The Lipan Apache Language

Recreating a Bilingual Environment for the Lipan

This module describes other language revitalization programs that are either in the process of revitalization or have undergone successful revitalization.

Modern Hebrew

If we can point to one definitive success story for language revitalization, Modern Hebrew certainly comes to mind.  The Modern Hebrew language was revitalized after not being spoken for 2000 years.  Originally the sacred and holy language of Judaism, during the latter part of the 19th century and the 20th century, the usage of Modern Hebrew spread to use as the spoken and written language of daily life in modern Israel.  Today there are more than 5 million speakers of Modern Hebrew in Israel and throughout the world, according to Ethnologue.  This revival began at a great time of social awakening, of the strong desire for cultural identity and cultural unity, which grew at the same time that the use of the language also grew.

The revival of Spoken Hebrew is generally attributed to Eliezer Ben-Yehuda.  He was the first to suggest reviving Hebrew, he also participated in the creation of the Ben Yehuda Dictionary, and he publicized the need to revive Hebrew.

Ben Yehuda began at home.  He insisted that his own family only speak Hebrew, and tried to persuade other families to adopt the same practice.  He founded some small groups to promote the speaking of Hebrew, and he even began publishing a newspaper in Hebrew, called HaZvi, and taught Hebrew in the schools briefly.

Eventually, Hebrew became widely enough spoken so as to leave the immediate school and family settings, and to come out into the public use.  It became the language that was used in public administration and discussions.

Today, Modern Hebrew has, as mentioned, over 5 million speakers.  There is an Academy of the Hebrew Language,  which has twenty-three members, as well as fifteen academic advisers.  Their dictionary draws from 4300 Hebrew sources, and contains 54,807 entries.  These entries consist of 4,056 Hebrew roots, 14,952 nouns, adjectives and adverbs, and 13,979 verbs, to form a total of twenty million words.

Acjachemem Language

The Acjachemem language is a Uto-Aztecan language that was spoken in the region of Southern California.  They are currently not recognized federally, and consist of approximately 3,000 members in Orange County, California.  Ka'chi Lobo Golden is the ceremonial teacher and "revealer" of the tribe.  Every year, she takes on a few students to teach the spiritual language, which is a variant of the Acjachemem standard language.

The language is being researched by Kelina Lobo, who has compared the sound system of Acjachemem and a related language, Luiseño.  She decided that the best way to reclaim Acjachemem would be through the study of the already well-documented Luiseño.  She intends to compare the sound systems of the two languages, in order to return Acjachemem back to its orignal status as a spoken language.

 According to a discussion on Yahoo Groups, which cites a now defunct link on the website, "A 'dead' langugae may be a liability for the Acjachemen, who currently stand second in line in the arduous process of federal recognition.  Some within the tribe say that the lack of a living language makes it easier for the government to deny their existence.  Others play down the issue, noting that even federally recognized tribes are struggling to preserve their languages.

Cornish Language

The Cornish Language is a Celtic language spoken in part of the United Kingdom.  The widespread use of English as the culturally dominant language caused language shift to happen.  As such, Cornish lost its social status as a language, and was considered to be a language of the poor.  The last speaker of Cornish died in the 19th century.  By that time, revival had already begun, started by a man named Henry Jenner.

The current status of Cornish as that it is spoken by many people as a second language, but it is not yet spoken (widely) in the home.  It is a language that is learned by adults, and most schools do not offer courses in Cornish.  Some publish works in Cornish, such as those by Agan Tavas.  Radio broadcasts and other social media exist to promote Cornish, and as of 2008, Cornish had 3,500 speakers.

Miami Language

The Miami Language is an Algonquian language that was formerly spoken in the central mid-western area of the United States.  The language is currently in stages of revitalization, working with researchers at Miami University of Ohio.

David Costa is the primary researcher of the Miami Language.  He has reconstructed much of the language and its grammatical phenomena.  He currently works to create language materials and continues with the reconstruction of the language.  Much of this information is found on the Myaamia Project home page.  There is also an online dictionary.

Daryl Baldwin is a citizen of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma.  He is currently working on revitalizing the language, starting at home.  He is teaching his two children how to speak Miami, believing that the effort to revitalize the language begins in the home.

Much of the process of their language revitalization has been produced as a film.


These are only a few of the languages of the world that have either undergone revitalization, or are in the process of revitalization.  What similarities do you see between the situations of these languages, and the situation of the Lipan Apache?  Do you feel that these languages are proceeding in the right direction?  What are they doing that you feel is particularly effective?


Fishman, Joshua (2001)  Can Threatened Languages Be Saved?  Multilingual Matters.  (link) (find in a library)

Hinton, Leanne and Hale, Kenneth (2001)  The Green Book of Language Revitalization in Practice.  Emerald Group Publishing.  (link) (find in a library)

O'Neill, Diarmiud (2005)  Rebuilding the Celtic Languages: Reversing Language Shift in the Celtic Countries.  Y Lolfa.  (link)  (find in a library)