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University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics

Abstract

In this paper we expand our understanding of language endangerment by shifting the focus from small language communities to minority language communities with speaker populations in the millions. We argue for a methodological shift toward examining language shift scenarios more broadly and quantitatively for two main reasons: 1) it is becoming increasingly clear that a large speaker population does not protect against language shift (Anderbeck 2013); 2) we need to make a distinction between the symptoms and the causes of language shift, where factors such as a dwindling number of child speakers should be seen as symptoms of language shift that are caused by other factors (Himmelmann 2010). In this paper we use Indonesia as a case study and analyze a sample of the 2010 census. We treat language choice as a sociolinguistic variable and analyze the correlation between six social factors and language choice (local languages vs. the national language, Indonesian). These results provide a starting point for creating more comprehensive models of the sociolinguistics of language shift.

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