Linguistic Genocide or Superdiversity? New and Old Language Diversities Edited by: Reetta Toivanen, Janne Saarikivi

Hardback - 376 pages
Related Formats:
26 Jul 2016
Multilingual Matters
234 x 156


Are we facing an immense wave of language death or a period of remarkable new linguistic variation? Or both? This book answers this question by analysing studies of language endangerment and loss along with those of language change, revitalization and diversity. Using case studies from Russia and the EU, the authors compare historical language variation to that of the present day, arguing that accelerated language extinction can be considered a result of colonization, modernization and globalization, but so too can many new creoles, intertwined and mixed languages, new ethnic identities, new groups of urban dwellers or migrant groups, all with their own distinct cultural traits. The book therefore surmises that the linguistic heritage of today is simultaneously more endangered and more diverse than ever before.


In the mainstream of today's research of language endangerment, Linguistic Genocide or Superdiversity? is a refreshing and optimistic read against the gloomy background of dozens of books predicting the inevitable disappearance of all languages except English. With Foley's metaphor of 'language birth' in mind, the authors suggest interesting alternatives to another widespread metaphor, that of 'language death'.

- Nikolai Vakhtin, European University at St Petersburg, Russia

This inspiring collection of chapters thematizes ethnic and linguistic variation as they are experienced today in a variety of contexts characterized by accelerating urbanization, rising literacy and the spread of new media. The book campaigns successfully for a freshly optimistic perspective on the future of the world’s linguistic diversity.

- Anneli Sarhimaa, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Germany

This innovative collection provides a ground-breaking look at not only language loss, but also the emergence of new kinds of linguistic variation that develop in the context of language ecologies undergoing shift. An emphasis on case studies in the under-researched arena of languages in contact with Russian provides fresh perspectives in this invaluable volume.

- Lenore Grenoble, The University of Chicago, USA

Author Biography:

Reetta Toivanen is an Adjunct Professor for social and cultural anthropology and a Finnish Academy Research Fellow at the Erik Castrén Institute of International Law and Human Rights at the University of Helsinki, Finland. Her main research interests are ethnic and language minorities, indigenous peoples, minority rights, revitalization and politics of recognition.

Janne Saarikivi is a Fellow at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, University of Helsinki, Finland. His research interests include historical linguistics, sociolinguistics and Finno-Ugrian languages.

Readership Level:

Postgraduate, Research / Professional

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