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The Handbook of Bilingualism and Multilingualism, 2nd Edition by William C. Ritchie, Tej K. Bhatia

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19 

Language Maintenance, Language Shift, and Reversing Language Shift

JOSHUA A. FISHMAN

Introduction: Perspective: American and International

Discussions of societal phenomena more generally and sociolinguistic processes quite specifically tend to be highly perspectival and contextual. Thus, in writing about such phenomena, it seems best to admit one’s perspective from the very outset. Mine will be American and programmatic, to begin with, and then international and theoretical toward the end, thereby combining the points of view of the activist and the scholar, i.e., one who not only seeks objective understanding but pluralistic societal impact as well. These perspectives, like all perspectives, bring with them both advantages and disadvantages. Among the advantages is the fact that the American sociolinguistic scene has been widely researched and its findings are easily searchable in terms of library and archival retrievability and linguistic accessibility. The major disadvantage of starting from an American perspective is that the immigrant case is overly represented while the indigenous case is severely underrepresented. Therefore, it is fitting that we will end with an international perspective so that the initial America-based conclusions can be immediately confronted and tested from a totally different point of departure.

Language Shift as the Societal Norm

The sociolinguistic profile of speakers of non-English languages in the USA is a direct reflection of the country’s ...

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