20. Linguistic Imperialism and Endangered Languages

  1. Tej K. Bhatia and
  2. William C. Ritchie
  1. Robert Phillipson and
  2. Tove Skutnabb-Kangas

Published Online: 3 OCT 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781118332382.ch20

The Handbook of Bilingualism and Multilingualism, Second Edition

The Handbook of Bilingualism and Multilingualism, Second Edition

How to Cite

Phillipson, R. and Skutnabb-Kangas, T. (2012) Linguistic Imperialism and Endangered Languages, in The Handbook of Bilingualism and Multilingualism, Second Edition (eds T. K. Bhatia and W. C. Ritchie), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781118332382.ch20

Editor Information

  1. Syracuse University, USA

Author Information

  1. Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 3 OCT 2012
  2. Published Print: 7 NOV 2012

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781444334906

Online ISBN: 9781118332382



  • endangered languages;
  • language dominance;
  • language policies;
  • linguistic imperialism;
  • multilingualism


The study of linguistic imperialism focuses on how and why certain languages dominate internationally, and attempts to account for such dominance in a theoretically informed way. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)'s Interactive Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger divides the total of 2,581 endangered languages into five categories: vulnerable; definitely endangered; severely endangered; critically endangered; extinct. This chapter starts with the current state and future prospects of the world's endangered languages. Linguistic imperialism, past and present, and current neoimperialism are then analyzed, followed by a discussion of the approaches to language dominance and major challenges in research and action in relation to endangered languages. There is an urgent need for more socioculturally and linguistically appropriate language policies. Such policies are intended to promote multilingualism and combat linguistic misuse of languages.