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Language Extinction a Crisis ?

  1. Sep 18, 2007 #1

    russ_watters

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    Language Extinction a "Crisis"?

    Does anyone else find this a little rediculous?
    http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/2007-09-18-languages_N.htm

    Are they serious? The names of these 56 varieties of bees aren't listed in any biology text anywhere? C'mon.

    My grandparents speak Pennsylvania Deutch, a German dialect likely to become extinct in the next 20 or 30 years, wiped out by education finding it's way to the boonies in Pennsylvania. I've seen it listed in articles about language extinction. My grandfather did not speak English at home and became very poorly educated as a result, having to learn to speak English in school. He resented it. My mother, as a result, learned very little Pa Deutch from her parents. I suspect a similar pattern is responsible for its impending exctinction.

    I see no great loss in an obsolte language becoming extinct.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 19, 2007 #2
    There's certainly no loss. Though the world wouldn't be as interesting with just one language. It's almost the same as asking: Is preservation of delusional belief systems (or belief systems not taking into account discoveries over the past two centuries) worth it for the sake of diversity?

    I feel there can be a lose with the language but not with the beliefs.
     
  4. Aug 24, 2008 #3
    Re: Language Extinction a "Crisis"?

    Why don't they just record and document the language before it dies.
     
  5. Aug 25, 2008 #4
    Re: Language Extinction a "Crisis"?

    Its certainly possible that some or many are not. Wiki says that there are over a million species of insect indexed and an estimate of up to 30 million that as of yet are not yet.

    That would be my thought. It depends though. There are probably several uncodified languages and dialects of languages out there. I'm not sure there would be many linguists keen on living in a tribal setting for several years to accomplish it.
     
  6. Aug 25, 2008 #5

    HallsofIvy

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    Re: Language Extinction a "Crisis"?

    the fact that a language "distinguishes between 56 types of bees" doesn't mean that there are 56 biological varieties of bees. One word might refer to a bee in the morning, another to a bee at night. One word might refer to a be at its hive, another to a bee sitting on a flower, yet another to a bee in flight. Different words imply what the local people are interested in differentiating, not necessarily fundamental differences.
     
  7. Aug 26, 2008 #6

    arildno

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    Re: Language Extinction a "Crisis"?

    It is also laughable, or rather pathetic, that a man seriously can go about thinking there will be a genuine information loss concerning natural phenomena just if a particular language disappears.
     
  8. Aug 26, 2008 #7

    Integral

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    Re: Language Extinction a "Crisis"?

    Russ, you must live in a cultural black hole. There is more to any language then its vocabulary, ok that particular example has a lot of words for types of bees, that would not be the real loss. Every language encapsulates a different way of thinking, it is these thought processes which would be lost. Who knows what potential problems that a particular language could hold the keys to the solution of. Languages are the core of cultures, loose the language and you loose the culture. To simply dismiss a culture because it is "backwards" is a cultural judgement of the worst kind, we simply do not have the wisdom or knowledge to make this sort of decision. Unfortunately recording a language is not that easy, especially if they have not encoded it in any form of writing.
     
  9. Aug 26, 2008 #8
    Re: Language Extinction a "Crisis"?

    While it does not mean that the information is necessarily lost it does mean that the currently compiled source may disappear and require rediscovery of the information. How many years of research in the amazon jungle do you think that would require?

    At any rate, from what I have read the Kayapo don't appear to be a very good example for the case presented in the article. Wiki states that they have become a minor political power of their own even utilizing modern media for their causes and apparently had Sting (seriously) show up at a protest of theirs. Also I found this...
    ... which shows that such information can be valuable but also that this particular information has been recorded and does not appear to be in danger.
     
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