Colorado Mesa University, where he teaches courses in language, linguistics and second language acquisition. His research interests include language attitudes toward manifestations of contact linguistics, including the acceptability of lexical borrowing and code-switching in Spanish and English contact situations. He is currently researching the perceptions of phonetic interference in second language acquisition.

Page Updated: 29-Jul-2017