Only Hebrew? Conditions for Successful Revitalisation of Languages
Successful revitalisation of a language (making it an ordinary means of communication) requires meeting certain condition. The paper analyzes several attempts to revitalise extinct or highly endangered languages, including Hebrew, Cornish, Irish, Breton, Low Lusatian, etc., and tries to find out why some attempts have turned out to be more successful than others. The conclusion of this paper is that all the following conditions must be met simultaneously: tradition of the use of the language (of course outside the sphere of everyday contacts, because if the language were used in everyday contacts it wouldn’t be a need for its revitalisation) and the resulting presence of a considerable number of people competent in this language; high prestige of the language for the concerned community; political support for the language; socio-geographical concentration of persons ready (or not opposite) to learn and use it in everyday life; economic advantages of the use of the language; and necessary practical usefulness of the language resulting from the absence or weakness of competing languages. All these conditions have been met only in the case of Hebrew, and only Hebrew is an example of fully successful revitalisation of a language. In other cases, revitalisation has been, at best, only partially successful by making the language in question an occasionally used symbol of identity, a political ornament, or a tourist curiosity. The case of Hebrew also points out that only some conditions depend on the will and conscious language policy of advocates of language revitalisation.