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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

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Review of  The Green Book of Language Revitalization in Practice

Reviewer: Paulina Jaenecke
Book Title: The Green Book of Language Revitalization in Practice
Book Author: Leanne Hinton
Publisher: Academic Press
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Issue Number: 13.1638

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Date: Fri, 24 May 2002 13:17:12 +0200
From: Paulina Jaenecke
Subject: Hinton & Hale (2001) The Green Book of Language Revitalization

Hinton, Leanne, and Ken Hale, ed. (2001) The Green Book of Language Revitalization in Practice. Academic Press, xvii+450pp, paperback ISBN 0-12-349354-4

Paulina Jaenecke, doctoral student at the Freie Universitaet Berlin.

The Green Book on Language Revitalization is a book on the different aspects of language revitalization. The book is a collection of papers written by people actively involved in language revitalization projects. Although the focus is on North American indigenous languages, examples from other countries are included in the book.

The book is meant as a reference for individuals and communities, that are interested in the revitalization of an endangered language. It is aimed at readers without a background in linguistic theory.

The book contains 33 chapters which are divided into 9 parts. It also contains 16 introductions to the languages mentioned in the articles and maps to show the geographic location of the languages.

Chapter 1: Language Revitalization by Leanne Hinton
In this chapter Hinton gives an general overview of the field of language revitalization and the methods that can be used to revitalize a language.

Chapter 2: Diversity in Local Language Maintenance and Restoration: A Reason for Optimism, by Anna Ash, Jessie Little Doe Fermino and Ken Hale
The authors analyse the success of language revitalization efforts for four different languages: Lardil (Australia), Tuahka (Nicaragua), Wampanoag (USA) and Irish (Ireland). They see reason for optimism because of and because of the independence of these movements. This independence means that the movements are adapted to the local situation and circumstances, which indicates that people are struggling to protect diversity.

Chapter 3: Federal Language Policy and Indigenous Languages in the United States, by Leanne Hinton
In this chapter Hinton gives an overview of US language policies in the United States especially those affecting native American languages.

Chapter 4 To Help Assure the Survival and Continuing Vitality of Native American Languages, by Robert D. Arnold
In this chapter, Arnold, a member of the US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, relates how the Native American Languages Act of 1992 was passed. He gives an overview of the different steps and the opinions taken into account when policies are made.

Chapter 5: Language Planning, by Leanne Hinton
Hinton explains what language planning is and gives a step by step guide to language planning. She also cites two case studies of language planning, the Karuk Language Restoration Committee and the Yurok Language Committee. She emphasizes the opinion that planning should help and not hinder revitalisation projects.

EXCURSUS: Introduction to the Pueblo Languages, by Leanne Hinton

Chapter 6: Native Language Planning, by Christine P. Sims
As an example of native American language planning, the efforts of the Acoma Pueblo community are introduced. In this community, summer immersion camps for children were planned and carried out with the community as a basis for support of the program.

Chapter 7: The Key to Cultural Survival, by Regis Pecos and Rebecca Blum-Martinez
In the last twenty years, the Pueblo de Cochiti has experienced language shift from Cochiti Keres to English. Although the traditional lifestyle is valued and connected to the use of Keres, outside influences like the building of a dam and flooding Cochiti land and the plan to establish a resortlike community on the land threaten cultural survival. In order to stop language shift, activities to support Keres, like language classes and a summer camp for children were planned and carried out by community members.

EXCURSUS: The Navajo Language I, by Ken Hale

Chapter 8: Navajo Head Start Language Study, by Paul Platero
Navajo Linguist Paul Platero studied the use of Navajo and the support that Navajo speaking children received in typical Navajo Kindergarten. He gives recommendations on how to improve the kindergarten setting for encouraging the use of Navajo.

Chapter 9: Introduction to Revitalization of National Indigenous Languages, by Leanne Hinton
National Minority Languages e.g. Welsh, Irish, Maori, differ from indigenous languages of small communities in some aspects: they have a historical or potential role in governance. National minority language communities also face the problem of language shift, mostly because of imperialism. Although the situation of national minority languages differs from that of local minority languages, the language maintenance projects can offer stimulating ideas for local minority languages.

EXCURSUS: Introduction to the Welsh Language, by Leanne Hinton

Chapter 10: Welsh, by Gerald Morgan
In this chapter Morgan analyses the success of Welsh language maintenance efforts, with special emphasis on the role of the school.

EXCURSUS: Introduction to the Maori Language, by Ken Hale

Chapter 11: Te Kohanga Reo, by Jeanette King
In this chapter Jeanette King introduces the Te Kohanga Reo, a Maori language revitalization approach. In so-called "language nests" children are raised in an Maori-speaking environment. This early childhood immersion program has grown over the years and led to the introduction of Maori-Medium schools.

EXCURSUS: An Introduction to the Hawaiian Language, by Leanne Hinton

Chapter 12: The Movement to Revitalize Hawaiian Language and Culture, by Sam L. No'eau Warner
This chapter describes the situation of Hawaiian today and the language revitalization measures that have been tried.

Chapter 13: Mai Loko Mai O Ka 'I'ini: Proceeding from a Dream, by William H. Wilson and Kauanoe Kamana.
This chapter describes the 'Aha Punana Leo, a Hawaii organization that tries to re-establish Hawaiian as the daily language of communication. The 'Aha Punana Leo has been quite successful in creating a place for Hawaiian in the educational sector.

Chapter 14: Teaching Methods, by Leanne Hinton
This chapter gives an overview of different teaching methods. Hinton advises the immersion method as the best method for learning and teaching a language, but gives some advice for teaching when immersion is not possible. Hinton also gives some practical advice on teaching methods and lesson planning and provides a sample lesson on clothing.

EXCURSUS: The Karuk Language, by Leanne Hinton

Chapter 15: Teaching Well, Learning Quickly, by Terry Supahan and Sarah Supahan
In this chapter the authors explain how they teach Karuk with the communication-based language instruction approach and how to plan a lesson using the five step lesson plan.

EXCURSUS: The Navajo Language II, by Ken Hale

Chapter 16: Tsehootsooidi Olta'gi Dine Bizaad Bihoo'aah, by Marie Arviso and Wayne Holm
Two of the founders of the Navajo immersion program at Fort Defiance give a report on how they started the immersion program for kindergarten children. The project tried to improve academic abilities of Navaho children by developing academic Navajo abilities. They give an account of the methods used and the problems they encountered.

Chapter 17: The Master-Apprentice Language Learning Program, by Leanne Hinton
The Master-Apprentice Language Learning Program was developed in California, where there are many indigenous languages with very few speakers. In order to pass on those languages, the Master-Apprentice approach puts together a speaker of a language (Master) and a learner (Apprentice). This approach trains the communicative skills of the learner, because only the target language is allowed as a means of communication. After a method-training session learning takes places in a natural setting during day to day activities, in an one-to-one setting. The program has been successful, some of the former apprentices now work as language teachers themselves.

Chapter 18: Linguistic Aspects of Language Teaching and Learning in Immersion Contexts, by Ken Hale
Hale gives examples of how grammatical structures can be taught in immersion class settings.

Chapter 19: New Writing Systems, by Leanne Hinton
In this overview Hinton discusses the pros and cons of having a writing system. She also describes the steps in developing a writing system and cites some case studies of how communities have made their decision about a writing system.

EXCURSUS: An Introduction to Paiute, by Leanne Hinton and Ken Hale

Chapter 20: Language Revitalization in the San Juan Paiute Community and the Role of a Paiute Constitution, by Pamela Bunte and Robert Franklin
This chapter describes the attempts to raise awareness and pride by the translation of the Paiute constitution into Paiute and thus to reduce language shift.

Chapter 21: Audio-video Documentation, by Leanne Hinton
In this chapter Hinton gives some basic information on using modern technology to document a language. She discusses the pros and cons and emphasizes that although recording a language is important, it alone does not save a language.

EXCURSUS: Australian Languages, by Ken Hale

Chapter 22: Strict Locality in Local Language Media, by Ken Hale
This chapter describes how the Walpiri of Australia make use of modern media, but shape it in accordance with traditional narrative styles.

Chapter 23: Reflections on the Arapaho Language Project, or When Bambi Spoke Arapaho and Other Tales of Arapaho Language Revitalization Efforts, by Stephen Greymorning
Greymorning tells of his language revitalization efforts for Arapaho. Besides starting an immersion class project, he asked permission to dub the Disney movie Bambi into Arapaho. He worked out the translation and the film was successfully synchronized and shown and distributed in the community.

EXCURSUS: Irish, by Ken Hale

Chapter 24: Continuity and Vitality, by Colleen Cotter
This chapter describes two Irish radio stations that work with different methods with the common goal to help language maintenance.

EXCURSUS: The Mono Language, by Ken Hale

Chapter 25: On Using Multimedia in Language Renewal, by Paul Kroskrity und Jennifer Reynolds
The authors of this chapter report on the making of a CD- Rom for learning the Mono language of California.

Chapter 26: Can The Web Help Save My Language?, by Laura Buszard-Welcher
Buszard-Welcher analyses websites dedicated to endangered Native American languages and evaluates the possibilities the web offers for the revitalization of endangered languages.

Chapter 27: Training People to Train Their Language, by Leanne Hinton
Hinton emphasizes the difference of teaching a foreign language or teaching a language to immigrants versus the teaching a minority language. One major difficulty in teaching a indigenous minority language is that the speakers of the language are rarely trained as teachers for the minority language.

EXCURSUS: Inuttut and Innu-aimun, by Ken Hale

Chapter 28: The Role of the University in the Training of Native Language Teachers, by Alana Jones and Irene Mazurkewich
This chapter describes the development of a program for training native speakers of Inuttut and Innu-aimun as teachers in Labrador.

EXCURSUS: Languages of Arizona, Southern California, and Oklahoma, by Leanne Hinton

Chapter 29: Indigenous Educators as Change Agents, by Teresa McCarty, Lucille Watahomigie, Akira Yamamoto and Ofelia Zepeda
In this chapter, two native American language institutes, AILDI (American Indian Language Development Institute) and ONLA (Oklahoma Native Language Association Workshop) / ONALDI (Oklahoma Native American Language Development Institute) are introduced. In these institutes, native American teachers learn how to put indigenous knowledge into the curriculum.

EXCURSUS: The Navajo Language III, by Ken Hale

Chapter 30: Promoting Advanced Navajo Language Scholarship, by Clay Slate
This chapter gives an overview on the on the Dine College's Navajo Language Programs supporting Navajo scholarship by Navajos for Navajo's purposes.

Chapter 31: Sleeping Languages - Can they be awakened?, by Leanne Hinton
Languages that are not spoken any longer are often called dead languages, or moribund, if they have few speakers left. Hinton prefers the term "sleeping languages". In this chapter, Hinton describes the efforts to revive some of these languages and how this can be done.

Chapter 32: The Use of Linguistic Archives in Language Revitalization, by Leanne Hinton
For four years the Native California Language Restoration Workshop has been held at the University of California, Berkeley. In this workshop, people who are interested in their "sleeping" ancestral language learn how to make use of the resources available.

EXCURSUS: The Ohlone Language, by Leanne Hinton

Chapter 33: New Life for a Lost Language, by Linda Yamane
Yamane tells of her process of learning and reconstructing her ancestral language, Rumsien by means of Harrington's field notes.

This book is about the efforts to stop shift and revitalize a language. This is a positive change, because a lot of books on endangered languages place the focus on language shift. All the authors in the book are interested in language maintenance and language revitalization. Most of the authors are actively working in language revitalization projects. They had an idea about how to revitalise their language and tried it in the field. They share their expertise with the reader and write about both their positive and negative experiences. All the authors share an enthusiasm for their work and a love for the languages they work with, which becomes clear when one reads the articles. (and I can only render their passionate accounts inadequately) The scope of the authors' activities vary widely. Linda Yamane is trying to reconstruct her ancestral language by herself, while in Marie Arviso and Wayne Holm set up an immersion programs for Navajo children that has been working for 16 years. The book provides those readers interested in reviving their ancestral language with ideas what they can actually do and how to go about it. It becomes clear, when reading the book that one person's effort can really make a difference. Some of the advice given is very practical, for example chapters 14 and 15 contain sample lessons for preparing a language class, while others are more theoretical in nature, like the article on Irish-language radio. Few technical terms are used and little or no linguistic background is expected of the reader.

One of the questions that remains is: are the languages revived the "real languages"? Leanne Hinton raises this question herself, when she writes about the efforts to revive the Mutsun language and adapt the language to modern society. Hinton (p414) writes: "It is funny, poignant and thought- provoking to realize that the most commonly used words in Mutsun right now are words that never existed when the Mutsun language was still alive." One can argue about the linguistic purity of the languages thus revived, what becomes clear however is that revitalization efforts raise the self-esteem of learners and speakers of endangered languages, which can be crucial for survival if there are only 3 or 4 speakers left.

Although this book is aimed at practitioners; I highly recommend it for linguists. It shows ways in which linguistic scholarship can be put into practical use, but also shows some of the problems linguists can encounter in the real world.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER: Paulina Jaenecke has just handed in her Ph.D. thesis on Sorbian, a regional minority language spoken in Germany. Her research interest lies in the area of language maintenance and intercultural communication.