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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: The Phula Languages in Synchronic and Diachronic Perspective Add Dissertation
Author: Jamin Pelkey Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: La Trobe University, Department of Linguistics
Completed in: 2009
Linguistic Subfield(s): Genetic Classification;
Subject Language(s): Phukha
Language Family(ies): Sino-Tibetan
Director(s): Randy LaPolla
David Bradley

Abstract: The Phula languages belong to the Ngwi branch of Burmic in the
Tibeto-Burman family and are spoken by a scattered array of ethnic groups
living in remote mountainous regions of southeastern Yunnan Province,
China, and adjacent pockets of northwestern Vietnam. The title ‘Phula’ is a
historical ethnonym that can apparently be traced back to the 10th Century,
but affiliated populations, which now total some 367,000, have remained
unresearched in terms of language identification, genetic relationships,
degrees of separation, historical contact, status of endangerment, general
demographics, geographic distribution and dialect diversity-all of which
this work seeks to define. The guiding research current is an attempt to
disprove and refine the following hypothesis: all synchronic languages
traditionally affiliated with the Phula ethnonym also belong to a single
exclusive genetic clade linguistically.

In order to make the propositions of this prediction falsifiable, two key
sets of knowledge are in need of definition: 1) the number of distinct,
synchronic languages affiliated with the Phula ethnonym and 2) the nature
of the genetic relationships they share. The first question involves
synchronic dialectology, and the second question involves historical
dialectology. Both questions are interdependent, and required on-site
fieldwork in 41 Phula villages gathering lexical, textual, ethnohistorical,
and perceptual data in cooperation with numerous research and
administrative units of Yunnan. Data analysis is approached from multiple
perspectives including qualitative and quantitative diagnostics, blending
insights from history, geography, ethnology, sociolinguistics, descriptive
linguistics and comparative linguistics into an organic whole.

The results of the research provide grounds for defining 24 synchronic
Phula languages belonging to four distinct macro-clades genetically. 22 of
these languages are demonstrated to belong to two exclusive clades of the
Southeastern Ngwi sub-branch. The process of subgrouping based on the newly
available Phula data also provides grounds for rethinking several other
Ngwi-branch relationships. Findings are presented in a variety of charts,
tables and maps. Research results have broader implications for
dialectology, epistemology, regional ethnohistory, geolinguistics, and
neglected diversity in the Sinosphere.