Re: Languages of the world

From: N.R.Liwal (
Date: Sat Mar 26 2005 - 08:55:43 CST

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    I am very thankful to all for their contributions,



    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "Donald Z. Osborn" <>
    To: <>
    Sent: Friday, March 25, 2005 11:38 PM
    Subject: Re: Languages of the world

    > Many factors, as Asmus points out, enter into the decline of languages. In
    > addition to those he mentions are language and education policies which
    > serve
    > to undermine or devalue the use of certain languages. Sometimes these are
    > expressedly assimilationist policies designed to reduce or eliminate
    > minority
    > language use, and other times the policies may have a higher expressed aim
    > (often influenced by a monolingual-state paradigm) but still end up
    > marginalizing many maternal languages in public life and hastening the
    > process
    > of language loss in local cultures.
    > Obviously the attitudes and actions of the native speakers themselves are
    > central. Here too many factors, ideas, and influences are involved. But
    > two
    > deserve attention: first, in many cases, people take their language and
    > culture for granted, which these days often translates to neglect of
    > informal
    > educational ways that long were part of the life of the language/culture
    > (without those being replaced by other perhaps more formal educational
    > approaches); and second, the lack of apparent conflict around the
    > sublimation
    > of languages and cultures is often not as benign a process as it may seem
    > from
    > outside (a case could be made that they are generally "non-conflicts").
    > The
    > role of the outsider in issues of language survival and revitalization
    > (processes to which the existence of Unicode contributes) is complex and
    > delicate, but begins with raising awareness about what is happening and
    > why,
    > different ways of thinking about linguistic diversity (and
    > multilingualism),
    > and appropriate paths of action.
    > One additional thought about language loss: one could see the cost to a
    > people
    > of loss of its maternal language as a loss of "esprit" (the French term
    > has an
    > interesting range of use which seems to me to go beyond that of its
    > literal
    > English translation of spirit, as illustrated in the loan term, esprit de
    > corps). While there are tangible losses in terms of knowledge and
    > expression,
    > loss of a language arguably also entails a deeper loss to the sense of
    > being of
    > a people, and as such to humanity as a whole.
    > For those interested in pursuing this discussion, you're invited to join a
    > list
    > set up to deal with such questions and related ones surrounding language
    > development (which for the moment features mainly forwarded articles):
    > "MINEL"
    > at
    > By way of disclaimer, I am in no way an expert on endangered languages or
    > language revitalization, but in the course of other language-related work
    > have
    > become interested in this subject area (it also links to an earlier
    > interest in
    > the dynamics of tradition and development, but that would really take us
    > offtopic...).
    > Don Osborn
    > Quoting Asmus Freytag
    > <>:
    >> >If a culture dies with [its] language, what [do] we loose if a language
    >> dies?
    >> >
    >> >For each language lost, a unique interpretation of the cosmos is lost.
    >> >Each language has a unique way of carving up the universe, making sense
    >> >of
    >> >reality, relating to other humans and the environment, expressing a
    >> >literature or a mythology. Monolinguals rarely have any idea what this
    >> >means
    >> Sometimes the simple fact is that the (sub-)culture is dying or
    >> stagnating,
    >> and there is less for speakers to express.
    >> If a language is bound to a rural or even nomadic culture, but modern
    >> life
    >> finds the descendants in an urban environment, there may be little,
    >> except
    >> for religion, of daily life that can be meaningfully communicated in it.
    >> Add to that rapid technological change, and sooner or later even
    >> reasonably
    >> sized communities have to work at maintaining a native vocabulary. And
    >> not
    >> all of them are as aggressive about it as the Icelanders ;-)
    >> A./

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