Language and indigeneity: A mechanism of identity?

Joshua James Zwisler

Language revitalization, Indigenous language, Indigenous identity


Work in indigenous language revitalization often justifies itself along using one of two arguments: the intrinsic good of diversity and the importance of language in constructing indigenous identity. This article examines the second argument, first analyzing modern trends in the conception of indigenous identity and its link to language, and then uses two recent studies in indigenous language loss from South America and North America to determine the role of indigenous language in the production of indigenous identity. The result is that indigenous language serves as a linguistic mechanism of othering – the creation of an out-group with language as the criterion of exclusivity, and as a means of transmitting a romanticized image of indigenous people through indexicalizing such into indigenous language use. However, this article points out that the debate is far from over and that further research is need in the field of indigeneity and language.

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Apples - Journal of Applied Language Studies