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Linguistic Imperialism and Endangered Languages

ROBERT PHILLIPSON AND TOVE SKUTNABB-KANGAS

Introduction: Connecting Linguistic Imperialism with Endangered Languages

The study of linguistic imperialism focuses on how and why certain languages dominate internationally, and attempts to account for such dominance in a theoretically informed way. Many issues can be clarified: the role of language policy in empires (e.g., British, French, Japanese); how languages from Europe were established on other continents, generally at the expense of local languages; whether the languages that colonialism took to Africa and Asia now form a useful bond with the international community, and are necessary for national unity internally – or are they a bridgehead for Western interests, permitting the con­tinuation of marginalization and exploitation? Do U.S. corporate and military dominance worldwide and the neoliberal economy constitute a new form of empire that consolidates a single imperial language? With the increasing importance of China globally, will the vigorous promotion of Chinese internationally convert into a novel form of linguistic imperialism? Can the active suppression of languages such as Kurdish in Turkey or of Tibetan and Uyghur in China be seen as linguistic imperialism? What factors account for hierarchization of languages and hierarchization of people/s on the basis of languages (linguicism), resulting in most of the world’s languages being minoritized? Why do many languages ...

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