Sustaining Language… by M. Paul Lewis et al. [PDF/iPad/Kindle]
Sustaining Language Use
Sustaining Language Use
Sustaining Language Use

Last updated on 2016-07-05

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 (

About the Publisher

This book is published on Leanpub by SIL International

SIL International is a faith-based nonprofit organization committed to serving language communities worldwide as they build capacity for sustainable language development. SIL does this primarily through research, translation, training and materials development. SIL works alongside ethnolinguistic communities and their partners as they discover how language development addresses the challenging areas of their daily lives—social, cultural, political, economic and spiritual.

We have established this publishing site on LeanPub to serve as an incubator for book-length publications. Many of our titles are still in a preliminary stage of development, and others have such a narrow audience that we have chosen not to turn them into print books for the mainstream book-selling market. 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.

This site for incubating publications is an initiative of the Pike Center for Integrative Scholarship and is one of the means that the Pike Center uses to fulfill its mission of “building capacity for language development that serves communities on the margins by developing scholars and growing the needed bodies of knowledge.” All of the revenues generated through sales on this site are directed to the Pike Center to support the on-going research activities of SIL International and its partners. Naming a higher price when you purchase one of our books is a way of making a donation to this cause. Or you may select "Pike Center Research" from the Program Menu at SIL Online Giving to make a donation that will receive a tax-deductible receipt.

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