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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: Spatial Language: Insights from sign and spoken languages Add Dissertation
Author: Engin Arik Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Purdue University, Linguistics Program
Completed in: 2009
Linguistic Subfield(s): Cognitive Science;
Director(s): Elaine Francis
Ronnie Wilbur
Dan Slobin
Diane Brentari
Myrdene Anderson

Abstract: This dissertation examined how sign and spoken languages represent space in
their linguistic systems by proposing the Crossmodal Spatial Language
Hypothesis (CSLH), which claims that the features from spatial input are
not necessarily mapped on the spatial descriptions regardless of modality
and language. Moreover, CSLH explains that the way languages convey spatial
relations is bound to the representational system: Spatial Representations
(SR), Reference Frames (RF), Temporal Representations (TR), Conceptual
Structure (CS), and Linguistic Representations (LR).

To test the hypothesis, a systematic study of spatial language (sign,
speech, and co-speech gestures) on the data obtained from experiments and
elicitation tasks was conducted in sign languages (TID, HZJ, ASL, and ÖGS)
and spoken languages (Turkish, English, and Croatian). The findings
uncovered a large amount of variation in the signed and spoken descriptions
of static situations and dynamic situations. Additionally, despite some
shared characteristics of the two domains, the analyses indicated that
space and time are encoded in SR and TR. The results provided supporting
evidence for CSLH.

The findings suggested that language users construct a spatial relation
between the objects in a given time, employ a reference frame, which may
not be encoded in the message, and use the same conceptual structure
comprised of BE-AT for static spatial situations and GO-BE-AT for static
dynamic situations. Experimental results also showed that language users do
not have to distinguish left/right from front/back, in/on from at, to from
toward, cause from go, and cause to move from cause to move together in
their descriptions. Interestingly, the descriptions involved go-type
predicates (go, walk) for both static and dynamic situations.

Further analyses revealed not only a modality effect (signers > speakers)
but also a language effect. Careful consideration of the data revealed that
there were similarities and differences within and across modalities.
Future study can shed more light on these variations and patterns.