This book is designed for readers of various backgrounds who are interested in the fate of small language communities around the globe: linguists, anthropologists, and academics in other disciplines; language activists, missionaries, humanitarian workers, policy makers, and educators; journalists and researchers; students; and visionaries who believe that it is possible to hear their language spoken for many centuries to come in the face of many who claim otherwise. With this diversity of readers in mind, our goal was to write a book that would serve as a general reference guide to language revitalization, providing the necessary background, highlighting the central issues, indicating common obstacles, and pointing to sources of further information.
Our own experiences with language revitalization efforts have come primarily through fieldwork in east Asia on several Tungusic languages (all of which are undergoing rapid loss in the number of native speakers), and secondarily through long-term relationships and professional collaborations with fieldworkers and activists in Africa, South America, and North America, particularly the United States. This background has sensitized us to several important facts. First, although many similarities can be found in the causes of language loss around the world, this does not mean that similar approaches to language revitalization can be taken. There are simply too many differences in the political, social, and economic situations facing, say, a community in northern China versus one in southern Africa to make blanket statements about how revitalization should be carried out.