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2017 Conference - Nahuatl in Coatepec: Language Ideologies, Practices, and Management
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Although there are millions of Nahuatl speakers, overt ime this number is diminishing. Historically Nahuatl was the dominant language of Coatepec de los Costales, a small village in Guerrero, Mexico. In the last 50 years, there has been a pronounced shift from Nahautl to Spanish. If this shift is not reversed, based on the language loss trend, the language will be lost from the village. Different factors affect this language shift in favor of Spanish. The ultimate cause of language shift is ia breakdown in intergenerational tarnsmission from the older to the younger generations. In Coatepec, older Nahuatl speakers are not teaching their children the language. A similar language shift pattern appears in several case studies (see e.g., Wyman et al., 2014), yet reasons for each case are complex and vary from one context to another. 

Using a conceptual framework that combines (1) a critical sociocultural approach to language policy; (2) Spolsky’s (2004) definition of language policy as language practices, ideologies or beliefs, and management; (3) the ethnography of language policy, and (3) Indigenous knowledges, I collected and analyzed data from a six-month ethnographic study of language loss and reclamation in Coatepec. This paper focuses on a study of language loss and reclamation in Coatepec de los Costales. The study takes a critical sociocultural approach to language policy and practices to gain a deep understanding of the local dynamics and their intersection with global influences that are contributing to endangerment of Nahuatl in Coatepec de los Costales.  In the local context, this study seeks to understand the language practices, ideologies, and beliefs of the people of Coatepec de los Costales. Specifically, I looked closely at the mechanisms by which language ideologies, management, and practices shift among generations, using a combination of observation, archival analysis, and Seidman’s (2013) three-part interview sequence. The following research questions guided my study:  What are the language ideologies and practices within and across generations of Coatepec de los Costales people? What language management strategies – tacit and official – do community members of different generations employ? Findings of this study can assist the Coatepec de los Costales community develop a plan for language revitalization, as well contribute to the larger field of language policy and planning.

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