This introductory chapter gives some background on the loss of linguistic diversity worldwide and the increased interest in this field since the late twentieth century: in academia, among the (Western) general public and in communities affected by language loss. A major factor in language shift is negative attitudes, which often become ‘naturalized’ through hegemonic ideologies of linguistic inferiority and inculcated beliefs regarding the value or utility of particular ways of speaking. The chapter discusses the nature of beliefs and ideologies as they relate to endangered languages, and some terminology relevant to the book, especially ‘speech communities’. The Introduction also provides an overview of the chapters in the book, highlighting recurring and emergent themes and key contributions that the collection makes to the field.
Keywords: Linguistic diversity, language shift, beliefs and ideologies, folk linguistics, disciplinary ideologies, speech communities, language endangerment and revitalization, hegemony, valorization, ideological shift, ethnographic and collaborative fieldwork, linguistic ecology
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