Conference on Language Endangerment and Political Instability

University of North Texas
October 4-6, 2018
UNT Main Campus - Union Building, room 385


     Political instability and violence create the environment for language loss and resulting social instability. Establishing the intersecting causes and consequences of political and social instability as tied to language is of interest to national security. The purpose of the Political Instability and Language Endangerment Conference is to develop a thorough understanding of how political instability and violence break apart communities and erode their ability to pass down their written and spoken word. This interdisciplinary conference will bring together experts from political science, linguistics and other fields to develop a global and comprehensive account of the intersection of politics and language endangerment. Broader impacts include the engagement of undergraduate and graduate students, many of whom are first generation and themselves from underrepresented groups, by providing networking and co-authoring opportunities to mentor students and to provide training that will be invaluable in both private and public sector work.

     Led by an interdisciplinary team of linguists and political scientists from the University of North Texas, the Political Instability and Language Endangerment Conference will integrate knowledge from both disciplines and will produce new strategies for interdisciplinary research. The dominant paradigm for understanding the causes of language endangerment takes into consideration local social and economic factors. The potential for a more comprehensive understanding is possible through the perspective of political science which takes into account the role of violence, power and resources in societies and across institutions of governance. In order to stimulate research utilizing this novel interdisciplinary perspective, conference participants will explore (1) how government policy, instability due to war and other forms of conflict lead to language endangerment; (2) how instability due to economically forced immigration contributes to language endangerment; and (3) how political conflict due to language endangerment and national language policies can lead to political protest, unrest and violence. The resulting white paper and edited volume will be invaluable resources for practitioners, academics, and most importantly, the affected communities to develop strategies for language preservation. A follow-up conference envisioned for the Smithsonian Institution will help raise greater public awareness of this phenomenon.