Do you think the world's languages should be preserved? Are you a member of a community trying to keep your language alive? Here are a selection of your comments.
Each language is a seed-bed for poetic expression - that can capture some thing beyond mere communication. Every time a language is lost the "genetic basis" for such poetry is less rich.
At least we have come a long way from the times when languages were repressed and forbidden in favor of the language of the dominant polical or colonial power. But I believe that the matter of preserving declining languages should best be left to private iniative among those who have a personal interest in seeing them preserved.
I'm a sociolinguist specializing in endangered languages and language planning. I'm Italian and in my country over 40 historical languages are spoken, but most of them are endangered, particularly those which are are known as 'dialects'. This applies to the area where I was born as well, Milan. Milanese (which is as different from Italian as, say, Spanish is) is highly endangered and nothing is being done to promote it. In Brunei, too, where I live and work (I'm a lecturer at the local university), at least 9 out of the 11 local minority languages are endangered, some only slightly (like Iban for example), some severely (like Belait). Here, too, nothing is being done to preserve them...
I believe that all languages are unique and helps to identfy who we are as a people and as an individual. It is unfortunate that most languages are on the verge of dying but thats the price of progress.
The flip side of the revival of Hebrew, which the article doesn't mention, is the probably imminent demise of Yiddish and Ladino (Judaeo-Spanish), two previously vibrant Jewish languages (New York City once had seven Yiddish newspapers!). The movement to transform Hebrew from a liturgical language into the national language of Israel had as much to do with 19th-century Zionist romanticism as anything else. Yiddish and Ladino were considered ghetto languages by Zionist intellectuals, and so not only not worthy of preservation, but deserving of oblivion. Early Jewish immigrants to Palestine and later Israel, for example, were encouraged to discard their "ghetto" names and take Hebrew ones; the speaking of languages other than Hebrew (but especially Yiddish) was actively discouraged. So is the result the triumphant revival of a dead language, or the loss of a thousand years of the Jewish experience in Europe?
The utility of a single global language, spoken by everyone as their mother tongue, would surely outweigh any loss of cultural heritage. The proliferation of Scots Gaelic bilingual signs in areas without Gaelic speakers (Aberdeenshire?!) is eccentric to say the least. Let languages die their natural deaths -there are plenty left.
Native Irish speaker and I have almost lost it. Government spending millions promoting same. Very difficult against TV and reading almost exclusively English. Endangered languages should be archived and let go.
Its sad when a language dies out, but it is unavoidable isn't it? If not by suddenly no longer being used, it will happen simply due to the language changing slowly over time. The 'English' that exists today is very different from a thousand years ago and from what will be in a thousand years.History is littered with languages which no longer exist.
Absolutely; language is intrinsicly linked between culture and ethnisity. Preserving the language is preserving the history and identity of a specific people. My own language is closely linked with Illyrian and I can make out some ancient etruscan, messapian, macedonian,thracian, and egyptian words and phrases because of it. It is absolutely amazing that my langugae was able to survive the influx of greek and slavic/mongolian invasion.
I have studied languages reconstructed completely from written records, and know first-hand the enormous scholarly value in preserving languages. But languages are not here for our intellectual amusement. The economic and social benefits of fewer languages to the living world are clear - that's why it's happening. People should not be made to feel guilty about releasing past traditions, linguistic or otherwise. They do not live in a museum. Rather than diminishing a person's sense of self-worth by telling them that they are bad for giving up old traditions, maybe they should be lauded for not being trapped in the past, and shown their intrinsic value as human beings regardless of the culture in which they partake!
When a language dies, a way of thinking dies with it. Some Native American languages have completely different concepts of past and present embedded in their language. Russian verbs offer a variety of ways to express actions, that Hebrew doesn't have, but Hebrew has a way of expressing actions that a person does for others that doesn't exist in Russian. Romance languages have well-defined ways to express things that should happen, but not necessarily do - a trait not found in every language. This list could go on forever.
I think that the reduction in the number of languages spoken is also a great way to help unify the world and the human race in general. How can we expect cultures to keep peace between each other when they cannot understand each other? Having one, or a few global languages will make things much more convenient and seamless. Also languages isolate communities. Which are most likely to be economically weak. 'Our heritage' is only history, and history will never and can never be more important than the present or the future.
No, languages naturally evolve, Professor Salikoko Mufwene is absolutely right when he says that asking groups to hold onto languages they no longer want is more for the linguists' sake than for the communities themselves. Communities are best served by a language which can be used to communicate intelligibly with the greatest number of people. It would seem to me that the fewer the number of languages, the fewer the chances for misunderstanding one another. The revival of dead or minority languages such as those mentioned in the article is an affectation at best and insular at worst. Even if people no longer communicated with one another using these minor languages that does not mean that knowledge of these minor languages would be gone. After all, no one now speaks Latin, but the language itself is not lost.
Most of the problems in the world stem from a lack of communications. If we all spoke English then these problems might disapear. It may be sad to lose other languages, but we must strive for one universal language.
When a language disappears, the knowledge and thought that has been stored in the language through generations of use, disappears with it. With the growth of powerful and widespread world languages, such as English, Chinese and Spanish, it will be necessary to take steps to protect linguistic diversity, in order to ensure the survival of smaller languages.
If we as human beings can all communicate in the same tongue, then maybe we will start to treat the whole polulation od the world equally and that can be no bad thing!
Not only is the death of languages a natural thing, it's also a good thing. 'Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent' wrote Wittgenstein. By that he meant if you can't describe an object or a concept in a language, then you can't think about it or engage with it. Concepts of parliamentary democracy, the liberal economy or multicultural societies cannot be expressed in Mayan or Navajo or even Latin. It's one of the reasons they're dead while English-speaking societies thrive and prosper around from the world.
I grew up speaking a German dialect, and didn't speak English until I went to school. My father always asked us if we were richer having two dollars or one dollar. He said the same was true of language.
A good proverb: A house divided against itself cannot stand. The Earth is the home of humans, plants, animals, various forms of life. Right now we humans have divide this home of ours' into divided nations, languages, religions, etc. In this time and age we need unity more than divisions. What is the point of having hundreds of languages that will make it difficult for people from different places to communicate.
Every word has stories woven through it. When we lose a language, we lose so many words and stories. I'd like them to be remembered somehow.