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Shan-Ni language vitality in Northern Myanmar

Monday 5 November 2018
Descriptive and Anthropological Linguistics Discussion Group
P.J. Veth
Nonnensteeg 1-3
2311 VJ Leiden


Shan-Ni (or: Tai Laing) is a Tai-Kadai language spoken in northern Myanmar. In the Indawgyi region, the Shan-Ni inhabit the valley surrounding the biggest lake of Myanmar. Though the villages form a close-knit community with positive attitudes towards the language, Shan-Ni language vitality contrasts dramatically between the different sides of the lake. There is intergenerational bilingualism in the west, while Shan-Ni is only spoken by adults in the south; Burmese is dominant in the east and Shan-Ni is dominant in the north. These differences are results of different contact scenarios with Burmese, which due to the events during the war and military regime were specific to their locations. This talk will explore how restrictive policies, trade, migration and isolation have affected communities and their language vitality in different ways, leading to the current situation. As this concerns a homogeneous group with positive attitudes towards the language, comparing the different sides of the lake makes it possible to study how individual external factors affect language vitality, regardless of the internal factors at play.

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