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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Loss of the Unknown and the Everyday

Dead Beat notes that the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages and the National Geographic Society have reported that while there are an estimated 7,000 languages spoken around the world today, one of them dies out about every two weeks.

"In addition to northern Australia, eastern Siberia and Oklahoma and the U.S. Southwest, many native languages are endangered in South America — Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Brazil and Bolivia — as well as the area including British Columbia, and the states of Washington and Oregon."

K. David Harrison, an assistant professor of linguistics at Swarthmore College and associate director of the Living Tongues Institute stated: "When we lose a language, we lose centuries of human thinking about time, seasons, sea creatures, reindeer, edible flowers, mathematics, landscapes, myths, music, the unknown and the everyday."

"As many as half of the current languages have never been written down," he estimated.
That means, if the last speaker of many of these vanished tomorrow, the language would be lost because there is no dictionary, no literature, no text of any kind."

Dead Beat remembers well the chant when he was learning Latin - "Latin is a language as dead as dead can be. It killed the ancient Romans, and now it's killing me."

Well we got it right in a manner of speaking. Allowing a language to die is a sure way of killing ourselves.

Centuries of human thinking about time... the unknown and the everyday...

1 comment:

Kellie said...

Hey Deadbeat! I see you made the move. I hope all is well and you are enjoying the picture province. Drop me a line some time with your new email address.