Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Can minority languages survive in a situation of sustained bilingualism? Ethnolinguistic vitality and language behavior among Indigenous speakers of Quichua in Ecuador
by Lenk, Sonia, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, 2007, 429; 3270073
Abstract (Summary)

In this study, I examine the sociological, socio-psychological, and psychological domains of two Quichua-speaking communities—one urban and one rural—in Imbabura, Ecuador. The goal of the study is to determine the ethnolinguistic vitality (EV) of these two groups, and, ultimately, to predict whether a situation of language maintenance or language shift will prevail. Previous studies of EV have considered one of these three domains, but very few have considered all three. Furthermore, none has sought to measure ethnolinguistic vitality in the Quichua context. This study examines the role of various factors, particularly the individual network of linguistic contacts, in the survival of a particular language and ethnic group.

Giles et al. first introduced the notion of ethnolinguistic vitality in the late 1970s as a theoretical framework for analyzing intergroup relations within a contact situation. They define ethnolinguistic vitality as “...that which makes a group likely to behave as a distinctive and active collective entity in intergroup situations” (1977, p. 308). Those with little vitality eventually cease to exist as distinctive linguistic groups within the intergroup setting.

Allard and Landry developed a macroscopic model, including Giles et al.’s notions of objective (sociological level) and subjective (psychological level) EV. Allard and Landry also introduced the notion of individual networks of linguistic contacts (corresponding to the socio-psychological level and mediating between the other two). To examine the sociological level, I used census and descriptive data. To investigate both the socio-psychological and psychyological levels, I used quantitative and qualitative approaches. I employed questionnaires, orally administered to a sample of 100 Indigenous persons between the ages of 18 and 25, and six elite interviews with Indigenous leaders.

The findings of this study reveal the importance of the individual network of linguistic contacts for maintenance of a stable bilingual situation. Yet they also reveal the pervasive influence of the dominant language and culture, which threatens to undermine efforts to maintain and revitalize the ethnic language. Only with considerable planning and effort will these two communities be able to maintain Quichua in a stable bilingual situation.

Indexing (document details)
School: University of Pittsburgh
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 68/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Linguistics, Social psychology, Language
Keywords: Bilingualism, Ecuador, Ethnolinguistic vitality, Indigenous, Language behavior, Minority languages, Quichua
Publication Number: 3270073
ISBN: 978-0-549-08965-0
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