Northern Qiang

[aka Qiang, 羌語北部方言]

Classification: Sino-Tibetan




Dialect structural priming in endangered language evolution, devolution, and protection

eLetter Commentary on: Amano T, Sandel B, Eager H, Bulteau E, Svenning JC, Dalsgaard B, Rahbek C, Davies RG, & Sutherland WJ. 2014 Global distribution and drivers of language extinction risk. Proceedings of the Royal Society London B: Biological Sciences 281(1793), 20141574. The eLetter discusses the need for innovative cognitive science methods to help protect endangered languages from extinction due to, among other factors, dialectal drift or creolization accompanying changes in human commerce, geographical barriers and climate, and human population densities and migration. The author suggests the method of structural priming offers unique opportunities for future study of language production, comprehension, and form and, perhaps more significantly, for improved ethnocultural preservation, such as that epitomized by at-risk communities worldwide facing endangerment/extinction of indigenous languages and, consequently, cultural heritages, identities, and diversity. Evidence is reported in the eLetter that structural priming reveals critical new aspects of language processing and representation across human developmental periods and cultures, therefore yielding a deeper understanding of the history and real-time geographically local evolution of languages as well as a vetted means to conserve endangered languages through revival and post-vernacular maintenance strategies.

Kevin Clark

University of California Los Angeles and VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System

Jan. 1, 2017