Thanks "allingus" for this article

The speed with which languages are disappearing is linked also to the
speed with which species and whole ecosystems are disappearing - due
to the same reasons of cultural imperialism of an unsustainable
expansionist corporate global economy. For those nterested in
exploring this problem in greater depth, or in the efforts to reverse
linguistic disappearance as a means of helping to preserve
biodiversity check out "Terralingua" at

Thanks again.



> Ancient tongues fade away
> Languages: As roads, technology and the global economy reach once-
isolated areas, old ways of communicating are dying off.
> By Dennis O'Brien
> Sun Staff
> Originally published July 14, 2003
> Marie Smith knows that her language - the Alaskan tongue of Eyak -
will die with her. And she mourns its passing.
> "If you were expecting a little baby, and it went back to its home
so that it wasn't born alive, how would you feel?" says Smith, 85,
who moved to Anchorage from her tribal home on Prince William Sound
in 1973.
> A fisherman's daughter, Smith grew up with Eyak, a branch of the
Athabaskan-Tlingit family of languages spoken for 3,000 years in
Cordova, along the Copper River. But she stopped speaking Eyak when
she attended government schools. Neither her children nor
grandchildren know the language.
> "I should have made them learn it, but they just weren't
interested," she said.
> Eyak is among thousands of languages expected to disappear in the
next 100 years, a mortality rate that has linguists rushing to
document and save the world's endangered tongues. "We're losing a
part of our cultural history," said Michael Krauss, a University of
Alaska linguistics professor and founder of the Alaska Native
Language Center, established in the 1970s to save the state's 20
native tongues.
> Krauss and other linguists blame the losses on economic and social
trends, politics, improved transportation and the global reach of
telecommunications. Whatever the reason, they predict that up to half
of the world's 6,800 tongues could die over the next century - and
hundreds more will disappear in the century after that.
> "I'd be the happiest guy in the world if I were wrong," Krauss
said. But he noted that only 500 to 600 languages are spoken by at
least two generations, making them relatively safe from extinction.
> According to experts, half the people on the planet use just 15
languages to communicate, while 10 percent of the population speak in
one of about 6,800 distinct tongues. Half the world's languages are
spoken by fewer than 2,500 people, mostly in remote areas that are
becoming less remote every day.
> Global economics are prompting the young to leave isolated villages
in India, Mexico and South America. They're headed for cities in
search of better lives, leaving native tongues behind. Meanwhile,
satellite TV and the Internet are reaching into isolated areas of
Papua New Guinea, a South Pacific island nation with 832 languages,
more than any other country.
> "If you go to Papua New Guinea and go out in the most remote areas
you can find and you'll see grass huts, and alongside one of them
you'll see a satellite dish, and of course the TV that's coming in is
coming in English," said Anthony Aristar, a linguistics professor at
Wayne State University in Detroit who studies dying languages. He is
creating a $2 million database listing the world's tongues.
> Words come, languages go
> The death of a language is nothing new. The spoken word, developed
tens of thousands of years ago, is in constant motion. Inventions
inspire word creation, wars transform nations, poverty prompts waves
of immigration, and other historic events - such as the opening of
the American West to European settlers - create conditions where one
tongue comes to dominate others.
> For example, linguists note that the Norman Conquest transformed
early English, which has its roots in German. Latin, the language of
the Roman Empire, replaced Etruscan and Punic before it diversified
and influenced 30 other languages, including English.
> Sometimes, government policies kill a language. Many Native
American languages are near extinction - the Lipon Apache have two or
three speakers left - in part because government-run boarding schools
punished students for speaking native languages until the 1960s.
> Krauss says that about half of the 200 languages native to North
America will probably die out over the next century because so few
children are picking up them up.
> Alan Caldwell, director of the Culture Center at the College of the
Menominee Nation in Wisconsin, remembers his father telling of having
his hand slapped with a ruler and his mouth washed out with soap for
speaking Menominee at the reservation school, which has closed. The
experience left the elder Caldwell, who died in 1972, reluctant to
speak the native tongue, or pass it on.
> "We'd be at the dinner table and we would ask him, 'How do you
count to 10? How do you say salt and pepper?' And depending on his
mood, most often his response was, 'You don't have a need to know
that, it won't do you any good,'" Caldwell said.
> As a result, only 40 of the tribe's 8,800 members speak the
original language. That's one reason why Monica McCauley, a
University of Wisconsin researcher, drives three hours to the
reservation each week.
> Macaulay recently won a National Science Foundation grant to
compile the first complete Menominee dictionary. The project includes
taping the tribe's elders and transcribing conversations to capture
the nuances of the language.
> Tribal elders agree that without such help, the language may
disappear. And Caldwell, 55, is in a "beginners" class taught by the
> In Guatemala, parents encourage their children to forsake native
Mayan dialects and learn Spanish to get ahead in life. "They go to
school and they see that success depends on learning Spanish," said
Nora England, a linguistics professor at the University of Texas.
> Some languages saved
> Efforts to save languages are as varied as the languages. Nora
England spends her summers in Guatemala training local linguists to
preserve four endangered Mayan languages. Guatemala's villages have
been hotbeds of language diversity for centuries because of poor
roads and mountainous terrain. The result is 21 distinct Mayan
tongues in Guatemala alone and nine in Mexico.
> "Some of them are as different from each other as English is from
Russian," England said.
> Success stories exist. Hebrew, once nearly dead as an everyday
spoken language, was redeemed from ancient texts after 2,000 years
and is spoken by about 5 million people, mostly in Israel. Hebrew's
resurgence was aided by its role in the effort to establish a
national identity for Israel after World War I.
> The fight to save other dying languages is more of an uphill
battle. Critics argue that it's a waste of time and money if cultural
trends dictate their eventual demise.
> Neil Seeman, an associate editor at the National Review who
operates a Canadian think tank, said that while dying languages
should be recorded for historical study, governments are responding
to political pressure with a kind of "cultural protectionism" by
forcing languages on people who no longer have use for them. "I have
nostalgia for the electronic typewriter, but I don't see a need for
subsidies to protect it, or continue its use," Seeman said.
> But linguists say that a society's culture and history die out when
its language expires. "Part of the world is lost when you can't name
it," said Stephen Batalden, a linguist at Arizona State University.
> In Alaska, Smith says she hopes for a resurgence in Eyak, now that
Krauss has recorded her language on tapes and in writing. "I have
this feeling in my heart that the Eyak language is going to come
back, and usually I'm not wrong about these feelings," she said. And
if it happens she will respond with a one-word prayer: awa'ahdah.
> That's Eyak for "thank you."