Sydney Fry

Nurturing New Life: How Languages on the Brink of Extinction are Being Revived

Mentor: Peter Huk

My project will be a collection of essays centered around the theme of language shaping identity. In an attempt to examine the issue of minority language revival and the identity of minority language speakers, I will combine three types of sources: academic research, field trip notes to the Gaeltacht in West Ireland, Donostia in the Basque Country, and Aotearoa (New Zealand), and conversations with speakers of minority languages. I am interested in what it takes to restore a minority language on a personal and societal level so that it is integrated into the fabric of everyday life rather than experienced as a political or social movement. This will involve discussions of what it means to preserve a language and how methodologies to do so may differ from place to place. The notions of belonging and identity are central to my project which will raise questions such as, should a language belong to a certain ethnic group and, if so, should it be restricted? Does speaking a language mean automatically belonging to a particular identity? (the Basque people, for instance, call themselves Euskaldunak, or speakers of Basque, not necessarily those who have been born in the Basque Country). I will expand on these topics by bringing together my research interests in anthropology with what I have learned and observed from my own experiences.