Code-Switching Behavior as a Strategy for Maya-Mam Linguistic Revitalization

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Ohio State University. Department of Linguistics

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Since 1991, Fishman has carved out a “new” area of focus for research and linguistic activism—the Reversal of Language Shift (RLS)— within the general field of the Sociology of Language. In this article, I discuss a strategy of RLS employed by educated speakers of Maya-Mam, an endangered language of Guatemala. Less-educated Mam routinely code-switch to Spanish, while educated speakers categorically do not. Communication Accommodation Theory (Giles & Powesland 1975) offers a framework for accounting for this distinctive behavior through consideration of convergence and divergence strategies aimed at constructing positive social identities (Tajfel 1974). I briefly discuss this code-switching behavior, and compare people’s opinions about it as a positive or negative communication accommodation. I suggest that the initiative of Mam teachers in “purifying the language” is supportive of their overall goal of RLS and Mam revitalization.




Working Papers in Linguistics, no. 57 (2003), 1-39.