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SILEWP 1996-001

Author: Lewis, M. Paul
Title: Measuring K'iche' (Mayan) Language Maintenance: A Comprehensive Methodology
Source: First presented at the 1995 Annual Meeting of the Linguistic Society of America, New Orleans, Lousiana, January 7, 1995.
Keywords: K'iche', Mayan, Guatemala, Spanish, language maintenance, ethnolinguistics, sociolinguistics
A study of the sociology of language of K'iche' (a Mayan language of Guatemala) was undertaken in order to examine language maintenance. This study examined seven K'iche'-speaking communities and included both an analysis of socioeconomic, demographic and political (i.e. qualitative) data, as well as quantified observations of 11,229 participants who were involved in speech transactions in the seven communities.

The qualitative data were examined within the framework of Ethnolinguistic Identity Theory (Giles and Johnson 1981), (Giles and others 1991) providing a profile of each community. The quantitative data were subjected to statistical analysis using categorical models maximum likelihood analysis and chi-square to determine the effect of race, sex, age and domain on language use. In addition, a Language Maintenance Index was calculated for each age group and domain of use. This index provided a means of ranking the age groups and domains of use within each community. A global Language Maintenance Index, calculated for each community, provided a means of comparing the language maintenance levels of the communities with each other.

The communities were found to be at different levels of language maintenance in spite of the existence of an intact diglossic relationship between Spanish and K'iche'. The communities have different combinations of ethnolinguistic identity factors and the differences in language maintenance levels can be related to these differences in demographic, institutional support, status and subjective vitality factors.

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