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Cantonese: the biggest endangered language?

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Afra Pujol i Campeny.

With over 62 million speakers in China and worldwide (e.g. most countries in Southeast Asia, the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia), Cantonese may well-deserved by the world’s largest endangered language. However, the number of speakers in a language is not always a reliable indicator for the sustainability of a language. In the past decades, Cantonese has faced unprecedented threat from the spread of Mandarin, the official language in China. In this talk, we will explain (i) why and how Cantonese has been marginalised under the current language policies in China (e.g. in schools and mass media); (ii) the reaction and counter-measures from the public towards such threat. On the whole, Cantonese can be a good showcase and prompt for a more liberal conception of ‘language endangerment’ – one that encompasses potentially endangered languages, with a vision for endangerment prevention.

This talk is part of the Cambridge Endangered Languages and Cultures Group series.

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