"Lost Languages Day" discussion

Nicholas Ostler nostler at chibcha.demon.co.uk
Mon Jun 10 15:25:55 UTC 1996

Dear All

For what it's worth, I object strongly to such "with attitude" titles as
>	Murdered Languages Day
> Slaughtered Languages Day 
> Sacrificed Languages Day 
> Dispossessed Languages Day 

Some languages have indeed died out through massacre of their speakers
(e.g. in California and Tasmania, but no doubt in many other places), or
through hostile attitudes of outsiders to their speakers' cultures or
communities.  But to focus only on such cases misses two points of a "Lost
Languages' Day" :

1. Many extinct languages had died out not through the hostility of others,
but through being abandoned by their own community.

2. A name focusing on resentment towards unnamed guilty parties (who?) will
alienate those who are not immediately sympathetic, and just as importantly
detract from the true feelings of mourning that come from contemplating

That is also why I much prefer something to do with "loss" even over more
apparently positive-seeming titles, 

>	Language Survival Day 

What we're looking for is not concrete action to save someone else's
language (how could we?) but a chance to enter into the sense that there is
a problem.  If enough people come to have that FEELING about lost languages
then maybe, surviving languages will receive greater sympathy from
outsiders, and enthusiastic support from their speakers.

As Paul Simon put in once:

>Armistice Day, Armistice Day
>That's all I really wanted to say.

Respects to all

Nicholas Ostler

                Batheaston Villa, 172 Bailbrook Lane
                Bath       BA1 7AA       England
                +44-1225-85-2865 fax +44-1225-85-9258
                nostler at chibcha.demon.co.uk

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