Native American youth discourses on language shift and retention: Ideological cross-currents and their implications for language planning

Teresa L. McCarty, Mary Eunice Romero-Little, Ofelia Zepeda

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

26 Scopus citations


This paper examines preliminary findings from an ongoing federally funded study of Native language shift and retention in the US Southwest, focusing on in-depth ethnographic interviews with Navajo youth. We begin with an overview of Native American linguistic ecologies, noting the dynamic, variegated and complex nature of language proficiencies and practices across a continuum of sociocultural settings. We then examine two pairs of youth discourses that illuminate social-psychological and macro-structural influences on language practices. These discourses juxtapose language identity with language endangerment, and language pride with language shame. As such, they expose the ways in which language allegiance is tied to the distribution of power and privilege in the larger society. Youth discourses, we argue, represent a powerful call to action for communities and schools serving Native American students. We conclude with the implications for future research and for language education planning in Indigenous and other endangered-language communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)659-677
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 13 2006



  • Indigenous languages
  • Language ideologies
  • Language planning
  • Language revitalisation
  • Native American language eduation
  • Native American youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language

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