Departmental Bulletin Paper To What Extent is Speaking a Heritage Language an Essential Part of Maintaining Ethnic Identity?

Landsberry, Lauren

Colonialist imperialism and globalisation have been a linguistic and anthropological disaster, with large numbers of languages and cultures being completely wiped out. People have lost their voice, their lands and their identities. An examination of the literature investigating a range of linguistic groups, shows that language and identity are inextricably linked. People who have lost their heritage language have often lost their connection with their community, their identity and therefore themselves. They often have a lower level of education, and can experience social problems. In the past few decades, researchers have shown that for a firm identity to exist, it’s crucial to have proficiency in one’s heritage language. While this has led to several positive steps, including the UN’s declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, these initiatives often stop at recognition, and few, if any, steps are actually taken to preserve and maintain ethnic identities and heritage languages.

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