Language Shift

Language shift, sometimes referred to as language transfer or language replacement or assimilation, is the process whereby a speech community of a language shifts to speaking another language. Languages perceived to be "higher status" stabilise or spread at the expense of other languages perceived by their own speakers to be "lower-status".

Historical examples for status shift are the early Welsh and Lutheran bible translations, leading to the liturgical languages Welsh and High German thriving today, unlike other Celtic or German variants.

For prehistory, Forster and Renfrew (2011) observe that there is a correlation of language shift with intrusive male Y chromosomes but not necessarily with intrusive female mtDNA. They conclude that technological innovation (transition from hunting-gathering to agriculture, or from stone to metal tools) or military prowess (as in the abduction of British women by Vikings to Iceland) causes immigration of at least some males, who are perceived to be of higher status than local males. Then, in mixed-language marriages with these males, prehistoric women prefer to transmit the "higher-status" spouse's language to their children, yielding the language/Y-chromosome correlation seen today.

The process whereby a community of speakers of one language becomes bilingual in another language, and gradually shifts allegiance to the second language is called assimilation. When a linguistic community ceases to use their original language, language death is said to occur.

The rate of assimilation is the percentage of individuals with a given mother tongue who speak another language more often in the home. The data are used to measure the use of a given language in the lifetime of a person, or most often across generations within a linguistic community.

Read more about Language ShiftSocial Consequences, Reversing

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