Which American Languages are Dying? Quantifying the Demographic Vulnerability of Indigenous Languages in the United States.

Stephen Cranney , U.S. Census Bureau

Age structure is often invoked in discussions about the vulnerability of endangered languages. However, no research has employed rigorous demographic methods to precisely quantify vulnerability due to the age structure of the speaking community. To explore how demographic methods can play a role in the literature on linguistic vulnerability, here the concept of population momentum is used to provide a parsimonious and easily interpretable measure of linguistic endangerment. The two most recent years of ACS data are used to derive the population momentum of the seven indigenous language communities in the United States that are best represented in the ACS: Inupiaq, Central Yupik, Western Apache, Navajo, Lakota, Eastern Keres, and Cherokee. Contrary to conventional wisdom, some indigenous languages are demographically holding steady. However, most indigenous languages do show demographic vulnerability, with some reporting population momentum levels much lower than that of any country.

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 Presented in Session 3. Population, Development, & the Environment; Data & Methods; Applied Demography