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LSA Committee on Enuangeieu Languages anu theii Pieseivation

Beciease in Linguistic Biveisity
• A iecent stuuy showeu that the woilu's linguistic uiveisity uecieaseu by 2u%
in the 2S yeai peiiou between 198u anu 2uuS (Baimon anu Loh 2u1u)
• The same stuuy showeu that the linguistic uiveisity among inuigenous Noith
Ameiican languages ueclineu by about 6u% uuiing the same time peiiou
• Figuies fiom White Bouse uocuments pieuict that neaily half of the
iemaining Native Ameiican languages will cease to be spoken in the next few
yeais; these languages aie in a tiue state of emeigency.

Revitalization effoits
• Native Ameiican language communities have long iecognizeu the immense
cultuial value of theii languages anu the neeu to pieseive theii linguistic anu
cultuial heiitage. They have been woiking foi uecaues to uocument, pieseive,
anu ievitalize theii languages, but with few iesouices anu little suppoit.
• Significant effoits to ievitalize Native Ameiican languages aie cuiiently
being unueitaken by countless Native Ameiican anu Bawaiian communities,
fiom Baiiow, Alaska to the Floiiua keys; fiom the islanu of Ni'ihau to
Naitha's vineyaiu.
• These effoits aie piouucing active speakeis, ieconnecting people to
tiauitional values anu piactices, stiengthening communities, anu pioviuing
healing anu continuity in gioups long accustomeu to uisiuption anu tiauma.
Bowevei, these effoits aie inauequately suppoiteu.

uoveinment iesponse anu pioposeu action
• It is the policy of the 0niteu States goveinment to suppoit the pieseivation
anu ievitalization of Native Ameiican languages anu the community
piogiams which ensuie theii tiansmission, as stateu in the Native Ameiican
Languages Acts of 199u anu 1992, anu the Esthei Naitinez Act of 2uu6.
• Bowevei the 0niteu States goveinment has nevei enfoiceu these policies oi
pioviueu auequate suppoit foi Native Ameiican communities woiking to
meet these goals.
• 0n the contiaiy, theie aie significant public policies that seive as baiiieis to
such piogiams. 0ne example is No Chilu Left Behinu, which iequiies testing
in English, thus seives as a baiiiei against Native Ameiican language
immeision schools, piohibiting them fiom obtaining goveinment funuing
• Senioi leaueis in the 0bama White Bouse, woiking with a committee of
Native Ameiican anu Bawaiian leaueis fiom acioss the countiy, have uiafteu
an Executive 0iuei on Native Ameiican Language Revitalization. This
executive oiuei awaits the piesiuent's signatuie.
• The National Congiess of Ameiican Inuians passeu a iesolution suppoiting
the executive oiuei in the fall of 2u1u.
• The Linguistic Society of Ameiica passeu a iesolution suppoiting this
executive oiuei in the wintei of 2u11.
• The cuiient lettei-wiiting campaign uiges Piesiuent 0bama to sign this
executive oiuei.

Why Native Ameiican languages mattei

• Languages aie bonus that holu communities togethei anu impoitant maikeis
of iuentity. In many Native Ameiican language communities, language loss
iesulteu fiom biutal histoiies of oppiession anu colonization, often involving
the foiceu iemoval of chiluien fiom theii families anu physical punishment
foi speaking theii mothei tongues. Nany Native Ameiican paients maue the
uecision to iaise theii chiluien in English in oiuei to piotect them fiom
unueigoing similai tieatment. Foi many Native Ameiicans, the loss of the
language is emblematic of this histoiy of oppiession. Language iecoveiy can
countei-balance this, leauing to stiengtheneu community stiuctuies,
ieconnection with tiauitional values anu piactices, anu a stiongei sense of
• Eveiy language iepiesents a unique conceptualization of the woilu anu the
human expeiience, a winuow into the linguistic anu cognitive piocesses of
the minu, anu an embouiment of biological, ieligious, histoiical, cultuial, anu
tiauitional knowleuge; Native Ameiican languages aie an impoitant pait of
oi national intellectual heiitage.
• Theie is an intimate connection between language, cultuial piactice, anu the
sustainability of biological ecosystems. Native Ameiican languages
encompass biological knowleuge acquiieu acioss countless geneiations. The
uetails of cultuial piactices that sustaineu anu nuituieu biological
ecosystems acioss oui Noith Ameiica aie intimately bounu to the languages
that ietain anu ieflect this knowleuge.
• Native Ameiican languages aie a tiemenuous intellectual iesouice. Each
language constitutes a test case foi countless theoietical questions about the
natuie of linguistic knowleuge, histoiical ielationships among languages,
how languages evolve, anu how they aie useu by theii speakeis to
communicate myiiau types of infoimation, establish iuentities, cieate
societies, anu embouy anu pass on cultuie. Linguistic uiveisity allows
linguists to exploie the bounuaiies of human languages, the possible anu the
impossible, the limits on linguistic complexity anu the implications of those
limits foi theoiies of cognition.