7.2 Instability and Language Endangerment

Political instability and local conflicts are destabilizing events that could expedite language endangerment. Unstable political situations and localized violence can result in damaging disruption that destabilizes language communities.

While there are other factors that can cause language endangerment (natural disasters, language policy, genocide, to name a few), we are focusing on political instability and local conflict in this module so we can further explore the ethical considerations around this context. 

One example of this has been shared by Sumshot Khular, an Indian native from the northeastern state of Manipur. The constant, low-level violence and general disruption caused by drug and weapons trade across the Burmese border into the state of Manipur, which is exacerbated by ethnic violence, has caused great damage to the Lamkang language community. This local upheaval pressures families to send their children to school outside of the local community, which hampers cultural and language transmission to the younger generations.

As another example, let us review the situation of Chatino (Otomanguean), an indigenous language spoken in parts of Oaxaca, Mexico. Emiliana Cruz, a linguist who works on Chitano, has written about the local conflicts that have impacted the Chitano community. Constant instability caused by organized crime, illegal weapons sales, and other criminal activity coupled with the violence of the war on the drug trade have caused widespread damage to the community. A very high number of Chitano speakers are missing and believed to be collateral damage of the local violence (Cruz 2019).

Language Endangerment and Political Instability Conference and Workshops

In 2018, the University of North Texas hosted a conference on language endangerment and political instability. The confrence was led by both linguists and political scientists to synthesize their fields and produce new strategies for interdisciplinary research. The below presentation was presented at this conference by William Davies and Stanley Dubinsky on Language Conflict and Language Rights.



Cruz, Emiliana. (2019). Slow Violence and Language Endangerment. Presentation at Voices in Dangerous Times - Conversations with experts about the loss of language diversity & violence. Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. Smithsonian, Washington D.C.

Davies, William D. & Dubinsky, Stanley. Language Conflict & Language Rights, presentation, October 5, 2018; (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1706559/m1/1/: accessed October 20, 2020), University of North Texas Libraries, UNT Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT College of Information.