Ecology of Languages

Peter Mühlhäusler

in The Oxford Handbook of Applied Linguistics

Second edition

Published in print September 2010 | ISBN: 9780195384253
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Ecology of Languages


The focus of this article is the ecology of languages. The first use of the ecology metaphor in linguistics is found in a paper by Voegelin and Schutz on language varieties, where a distinction between intralanguage and interlanguage ecology is drawn. The metaphor was introduced in Haugen's paper, titled “The Ecology of Language”, in which he defines it as “the study of interactions between any given language and its environment”. Characteristic of much earlier work on language ecology is the dominance of the “struggle for existence” metaphor. The theme of a metaphorical struggle for existence has attracted the attention of creolists, as pidgin and creole languages are the result of imposing their patterns of communication onto colonized language communities. The linguistics ecology has become highly disturbed in the last 200 years, mainly as a result of European expansion with the consequent restriction and destruction of the habitats of the majority of the world's linguistic ecologies.

Keywords: ecology; ecology metaphor; intralangugae; interlangugae; language ecology; linguistics ecology

Article.  5845 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Sociolinguistics

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