Lecture 11 Language Endangerment

Lecture 11 Language Endangerment - Language distribution...

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Language distribution per speakers in the world revisited There are 6.34 billion people in the world, and approximately 6,912 languages. If each language had the same numbers of speakers, each language would have 917,000 speakers. However, as we already talked about in class, there is an uneven (and inverse ) relation between languages and numbers of speakers: * 389 (or nearly 6% ) of the world’s languages account for 94% of the world’s population. * 94% of languages are spoken by only 6% of the world’s people!
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Uneven distribution of linguistic diversity Source: Romaine 2007, p. 118
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Projections for the future This imbalance is projected to be even greater in 10 years: * International economics and political structures continue to spread and overwhelm small traditional societies in the world and their languages. Hinton, p. 221. * Global patterns of migration from small communities to urban centers has not diminished in recent years this usually entails loosing the necessary conditions for a language to be able to survive. * People in minority communities continue to see their ancestral languages as an obstacle in assimilating to mainstream societies. Harrison 2007, p. 14
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Language endangerment II: plans of action
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Should anything be done about language death/shift?
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Different opinions Linguist John McWhorter, editorial for The New York Sun (Dec 06): “There are a number of books treating the death of languages as a crisis equal to endangered species and global warming. However, I'm not sure it's the crisis we are taught that it is.” “If people truly come together, then they speak a common language. We can muse upon a "salad bowl" ideal in which people go home and use their nice "diverse" language with "their own." But in reality, almost always the survival of that "diverse" language means that the people are segregated in some way, which in turn is almost always due to an unequal power relationship — i.e., precisely what "diversity" fans otherwise consider such a scourge.” http://www.nysun.com/opinion/dying-languages/45847/
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“There is a part of me, as a linguist, that does see something sad in the death of so many languages. .. Each extinction means that a fascinating way of putting words together is no longer alive. In, for example, Inuktitut Eskimo … "I should try not to become an alcoholic" is one word: Iminngernaveersaartunngortussaavunga .” “Yet the extinctions cannot be stopped . .. Trying to teach people to speak their ancestral languages … will almost never get far beyond the starting gate … Languages are hard to learn for adults, especially ones as different from English as Native American ones.” http://www.nysun.com/opinion/dying-languages/45847/ * Is there anything problematic about this? * Different opinions
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Different opinions Peter Ladefoged (1925-2006): Professor in the Linguistics
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Lecture 11 Language Endangerment - Language distribution...

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