Disappearing Languages



Today is Presidents Day in the US, and it is UNESCO International Mother Language Day everywhere. This is a day to celebrate linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism, and to learn about the world's languages. National Geographic has an interactive world map highlighting areas where languages are in danger of dying out, as part of their Enduring Voices Project. As it is now, one of the world's 7,000 languages is gone for good an average of every two weeks.
Language defines a culture, through the people who speak it and what it allows speakers to say. Words that describe a particular cultural practice or idea may not translate precisely into another language. Many endangered languages have rich oral cultures with stories, songs, and histories passed on to younger generations, but no written forms. With the extinction of a language, an entire culture is lost.

Much of what humans know about nature is encoded only in oral languages. Indigenous groups that have interacted closely with the natural world for thousands of years often have profound insights into local lands, plants, animals, and ecosystems—many still undocumented by science. Studying indigenous languages therefore benefits environmental understanding and conservation efforts.

http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/enduring-voices/?source=link_tw20110221travel-lang -Thanks, Marilyn!

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I'm referring to the "we could lose all this important medical knowledge if we don't preserve the language" business. That's someone searching for justification by exaggerating a possible benefit of their research.

I agree that we gain incredible insight into cultures with the study of language, but that doesn't make it more profitable.
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I think it's less the idea of the 'noble savage' thing but more a matter of perserving something beautiful. I find other languages fascinating in the way of how those people think. I find when I switch between English (my main) and Arabic (due to dad's side of the family) I think slightly different, more than just sentence structure and grammar, something like tracing why we use the words we do show what used to be a cultural priority. If you read that website's thing about each of the endangered languages you learn what those people valued most. I think that's something worth protecting purely because everyone thinking the same way is just damn boring.
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Yeah, I'd have to call shenanigans on that "noble savage" concept. Sounds like someone trying to make their work relevant and useful.
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As rare as this is, I am not only agreeing with Vonskippy, I am providing a less trollmanating post.

As the world becomes more connected, language will become more similar. People that speak the same language tend not to go to war against each other. (Yes, there *are* specific examples to the contrary.)

Dialect will never be geographically homogeneous, but I, for one, welcome our single language future.
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