McCarty (2013). Preface – Language Planning and Policy in Native America: History, Theory, Praxis

McCarty, T. L. (2013). Preface. In Language Planning and Policy in Native America: History, Theory, Praxis (pp. xvii–xxvii). Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.

“Even as more Native American children enter school speaking English as a primary or sole language, they often speak a variety influenced by the Native language and are subjected to school labeling practices that stigmatize them as ‘limited English proficient’ or ‘language-delayed’. This subtractive view of children’s cognitive and linguistic abilities has a long history in Indigenous education and is a prime cause of language loss and of education disparities. … Thus, the shift to English has _not_ transformed long-standing educational disparities for Native American students or the structural inequalities those disparities reflect and reproduce.” (p xviii)

“… language planning and policy (LPP) …” (p xviii)

“The geographic focus is the United States. However, recognizing the colonial origins of contemporary dominant-nation borders, much of the analysis can be and is extended outside the land claimed by the US, in particular Canadian Indigenous settings.” (p xviii)

[“Perspective and Stance” (p xviii) …]

“I begin with four underlying assumptions. The first is that linguistic and cultural diversity is an inherently enabling condition for individuals, families, [page break] communities and society.” (p xviii-xix)

“For the people and communities who claim endangered languages, however, the issues go far deeper. References to a ‘vanishing fund of human knowledge’, linguistic anthropologist Paul Kroskrity point out, elide ‘key connections to the larger role of threatened languages in the sociocultural lives of their speakers’, including the fight for sovereignty and the places of origin and identifications associated with the language (Kroskrity, 2011: 180).” (p xix)

“A second assumption I bring to this book is that language planning — in particular, efforts to revitalize endangered mother tongues — must be driven by indigenous community members themselves.” (p xix)

“A third assumption is that schools and educators have a strategic role to play in the promotion and revitalization of Indigenous mother tongues.” (p xx)

“A fourth assumption is that language issues are, at their heart, ‘people’ issues.” (p xx)

[“A Few Key Usages and Terms” (p xxi) …]

“… I argue that alphabetic or print literacy is only one facet of what ‘counts’ as literate practice, In Indigenous communities, literacy is more accurately construed as ‘the ability to interpret complex systems of cultural symbols’ — print and nonprint — that enable community members to participate actively and appropriately in communicative events (Benjamin et al., 1996: 116).” (p xxii)

“The emphasis on enumeration and ranking may also ‘inadvertently undermine the goals of advocacy’, cautions linguistic anthropologist Jane Hill (2002: 120).” (p xxiii)

[“What counts as a heritage language or mother tongue?” (p xxiv)]

[“About the Book” (p xxiv) …]

“The book begins with an outline of the distinctive legal-political and demo-sociolinguistic context for Native American LPP.” (p xxiv)

“Drawing on concepts from the fields of anthropology, critical language studies and American Indian/Indigenous studies, in Chapter 2 I lay out a theory of LPP as a sociocultural process.” (p xxv)

“From a policy of ‘expedient tolerance’ toward Native languages, to explicit policies intended to eradicate those languages, to the benign promotion of now-endangered Indigenous mother tongues, a critical-historical analysis of US language policy reveals the ways in which Native American languages have been positioned inside and outside a zone of perceived ‘safe’ cultural difference.” (p xxv)

“Chapter 4 situates this historical and theoretical framework in a case study of Navajo, a language with almost as many speakers as all other Native American languages combined. … Because Navajo has a relatively long history as a written language, this case provides the opportunity to consider the role of print literacies in these processes as well.” (p xxv)

“Chapter 5, in many ways, constitutes the heart of the book. The goal of this chapter is to put a human face on the project of language revitalization, presenting revitalizers ‘as named individuals’ (Kroskrity, 2011: 182), and examining the ways in which they construct language regenesis in social [page break] practice.” (p xxv-xxvi)

“Chapter 6 … addresses the youngest stakeholders in this work: Native American youth. What do young people have to say about their heritage mother tongues? … simultaneously countering stereotypes of youth as disinterested in their mother tongues.” (p xxvi)

“Chapter 7 … I offer a framework for the implementation of ‘strong’ Native language and culture programs, which, abundant research shows, are associated with high levels of language revitalization and academic success.” (p xxvi)

[“A Special Note to You, the Reader” (p xxvi) …]

“However, this book is not intended solely for academics. I have also written this for educators, language planners, policy makers, activists, scholar-practitioners, and tribal leaders — the large and varied group of individuals who undertake and influence language planning ‘on the ground’.” (p xxvii)

Selected References

  • Benjamin, R., Pecos, R., & Romero, M. E. (1996). Language revitalization efforts in the Pueblo de Cochiti: Becoming “literate” in an oral society. In N. H. Hornberger (Ed.) Indigenous literacies in the Americas: Language planning from the bottom up, 115-136. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • Hill, J. H. (2002). “Expert rhetorics” in advocacy for endangered languages: Who is listening, and what do they hear?. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 12(2), 119-133.
  • Kroskrity, P. V. (2011). Facing the rhetoric of language endangerment: voicing the consequences of linguistic racism. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 21(2), 179-192.
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