Does the Naxi language and script have a future? A consideration of some possible measures and strategies for its promotion, protection and development

Does the Naxi language and script have a future?  A consideration of some possible measures and strategies for its promotion, protection and development

Dr. Michael Prosser

Applied Linguistics Department, Valencia Polytechnic University

Monolingual minority language communities can undergo complete language shift from the minority language to the official nationwide language in a very short time. For example over 100 years ago many Western European minorities could only speak their mother tongues, having no knowledge of the official state languages. In these areas today, due to pressure from the official state languages, virtually all speakers of minority languages are also competent in the state languages. Moreover, language shift is widespread to such an extent that a large proportion of members of the minority communities no longer speak the languages of their forefathers. Because of this it is of key importance that long-term measures be taken to protect minority languages (at the same time as promoting majority state languages) before minority language communities are completely competent in the majority language.

Although a large proportion of Naxi are still not competent in Mandarin, many Naxi in the town of Lijiang have already stopped talking to their children in Naxi. In other words, Naxi-Han language shift has already commenced. Many ordinary Naxi who wish to get on in the world are likely to imitate this urbanised Naxi elite in abandoning their mother tongue, which does not create an ideal atmosphere for the promotion of the Naxi script. Although the Naxi script has been in existence for some decades, the number of Naxi who have studied it has been extremely small and there are probably many ordinary Naxi who do not even realise that they have a romanised script.

This writer is of the opinion that if the population of rural Lijiang, the urbanised Naxi elite and the concerned authorities all urgently took action, they would still be in time to establish balanced Naxi-Han bilingualism and ensure the future of the Naxi language and script. This paper, using examples from outside China, explores some possible measures and strategies which could be taken to protect and promote the Naxi language and script. Such measures should encourage the Naxi elite and local Han residents to study, use and support both spoken and written Naxi and should also stimulate widespread bottom-up activity among all sections of the public. It is of key importance to involve the whole population of Lijiang, at the same time publicising everywhere the advantages of balanced bilingualism and bilingual education and to transform the extremely few experimental Naxi classes that exist at present into generalised (affecting the whole of Lijiang), long-term, normal, balanced bilingualism.

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Questo inserimento è stato pubblicato in Kunming 2009, New Horizons in Naxi Study e il tag , , , , , , , , . Metti un segnalibro su permalink. Inserisci un commento o lascia un trackback: Trackback URL.

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