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North Frisian As An Endangered Language

3690 words - 15 pages

North Frisian as an Endangered Language
Despite the North Frisian language being classified as an endangered minority language confined to a small region in Northern Germany and having fewer speakers annually, as newer generations are born and learn more established Germanic dialects, there is a strong movement dedicated to preserving the language from the German government as well as international organizations through the implementation of academic programs, transcription of manuscripts, dictionaries, and literature, and extensive assistance from existing native speakers, which intends to maintain an active interest in and use of the language.
A language becomes endangered when its ...view middle of the document...

Conversely, some languages might have thousands of speakers but may be considered endangered because children are no longer learning them, and native speakers are beginning to use a more established language over the local dialect. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has defined an endangered language as a point when its speakers cease to use it, use it in an increasingly reduced number of communicative domains, and cease to pass it on from one generation to the next leading to no new speakers (UNESCO 2). UNESCO also distinguishes four levels of endangerment, with a fifth level being extinction. These levels of endangerment begin by classifying a language as “vulnerable,” where most children speak the language, but it may be restricted to certain domains, then onto “definitely endangered,” where children no longer learn the language as mother tongue in the home, eventually “severely endangered,” where the language is spoken by grandparents and older generations; while the parent generation may understand it, they do not speak it to children or among themselves, and lastly “critically endangered,” where the youngest speakers are grandparents and older, and they speak the language partially and infrequently (Moseley). Many speech communities of minority languages are shrinking and their languages will ultimately vanish, if these developments are not reversed, or preservation attempts not conducted.
There are notable trends that have been established as reasons why a language might become endangered. Language endangerment may be caused primarily by external forces such as military, economic, religious, cultural, or educational subjugation. It may also be caused by internal forces, such as a community’s negative attitude towards its own language or by a general decline of group identity. Internal pressures always derive from external factors (Brenzinger and Graaf 3). One other factor that aids in endangering languages is globalization, in that nations implement more established languages that are viewed as universal, in order to communicate with other nations for the sake of domestic and foreign interests. There are many languages around the world that feel threatened by the encroachment of other larger languages. As English and other official languages gain more dominance in the world of trade and technology, other more established languages like Dutch and Danish begin to feel threatened (Tiersma 8). Due to globalization, parents are making their children speak a more established language that would increase their potential for a future job and education instead of a language that has been part of their heritage. This process leads to the loss of entire cultures when a language becomes endangered and eventually extinct, as there are stories, songs, histories, and documents that are no longer being passed on to future generations.
The Frisian dialects are members of the Germanic family of languages, and are the...

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