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View Poll Results: What do you think about language extinction?
It's an important or major issue and there should be some priority at preserving/encouraging the native languages. 13 50.00%
Not an important issue at all, when globalization, getting the people to learn useful, major languages is a priority -- if they're lost, so be it. 4 15.38%
Should be some attempt at least at saving some of the native language(s) (even if much will be lost), but very low priority relative to other things. 9 34.62%
Other/nuanced views (discuss in thread if you like) 0 0%
Voters: 26. You may not vote on this poll

 
 
Unread 03-22-2012, 10:34 AM
 
Location: Toronto
3,339 posts, read 2,368,861 times
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Default What is your opinion on world languages going extinct?

The "Spanish is not my language" thread where someone was lamenting the fact that Spanish replaced many native tongues in the New World reminded me of places/articles that I've read claiming half of all the world's (some number of thousands of languages) are expected to go extinct in the next century or something.

Of course big languages or those spoken by nation-states aren't expected to go anywhere as long as they stay put -- French, or German, or Russian or Japanese or Chinese or Hindi etc.

It's very small languages (spoken in areas smaller than a country, for example, or that are not the official language of any nation or any business language) that will be put paid to by globalization.

Some lament the fact that we will be losing a bunch of humanity's culture heritages (for example, the languages that gave us a lot of place names in the US or for instance, Powhatan, the now-dead language encountered by the early English settlers in Virginia that gave us words like "mocassin", "hickory", "opposum" and "tomahawk", or the extinct Taino language of the Caribbean, first encountered by Columbus that we borrowed words from, like "hurricane", "hammock" and "barbeque").

Others say that language change happened in history, will happen again, and that globalization/learning a major language is more important than pride in your heritage/preserving a culture (this is especially true in countries where living standards are low and economic issues pressing). There have been successful cases of preserving or reviving languages like Welsh, Irish and Cornish, or Hawaiian and Hebrew, but those all require or required a lot of effort.

Considering the rate of cultural change today, and languages are regularly dying out as we speak (right now, many languages are only surviving by say, a few old people in a village somewhere, with no young people learning it), it's inevitable to some extent.

What do you think?
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Unread 03-22-2012, 11:02 AM
 
Location: Victoria TX
37,366 posts, read 31,711,325 times
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If you start rationalizing this very interesting question, there are not very many steps before you need to ask "What is the meaning of Life?". There, you reach an impasse.

It is not dissimilar to the question about the value of preserving endangered species. However, there is a difference. One can argue that diverse speciation in the biosphere has utility, in that is assures that all niches are filled in order to facilitate the balance of nature, which can be sent askew by the extirpation of a cog on the wheel. But no such parallel can be drawn concerning the variegation of human languages, so the value of preserving any language is less clear. Nothing will be thrown off kilter, if a language dies, provided the speakers of that language continue to function in normal discourse.
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Unread 03-22-2012, 11:10 AM
 
Location: Fife
6,267 posts, read 3,691,480 times
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Surely if people want to preserve their language they will.
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Unread 03-22-2012, 12:38 PM
 
Location: Yorkshire, England
4,148 posts, read 2,833,571 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by paull805 View Post
Surely if people want to preserve their language they will.
Exactly. A language only goes extinct when nobody wants to speak it any more. Welsh is a great example of a language surviving solely due to the will of its speakers to keep it going. Wales has been in a union with England for centuries and doesn't even have its own legal system, in the last 100-200 years in particular there's been substantial movement of bilingual Welsh speakers out of the country and monoglot English speakers into the country, the Welsh language was for a long time not given any official status, was banned in schools and was considered an 'inferior' language, and Wales is right next to a more prosperous country with a major English-speaking cultural output, so considering how it's a difficult language to learn and how other languages in similar situations have fared you might expect it to be dying out.

Nowadays though because of the will of the Welsh people to preserve their language (even though they all speak English as native speakers too) and campaign for its legal recognition the number of Welsh speakers is actually going up, as are the number of books and newspapers written in the language; it's now a compulsory subject in Welsh schools with equal legal status in all official documents (I went to university there, and my bilingual degree certificate even has the Welsh before the English) and necessary to get almost any kind of public sector job (at least in the northwest of the country where I lived). Compare this to a language like Sicilian, which is in a vaguely similar situation re. Italy as Wales is to the rest of the United Kingdom but which doesn't even have an central body never mind official status or presence in the local education system.
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Unread 03-22-2012, 01:41 PM
 
Location: Gatineau, Québec
8,414 posts, read 8,491,622 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by paull805 View Post
Surely if people want to preserve their language they will.
Willpower is not nearly enough, and the survival of languages is often due to dumb historical luck.

There are way more computer programs and software (not to mention a host of other things in life like automobile owner's manuals, etc.) available in Icelandic (barely 300,000 speakers) than there are in Catalan which has, what, 7 million speakers? (Too lazy to check the exact number.)

The main reason for this is not because Icelandic speakers have more willpower than Catalans, but because there is an entire national administration, army, police, education system, industry, civil society, etc. that functions in Icelandic. Not so much in Catalan - though so elements do exist it is true.
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Unread 03-22-2012, 01:49 PM
 
Location: Gatineau, Québec
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As a native speaker of a minority language within my country (but which is still quite powerful internationally), I tend to be very pro-language diversity. Every language provides a unique outlook on life and the world that is lost when it dies. The diversity of humanity is one of its greatest treasurers.

Ideally, each of the world's unique languages would have its own territorial "safe zone" (which don't actually have to be independent countries BTW) where it could flourish. I realize that this is only a pipe dream and would be impossible to make workable, but that's still my view.
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Unread 03-22-2012, 04:38 PM
 
Location: Victoria TX
37,366 posts, read 31,711,325 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Acajack View Post
greatest treasurers.

Ideally, each of the world's unique languages would have its own territorial "safe zone" (which don't actually have to be independent countries BTW) where it could flourish. I realize that this is only a pipe dream and would be impossible to make workable, but that's still my view.
As of now, that would require over 6,700 safe zones. Who would administer them define the borders, etc?
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Unread 03-22-2012, 07:25 PM
 
Location: Gatineau, Québec
8,414 posts, read 8,491,622 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jtur88 View Post
As of now, that would require over 6,700 safe zones. Who would administer them define the borders, etc?
I know - that's why I said it was pie in the sky.
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Unread 03-22-2012, 09:01 PM
 
Location: Hong Kong
11,484 posts, read 16,242,861 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Acajack View Post
I tend to be very pro-language diversity.
I'm very pro-language diversity as well.

Languages are incredibly diverse and deep with thought. Certain ways to describe things in some languages don't exist in other languages.

Bakku-shan (Japanese) - A beautiful girl, as long as she is seen from the behind.

Tatemae and Honne (Japanese) - What you pretend to believe, and what you actually believe.

A website with more: The 10 Coolest Foreign Words The English Language Needs | Cracked.com

But, all the different languages in the world, have such rich meaning, vocabulary, and different ways to see and view the world.

Just the thought process alone of different people. When we see ANY English-speaker, we see a lot more in common with them...mostly because of shared language. Whereas if you meet a Japanese person, it is a completely and totally different way of thinking, of thought, of everything. This goes for every language that exists in the world.
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Unread 03-22-2012, 09:27 PM
 
Location: Gatineau, Québec
8,414 posts, read 8,491,622 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tiger Beer View Post
I'm very pro-language diversity as well.

Languages are incredibly diverse and deep with thought. Certain ways to describe things in some languages don't exist in other languages.

Bakku-shan (Japanese) - A beautiful girl, as long as she is seen from the behind.

Tatemae and Honne (Japanese) - What you pretend to believe, and what you actually believe.

A website with more: The 10 Coolest Foreign Words The English Language Needs | Cracked.com

But, all the different languages in the world, have such rich meaning, vocabulary, and different ways to see and view the world.

Just the thought process alone of different people. When we see ANY English-speaker, we see a lot more in common with them...mostly because of shared language. Whereas if you meet a Japanese person, it is a completely and totally different way of thinking, of thought, of everything. This goes for every language that exists in the world.
Which is why I think that people who say that ''a language is just a communication tool'', as if it was a telephone or a pencil, have got it all wrong. I hear this comment all the time here, and I suppose it is commonly heard around the world as well - usually from people whose languages are dominant in a given territory. I would venture that they wouldn't be so flippant if it was their own language that was being dominated or threatened.
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