Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Destructivism: the death of languages

The BBC News Magazine (always a good source of language stories) has a feature on dying languages this week. It's a good read that starts to raise questions about the links between language, culture and identity. For example, when a language dies, does part of human culture go with it? Or should we just treat the death of an obscure language as an inevitable and unlamented consequence of progress?

Given the rise of English (or Globish...or ELF) around the world, it's a process that will occur more and more frequently as time goes by.


Bill Chapman said...

I hope you'll allow me to contribute a suggestion. It seems to me that wider use of Esperanto as an auxiliary language might play some part in preserving the smaller and threatened languages. Unlike English, Esperanto has (practically) no native speakers and is not connected to ecionomic power.

Stephen Goodman said...

I could well be mistaken but isn't Esperanto dead and buried? I didn't think people still learnt it but maybe I'm wrong.

Dan said...

It's certainly never caught on and I think it's probably declined from its (limited) heyday in the 1970s...but I'm no expert.

While we seem happy to adopt new words, we're not so keen on adopting whole languages.