Language Activism

Kennedy Bosire and Jenny Davis

In the framework developed by Florey, Penfield and Tucker, a language activist is a person who focuses energetic action towards preserving and promoting linguistic diversity. Crucially, this definition includes both Indigenous and non-Indigenous activists who bring a diversity of interests, skills, training in linguistics or related fields, and involvement in language documentation and revitalization projects. The Language Activism workshop is intended for all those who, by this definition, take themselves to be language activists. We welcome community members, linguists, students in linguistics, educators, and so forth to join us for this lively and inclusive workshop. We recognize a wide range of contexts for language activism that may vary depending on country, language community, institutional affiliation and so forth. The content will reflect the different experiences of the two instructors, as well as draw in case studies from other contexts. We will examine and critically reflect on case studies of community-based, research-based, and state or national policy-based language activism in order to identify the range of skills that language activists may need in order to work in partnership with communities to undertake language documentation and revitalization projects.

Issues that are covered include

  • the collaborative development of projects and teams,
  • the inclusion of activism in both documentation and revitalization activities,
  • methods for raising awareness of Indigenous language issues amongst the wider public, utilizing media, social networks,  and lobbying,
  • creating new venues for public use of language, especially as a way to build grassroots support for language programs,
  • training for language activism,
  • ways of reaching out to youth and children to engage them in language advocacy and language learning,
  • the wider aspects of activism, such as belonging, recognition, financial, measurable deliverables etc., and
  • how activism can work in settings which require government, community or institutional approval, recognition and or support for activities.