WP45 From endangered to dangerous: Two types of sociolinguistic inequality (with examples from Ireland & the US)

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The purpose of this paper is to open up a discussion of the contemporary dynamics of sociolinguistic inequality in a world that is being transformed in and by the intersection of two distinct but related forces: on the one hand by massive and wide dispersal, (im)migration, and dislocation of populations, with concomitant increases in the intensity and importance of communication between members of different language communities, especially in the sociolinguistic ?contact zones? (Pratt 1987) of major urban centers; on the other hand by the seemingly quite rapid obsolescence, ?death,? and replacement of ?minority? and other ?heritage languages? usually within relatively small and geographically marginal speech communities (cf. Silverstein 1998).
In many places the two forces produce two types of sociolinguistic inequality manifesting themselves in two bilingualisms?one elite, and one ?remedial??that never are allowed to meet in any larger space of language consciousness, whether popular or scholarly. Languages termed ?endangered? and/or ?minority? often receive the first treatment: language pedagogy using the apparatus of schooled literacy in projects of language (or ?dialect?) standardization, perhaps conjoined with the development of a written literature. By contrast, ?immigrant languages??i.e., the non-standard socio- and dia-lectal speech forms of non-elite globally transhumant labor?usually receive the second treatment: ?remediation? through the mechanisms of the modern nation-state.
In this paper I will try to articulate some possible linkages between these two problem-spaces in a way that opens up new questions and new avenues of empirical research, many of which lie across the boundaries of established disciplines, and at the intersection of ?pure? and ?applied? research. The sociolinguistic situation in Ireland will be drawn upon for illustration, even as I will attempt to place Ireland?s sociolinguistic transformation(s) into a number of broader contexts, including that of the contemporary US.