Don’t let your language become roadkill

Day 4

Hi there! Lets get straight to it.

Bibliographic information:

Vanishing Voices : The extinction of the world’s languages
Nettle, Daniel

Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, c2000.

Call Number 417.7 NETTLE


Summary (Library website):

Few people know that nearly 100 native languages once spoken in what is now California are near extinction, or that most of Australia’s 250 aboriginal languages have vanished. In fact, at least half of the world’s languages may die out in the next century. What has happened to these voices? Should we be alarmed about the disappearance of linguistic diversity?


This book is pretty neat. I rarely meet a book that doesn’t have something to offer but this one’s got it in spades.  In the 1st few pages you get the stories of 3 different individuals who—upon passing—took their tribal language to their graves.  Ubykh.  A dead language once spoken in Turkey.  Catawba Sioux. A dead Native American language.  Wappo.  Also a dead Native American Language.

The concept of benign neglect is discussed.  Essentially this concept is the focus of the argument that these languages just sort of died out voluntarily.  The crux of the argument of the naysayers is this: Languages die. Who cares? The authors do an excellent job of making you care, pointing out that the loss of languages also results in loss of “community structures which would have still had benefits” to the individuals.

Class dismissed! Oh! For extra credit, who wants to take a stab at the top 5 languages of the world (in terms of  number of speakers)?*

photo from U. of South Florida website

*Maybe the stats have a changed a little. This book was published in 2000.


2 thoughts on “Don’t let your language become roadkill

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s