Language Endangerment and Revitalization: The Case of Quechua

Ryan Goos snapped a photo at Las Salinas Grandes, a salt flat in northern Argentina, during a study-abroad trip to the country in the spring of 2015.

Ryan Goos ’16
Majors: International Studies, Spanish

Research Abstract

In an increasingly globalized world, indigenous and minority languages are becoming obsolete and outdated in favor of the culturally and politically dominant “global languages” such as English, Spanish, Chinese, etc. In fact, some linguists claim that up to 90 percent of the world’s 6,000–7,000 languages will become extinct in the next century. This project aims to understand why language loss is an issue that needs to be addressed, why languages are dying so quickly, and how they can potentially be revitalized. I will assess these questions by looking at case studies of language-revitalization programs across the planet and analyzing why they were successful or unsuccessful. I will then apply this information to the current situation of Quechua in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Argentina to predict if the language will grow into the future or suffer the same fate as thousands of other languages around the world. The main goals of this project are to bring attention to the linguistic rights of minority groups that are quickly seeing the disappearance of their native languages and to explore which strategies are most helpful in preventing further language extinction.

Inspired by Studying Abroad

About his capstone project, Ryan Goos, a double major in Spanish and international studies, says, “The inspiration for this project actually came from a course that I took while abroad in Argentina. The class was called Latin American Culture, and it focused on the indigenous cultures that were or are present on the continent. It was in this class that I learned more about the Quechua language and the group of people who speak it. I connected this with the idea of language endangerment and language death because this has been a topic that has been covered in a few of the linguistics courses here at Luther. So I wanted to take the more general knowledge that I had gained in my coursework at Luther and apply that to a more specific subject that I discovered while abroad in Argentina.”

Tackling a 50-page Paper

For many students, a capstone project is the biggest undertaking that they’ve faced in their academic career. Says Goos, “The task of writing a 40–50 page paper is overwhelming at the start—it can feel almost impossible at times. But with some guidance from amazing professors, the process of completing such a large project can actually be fun. And I feel a lot more confidence about eventually heading to graduate school because of this project, which is great.”

Preparation for Graduate School

Goos believes that while the challenges of a capstone project are great, so are the rewards: “One challenging aspect of writing something like this is learning to balance the wide range of comments that you get from professors. Each of my three readers added different perspectives, which was useful for many reasons, but they also could see my paper going in different directions because of it. And so it was a challenge trying to find that balance between all the comments that I received and the direction that I wanted to take for my project. But the most rewarding part about writing a paper like this is that it was great practice for when I eventually go to graduate school. Having gone through a large project like this and learning how to balance comments from different people, I feel much more prepared to do a similar project in a master’s or doctoral program.”