Rating helps linguists save languages

on Saturday, 30 March 2013. Posted in News

Written by Tim Scott Share Article

Rating helps linguists save languages
Languages live... and die. When a family member becomes ill it impacts the entire family. In the same way, the decline of a language impacts the entireculture. Languages have varying levels of stability. SIL-PNG* uses a scale oflanguage viability called EGIDS (Expanded Graded Intergenerational Disruption Scale).
The EGIDS qualifies language stability by asking questions. Is it a historical or heritage language? How is it being used? Is it a local, regional or national language? Is it used by everyone in the community? Beyond the community? Are parents teaching their children the language? Do the community's institutions (schools, Church, local government) officially participate in the training of the next generation?
The answers to these questions allow experts to rate the language on a scale of 0-10. A score of "0" reflects a healthy language that is used internationally with institutional support. A score of "10" is a language that is extinct and no longer used. "Languages are inherently unstable and tend to move down the scale unless steps are taken to strengthen language use." says Andy Grosh, SIL. "We need to intentionally develop strategies that help language communities improve sustainable literacy development."
Preliminary analysis has shown that over 400 of PNG's languages are considered stable or improving. That leaves over 420 that are unstable and potentially in decline. "Without institutional support for vernacular literacy development, language usage declines." says John Brownie, SIL-PNG, "When parents stop teaching their children their heart language, it is well on its way to death."
SIL-PNG is looking at strategies that will assist communities to address issues that are causing vernacular language to decline. These include use of audio
recordings and other sustainable oral approaches, and institutional training in vernacular education. Language development success depends on understanding the status of the language and what steps could be taken to improve its viability.
Thriving tokples* usage is at the core of any healthy cultural community. The death of a language leads to the death of that culture.

*SIL –PNG is known Summer Institute of Linguistics in PNG – “Tokples” is PNG pidgin for “Heart Language”

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