Language Endangerment and Vernacular Literacy - Is There a Link?
In this paper I shall be using the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger as a basis for exploring the question: is there a link between vernacular literacy and endangerment? While the Atlas does not provide an explicit gauge of vernacular literacy in endangered languages, I would like to try to extrapolate from the data in the Atlas, and in related sources such as Ethnologue, whether a language can be guaranteed a safer future by being written. This may provide a basis for fruitful further research. It is especially relevant in view of the recent paper by members of the Ethnologue editorial team: The World’s Languages in Crisis: An Update, in which they question some of the assumptions now being made about language endangerment and try to refine a set of criteria for measuring the threat to the world’s more vulnerable languages. Are the vulnerable ones the unwritten ones? The Occasional Paper referred to in this presentation can be downloaded from the following URL http://www.dspace.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/243434.
This presentation was given at the World Oral Literature Project 2012 workshop Charting Vanishing Voices: A Collaborative Workshop to Map Endangered Oral Cultures.