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Indigenous Language Revitalization  

Anne Marie Guerrettaz and Mel M. Engman

Countless Indigenous languages around the world are the focus of innovative community regeneration efforts, as the legacies of colonialism have created conditions of extreme sociopolitical, educational, and economic adversity for the speakers of these languages—and their descendants. In response to these conditions that Indigenous people face globally, the burgeoning field of Indigenous language revitalization and maintenance has emerged since the 1990s with the goal of supporting speakers of these languages and future generations. Indigenous language revitalization involves different but often interlocking domains of research, practice, and activism. Given the uniqueness of each community and their desires, history, values, and culture, the significance of the local is critical to the global phenomenon that is language revitalization. For instance, cases on five different continents offer valuable insights into this field, including the Hawaiian language in Oceania; Myaamia in the United States (North America); Básáa in the Cameroon (Africa); Sámi in Finland (Europe); and, Cristang and Malay in Malaysia (Asia). These offer examples of both local resources and common challenges that characterize revitalization efforts. The field of Indigenous language revitalization is interdisciplinary in nature, exemplified through five lines of inquiry that significantly contribute to this area of research: (a) theoretical linguistics and anthropology, (b) applied linguistics, (c) education, (d) policy studies, and (e) critical studies, including postcolonial studies, Indigenous studies, and raciolinguistics. Questions of research ethics are central to the field of Indigenous language revitalization since reciprocity and collaboration between researchers and Indigenous communities matter as the lifeblood of Indigenous language revitalization work. Finally, we believe that the notion of Indigenous language revitalization pedagogies along with underexplored Indigenous concepts (e.g., from Yucatecan and Māori scholars) offer compelling directions for future research.