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Language Acquisition: Language Shift, Maintenance, and Revitalisation


Admission requirements



Language shift is the situation in which a dominant language undermines the use of a smaller one within a speech community. The diglossic community gradually shifts to speaking the more dominant language. This course examines the linguistic, sociolinguistic, and social implications of language shift, and it tries to discover situations where maintenance and revitalisation have been successful.
English in particular is notorious for inhibiting the use of less dominant languages. This has happened in Scotland (Gaelic), Wales (Welsh), and, for instance, the Philippines (Spanish). In the Netherlands, Frisian has been affected by the dominance of Standard Dutch. In these examples, a complete shift has not always taken place, and in fact successful language maintenance and revitalisation efforts are known.
For the course, students choose a relevant country or region and do a small empirical study into the diglossic situation there. Students collect new data. They could, for instance, test attitudes through a survey or listening experiment, or they could describe the use of a specific language item across generations of speakers. Students should focus on shift, maintenance, or on revitalisation.

Course objectives

  • understand the linguistic, sociolinguistic, and/or social effects of shift

  • collect and process empirical data; present these data

  • read sociolinguistic articles, and write a fully-fledged research paper


The timetable will be available by June 1st at

Mode of instruction

Two-hour seminar per week.

Assessment method

Presentation (30%), homework (30%), and research report (40%).


This course is supported by Blackboard. A detailed course description can be found there, as well as homework and presentation overviews, etc.

Reading list

Articles and other material will be made available through Blackboard.


Students should register through uSis.

Contact information

Departmental Office English Language and Culture, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 102C. Tel. 071 5272144; mail:
Coordinator of Studies Master: Ms. K. van der Zeeuw-Filemon, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 103C.


No remarks.