Endangered languages

Spring term 2017
Monday, 15:15-16:45, room B 323 (Collegium Novum)
30 contact hours
3 ECTS credits
Lecturer: Nicole Nau

Course description

Endangered languages have become a key issue in contemporary linguistics and neighboring fields. The aim of this course is to raise students’ awareness of the importance of the topic and to introduce them to results and methods of current research. Through case studies of language from all over the world they will learn about different types of endangerment, reasons for language death, and practices that further language maintenance and revitalization.
Students will practice their skills in gathering and critically evaluating information, using online resources and accessing digital language archives. They develop further their skills in reading academic English and giving presentations in English.


  • Regular attendance and homework (reading, gathering information from Internet sources, solving exercises)
  • Oral presentation and written fact sheet about an endangered language (according to a given plan: LanguageProfileGuidelines)
  • Final test: 12.06.2017
  • REVIEW QUESTIONS to prepare for the test

Course program (syllabus) and slides from the lectures
Please note: the order of topics is subject to change

  1. Introduction: the world’s linguistic diversity and why it is endangered; slides 20.02.2017
  2. Why linguistic diversity is a value; slides 27.02.2017
  3. How to measure endangerment and linguistic vitality: UNESCO scales; slides 06.03.2017
  4. Measurements of vitality continued; case study: Māori; slides 13.03.2017
  5. Measurements continued: EGIDS; languages in South East Asia; case study: Hmong Daw; slides 20.03.2017
  6. Different causes for language endangerment compared; case studies: Mlabri, Sorbian and Mohawk; slides 27.03.2017 (teacher)
  7. Language documentation; case studies: languages in South America (Piraha and Ayapaneco)
  8. Language documentation continued; case studies: Ainu. slides 03.04. and 10.04.2017
  9. Austronesian languages; case study: Tokelau. Slides 24.04.2017
  10. Endangered languages in education; case study: Scottish Gaelic. Slides 08.05.2017
  11. Writing for endangered languages; Languages in the USA; case studies: Cherokee, Hopi. Slides 15.05.2017
  12. Languages in Africa; case studies: Gweno, Taa. Slides 22.05.2017
  13. How to make a language stronger; case studies: Hawaiian, Emerillon. Slides 29.05.2017
  14. topic to be announced; case studies: Tregami, Phula
  15. (12.06.2017) Assessment, summary and evaluation

Selected references

  • Austin, Peter K. & Sallabank, Julia, eds. 2011. Cambridge Handbook of Endangered Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Crystal, David. 2000. Language death. Cambridge: CUP.
  • Evans, Nicholas. 2010. Dying Words. Endangered languages and what they have to tell us. Malden & Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Harrison, K. David. 2007. When languages die: The extinction of the world’s languages and the erosion of human knowledge. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Nettle, Daniel & Suzanne Romaine. 2000. Vanishing voices. The extinction of the world’s languages. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Moseley, Christopher, ed. 2007. Encyclopedia of the world’s endangered languages. London, New York: Routledge
  • Moseley, Christopher (ed.) 2010. Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger, 3rd ed. Paris, UNESCO Publishing. http://www.unesco.org/culture/en/endangeredlanguages/atlas
  • Tsunoda Tasaku 2006. Language Endangerment and Language Revitalization: An Introduction. Berlin & New York: Walter de Gruyter.

Selected online resources