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Ethnolinguistic Vitality and Communication

Richard Y. Bourhis

Subject Linguistics
Communication Studies » Intercultural Communication

Key-Topics ethnicity

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


The vitality of language communities can affect the quality of intergroup communication between speakers of contrasting language groups. This is the case where accent, dialect, and language not only provide important cues for the categorization of speakers, but also serve as salient dimensions of ethnic identity. Vitality is defined as “that which makes a group likely to behave as a distinctive and collective entity within the intergroup setting” ( Giles et al. 1977 , 308; →  Collective Action and Communication ). The more vitality an ethnolinguistic group enjoys, the more it will be able to use its own language so as to survive and thrive as a collective entity. Three dimensions of socio-structural variables influence the vitality of ethnolinguistic groups: demographic, institutional support, and status. Demographic variables are those related to the absolute number of speakers and their distribution throughout the national, regional, or urban territory (e.g., birth and mortality rates, mixed marriages, and immigration/emigration patterns in and out of an ancestral territory). Demographic factors constitute a fundamental asset for ethnolinguistic groups as “strength in numbers” and they can be used as a legitimizing tool to grant language communities the institutional support they need to foster their development within multilingual settings. Institutional control is defined ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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