Sustaining Language Use
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Sustaining Language Use

Perspectives on Community-Based Language Development

About the Book

In today's world, thousands of small language groups are facing pressure to abandon their traditional language in favor of a more dominant language from elsewhere. The basic decision that members of these communities must make is how they will sustain their identity and how the essential bodies of knowledge associated with that identity will be transmitted to succeeding generations. This book develops a framework, called the Sustainable Use Model (SUM), for addressing these issues. The book describes how to observe language use to understand the current language ecology, how to assess the sustainability of the languages in the linguistic repertoire of the speech community, and then how to design a program of activities aimed at achieving sustainable language use.

A formal print edition of this book is also available.

"In this clearly written monograph, Paul Lewis and Gary Simons lay the groundwork for those who will be working in the coming decades with members of local language communities to help them to implement diverse activities that will most effectively lead to a sustainable level of language use. They build appropriately upon the groundbreaking work that was carried out several decades ago by sociolinguists such as Charles Ferguson, Robert Cooper and Joshua Fishman." (from the Foreword by G. Richard Tucker).

This volume is the result of about ten years of reflection and discussion by the authors and a large and experienced group of colleagues regarding SIL International’s corporate learning after 80 years of working in local communities to develop less-commonly known languages.  This book is aimed at those who are “on the ground” working with a community to address the issues that arise from language and culture contact. Ideally, many in that audience will themselves be members of those communities. The book is designed to be both a textbook and a handbook.

This, the latest draft of the Sustainable Use Model textbook, is not yet in its final state.  Please let us know if you find typos or sentences that are not clear or instances of faulty reasoning. We would also appreciate help with finding more examples, whether a personal communication that you would be willing to share or a pointer to a good example in the published literature.  In the latter case, we will need the bibliographic citation.

About the Authors

M. Paul Lewis
M. Paul Lewis

M. Paul Lewis served as general editor of Ethnologue: Languages of the World from 2004 to 2016, and is a Senior Consultant in Sociolinguistics with SIL International. His primary research and publication interests are in language maintenance, shift and death, language policy and planning, and language documentation. He has authored, co-authored, or edited more than 50 publications. Along with Gary F. Simons, he is a developer of the Expanded Graded Intergenerational Disruption Scale (EGIDS) and the Sustainable Use Model (SUM). Beyond his duties as general editor of the Ethnologue (, he has primarily done research, consulting and training in sociolinguistics with SIL International in Africa, Australia, Asia, Central America, Europe and North America.

Gary F. Simons
Gary F. Simons

Gary F. Simons is the Chief Research Officer for SIL International (Dallas, TX) and Executive Editor of the Ethnologue ( He is also Adjunct Professor of Applied Linguistics at the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics (Dallas, TX). Early in his career he was involved in language development activities in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.  More recently he has contributed to the development of cyberinfrastructure for linguistics as co-founder of the Open Language Archives Community ( and co-developer of the ISO 639-3 standard of three-letter identifiers for all known languages of the world ( He holds a PhD in general linguistics (with minor emphases in computer science and classics) from Cornell University. He is an author or editor of over 100 publications (

Table of Contents

  • List of Figures
  • List of Tables
  • Foreword
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • How to Use This Book
  • 1. The Sustainable Use Model
    • 1.1 Introduction
    • 1.2 Why the Sustainable Use Model?
    • 1.3 What is the Sustainable Use Model?
    • 1.4 How This Book is Organized
    • 1.5 Going Deeper
  • 2. Local Language Communities in a Globalizing World
    • 2.1 Introduction
    • 2.2 What is a Local Community?
    • 2.3 Life-Crucial Knowledge
    • 2.4 Multiple Identities, Languages, and Bodies of Knowledge
    • 2.5 So Why Should We Care?
    • 2.6 Going Deeper
  • 3. Community-Based Language Development
    • 3.1 Introduction
    • 3.2 Community
    • 3.3 What is Community-Based Language Development?
    • 3.4 Going Deeper
  • 4. Local Languages in Ecological Perspective
    • 4.1 Introduction
    • 4.2 Multiple Languages for Multiple Topics, Participants, and Locations
    • 4.3 Functions, Topics, and Bodies of Knowledge
    • 4.4 Categorizing Functions
    • 4.5 The Quest for Stable Multilingualism
    • 4.6 Going Deeper
  • 5. Assessing the Ecological Profile of a Speech Community
    • 5.1 Introduction
    • 5.2 The Expanded Graded Intergenerational Disruption Scale (EGIDS)
    • 5.3 The EGIDS and Language Revitalization
    • 5.4 Assessment of EGIDS Levels
    • 5.5 Going Deeper
  • 6. Sustainable Levels of Language Use
    • 6.1 Introduction
    • 6.2 Sustainable Levels of Language Use
    • 6.3 Going Deeper
  • 7. Conditions of Sustainable Use
    • 7.1 Introduction
    • 7.2 The FAMED Conditions
    • 7.3 Some General Observations
    • 7.4 Assessing the FAMED Conditions
    • 7.5 Using the FAMED Conditions to Assess Language Vitality
    • 7.6 Going Deeper
  • 8. Language Development: Addressing the FAMED Conditions
    • 8.1 Introduction
    • 8.2 Building the Capacity of the Language
    • 8.3 Going Deeper
  • 9. Language Development: Achieving Sustainable Use
    • 9.1 Introduction
    • 9.2 Achieving Sustainable Literacy
    • 9.3 Achieving Sustainable Orality
    • 9.4 Achieving Sustainable Identity
    • 9.5 Going Deeper
  • 10. Organizing for Community-Based Language Development
    • 10.1 Introduction
    • 10.2 Planning a Community-Based Language Development Program
    • 10.3 Determining the Program Content
    • 10.4 Planning Language Development Endeavors
    • 10.5 Implementing the Overall Language Development Plan in a Single Speech Community
    • 10.6 Implementing Programs in Multiple Speech Communities
    • 10.7 Going Deeper
  • 11. Conclusion
  • A. Examples of activities for promoting sustainable language use
    • A.1 Introduction
    • A.2 Achieving Sustainable Literacy
    • A.3 Achieving Sustainable Orality
    • A.4 Achieving Sustainable Identity
  • References

About the Publisher

This book is published on Leanpub by Pike Center

Pike Center for Integrative Scholarship is an initiative of SIL International that builds capacity for language development through scholarship. SIL works alongside ethnolinguistic communities as they discover how language development addresses the challenging areas of their daily lives—social, cultural, political, economic and spiritual.

One of Pike Center’s strategies for building capacity is to grow the needed bodies of knowledge through its Agile Publishing program. We are using this lean publishing platform to give our affiliated scholars a platform for developing and refining new contributions to growing bodies of knowledge that support the language development movement. Many of our titles are still in a preliminary stage of development. Others are finished but have such a narrow audience that we have not elected to turn them into print books. Still others have reached the maturity of becoming a print book; in such cases, this is indicated by a link on the landing page for the book.

All of the revenues generated through sales on this site are directed to the Pike Center to support the on-going research activities of its affiliated scholars. Naming a higher price when you purchase one of our books is a way of contributing to this cause. Or you may go to the Pike Center website to make a donation that will receive a tax-deductible receipt.

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