The ecology is developed by answering questions based on my reinterpretation of an article by Einar Haugen in The Linguistic Reporter, Winter 1971, page 25. My questions:
- What is the name of the language variety (what do its speakers call it; what do nonspeakers call it; what do linguists call it)?
- Who are its users, and how are they grouped by nation, geographical location, class, religion, or any other relevant grouping?
- What larger “language” does it belong to? What are the main closely related dialects?
- What other dialects are employed by its users?
- Is this dialect written? If so, how and in what contexts?
- Is its use restricted or limited in certain ways, for example religion or ritual, written literature, legal proceedings, folk tales, and so on?
- What issues of power and authority are relevant to this dialect?
- Is the dialect endangered? If so, what factors might be involved? If not, what might be contributing to its vitality?
Most of the students turned in papers that correctly identified a dialect to write about, but then proceeded to ignore the questions. Some wrote about their personal reasons for being interested in this dialect; others focused on issues of grammar; others focused on other issues not really relevant to the questions at hand.
And, far too many offered a list of references but did not bother to cite those references in the text of their papers.
What do we do, when our university students can't do what they should have learned to do in high school?