Time and Space

The Birth and Death of Languages

“Every language is a temple in which the soul of those who speak it is enshrined.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes

An estimated 7,000 languages are being spoken around the world. But that number is expected to shrink rapidly in the coming decades. In 1992 a prominent US linguist stunned the academic world by predicting that by the year 2100, 90% of the world’s languages would have ceased to exist. What is lost when a language dies?

Language is crucial to people’s identity, their sense of who they are, and their position in the world. For the people of a particular place, the language is intimately associated with the landscape and that’s a very important part of cultural belief. When a language is lost so is the knowledge about the land where the people lived: the plants, animals and insects, along with their histories, stories and mythologies. Read a selection of the following articles to find out where languages come from, and how they can die: 

  • 18 Obsolete Words
  • 90 Percent of World’s Languages Facing Extinction
  • A Village Invents a Language All Of It’s Own
  • Can Minority Languages Be Saved?
  • Design By Committee
  • Esperanto
  • Fighting To Save The Welsh Language
  • How the Lowly Text Message May Save Languages That Could Otherwise Fade
  • Identity Dies When Tongues Are Silenced
  • Planet Word, Identity Under Threat
  • Project Seeks To Deserve Dying Languages
  • Racing to Record Indigenous Languages
  • The Dawn of Language
  • The Man Who Invented Dothraki
  • The New Science of the Birth and Death of Words
  • Tribes Aren’t Quiet About Language Loss

Learner Portfolio

  1. Write one-two pages in your journal explaining your findings from this section: in what ways are languages ‘born’ and how can they ‘die’? What is lost when people stop speaking a language?

Categories:Time and Space

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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