Documentation and Language Learning: Separate Agendas or Complementary Tasks?

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ISSN: 1934-5275

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Francis, Norbert, Gómez, Pablo Rogelio Navarrete
language documentation, language learning, Mexico, Nahuatl
article description
In the indigenous communities of the Malintzin volcano highlands in Mexico, in the border region of the states of Puebla and Tlaxcala, speakers of Nahuatl have responded variously to the displacement of their language. In a few localities, evidence of a significant erosion appears to have sparked increased interest in both documentation (e.g., preserving a record of extant traditional narrative) and second language learning of the indigenous language by first language speakers of Spanish, and by speakers of Spanish who were once fluent speakers of Nahuatl. Modest interest has been expressed in bilingual instructional models for public schooling for children who are first language speakers of Nahuatl. Even though a small number of towns in this region have maintained high levels of Nahuatl language proficiency across the population (approaching ninety percent in two cases) continued and most likely accelerated erosion in the coming years appears to be inevitable. All demographic and sociolinguistic indicators point in this direction. We report on advances that have been made in a project that seeks to combine the tasks of Documentation and Language Learning. The following argument is presented for wider discussion: that in fact there are no inherent conflicts of interest between scientists (internal and external to the speech community) and indigenous communities as a whole regarding the goals of language maintenance, language use, and research projects related to recording and preserving an archive of the language and its various discourse forms.

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