Language maintenance in seven Kʼicheʼ communities

Statement of Responsibility:
Lewis, M. Paul

Language use data were collected over a six month period in several K'iche' communities using an unobtrusive observational methodology. The resulting data were tallied and analyzed to determine the level of language maintenance for each community according to age groups and domains of use. A language maintenance index was calculated and levels of language maintenance were categorized as Weak, Moderate and Strong based on this index. The data from six of these communities (Chichicastenango, Cunén, Santa Cruz del Quiché, Sacapulas, San Andrés Sajcabajá, and Totonicapán) are reported on here. Additional incomplete data from Joyabaj are reported and commented on briefly.

The results of the analysis indicate that the communities are at different levels of K'iche' maintenance and have different patterns of language use, though the expected pattern of generally greater K'iche' use in intimate and informal domains is apparent in all of the communities. The community with the lowest level of language maintenance in the youngest age groups (those most important to intergenerational transmission) is Santa Cruz del Quiché. Cunén is the community with the highest level of language maintenance.

A similar analysis of domains of use shows that all six communities have at least moderate levels of language maintenance in the Home domain. There is a clear division between those domains that are K'iche' domains (Home, Street, Play, Market and Work) and those which are Spanish domains (Religion, Stores, Media, School and Government Offices).

The communities are also ranked on Fishman's (1991) Graded Intergenerational Disruption Scale. Three communities (Cunén, Sacapulas and San Andrés Sajcabajá) are found to be at the relatively "safer" GIDS Stage 4. Two (Chichicastenango and Totonicapan) are at GIDS Stage 6 and Santa Cruz del Quiché is ranked at Stage 7.

Language use
Language maintenance
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