Languages on the endangered list

Nov 23, 2010

When a language dies, humanity suffers more than a loss of words. The diversity, culture and heritage of a society are threatened with extinction as well. And yet, many of the languages now spoken around the globe are destined to die out in our lifetime. Renowned linguist K. David Harrison has journeyed throughout the world, from Siberian forests to a trailer park in Utah, in a quest to meet with the last speakers of these languages before they are lost forever. In doing so, Harrison has met with the elders who, in his words, “hold in their minds a significant portion of humanity’s intellectual wealth.” According to Harrison, a language is lost every 14 days. Can we afford to let the world’s poetry, literature and collective humanity shrink as its languages die? How can we keep languages alive?

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