Population Pyramids and the Survival of Aboriginal Languages in Canada: Comparing 1901 with 2001

Charles Jones, University of Toronto
Georgios Fthenos, McMaster University

Language is often a vital component of ethnic identity and it is of some concern that numerous languages spoken by aboriginal peoples are in danger of dying out. This study focuses on Aboriginal languages in Canada and their potential for survival. It uses Census results to compare 1901 with 2001 and makes predictions concerning future language maintenance and retention among the Aboriginal languages of Dog Rib, M’ikmaq, Ojibwa, Inuktitut, Cree and Blackfoot. The most interesting findings concern the Aboriginal languages of Ojibwa and Blackfoot. In 1901 the Ojibwa and Blackfoot mother tongue populations could reasonably be described by population pyramids typical of hunter-gatherer societies but one hundred years later these populations had relatively fewer youth and relatively more elderly persons speaking those Aboriginal languages. In the absence of a cultural shift or a successful policy intervention our analysis predicts the extinction of these languages within a few decades.

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Presented in Poster Session 5