A new research publication that examines how communities creatively use revitalized and revived languages is being published this month in a volume of essays co-edited by Cazenovia College Associate Professor Jesse Harasta.

The collection of linguistic anthropology essays is titled, Metalinguistic Communities: Case Studies of Agency, Ideology, and Symbolic Uses of Language. The volume is being published by Palgrave MacMillan. Dr. Harasta’s co-editor is Dr. Netta Avineri, of The Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.

The work uses 10 compelling ethnographic case studies from around the globe as a guide to how people build metalinguistic communities defined not by language per se, but more by the ideologies and symbolic practices surrounding the community’s use of language, according to Dr. Harasta. The case studies include examinations of communities using Spanish and Hebrew in the USA, Kurdish in Japan, Pataxó Hãhãhãe in Brazil, and Gallo in France.

Metalinguistic communities are groups of people who are tied together not because they used a shared language but by shared feeling and affiliation with a language that they may or may not currently use. From a linguistics vantage, the essays included in the volume consider how discourses, interactions, ideologies, and practices contribute to the roles of languages in diverse communities and contexts. The research also views the range of ways language can be mobilized as a symbol of identity and community and questions how various levels of language processes play into the formation of metalinguistic communities.

The work is of importance to anyone interested in the reviving of languages or the promotion of lesser-used languages, Dr. Harasta says. The book “provides examples and tools for how to break out of dominant understandings of ‘success’ that measure the outcomes of revival solely in the number of ‘fluent’ speakers, and instead encourages communities to see their languages as providing many tools for community and identity building,” he adds.