In responding to the globally accelerating rate at which linguistic varieties are disappearing, structural linguistics is confronted with a number of challenges for which it is ill-equipped because of limitations in its basic conceptualization of linguistic knowledge. In addition to providing a brief history of the recent promotion of language endangerment to a major concern of the discipline as a whole, this article discusses three such challenges: () new demands on linguistic fieldwork practices, () rhetorical tensions arising from the need to address a multiplicity of audiences; () the limits of the traditional descriptive trilogy and its replacement by the concept of language documentation. On a theoretical level, these challenges are all linked to the problem that the structuralist conception of linguistic structures lacks adequate grounding in the social realities of the speech community, a problem that has accompanied linguistic structuralism since its inception.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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