Message from Tove Skutnabb-Kangas

David Nathan djn at
Wed May 29 21:24:48 UTC 1996

>From: "Tove Skutnabb-Kangas" <TOVESK at>
>Organization:  Roskilde Universitetscenter
>To: endangered-languages-l at
>Date:          Tue, 28 May 1996 09:48:11 +0100
>Subject:       Are languages "lost" or "destroyed"?

>I would like to support Dave Nathan's plea for partly respecting the
>right of the communities themselves to decide the direction, they are
>the owners of the languages, and if they make decisions, with enough
>knowledge and awareness of the long-term consequences of the
>decisions, and if they jhave alternatives available, then it is up to
>them. The worries are often, of course, that they see few
>alternatives, and that the either-or monolingualism-oriented
>subtractive-learning-promoting ideologies (western European, mainly)
>are still so strong, instead of both-and-and, multilingualism-
>oriented, additive-learning-promoting ideologies - the ones we need
>for language maintenance.
>In my view terms like "language death" and "lost languages" are
>indicative of an approach where it seems it just happens, without any
>agents, or at least without any intentional, conscious agents.
>"Circumstances" beyond anybody's control, "modernization", etc, lots
>of evolutionary ideologies, blurring causal factors. i can see how
>people react when I speak about language killing, language murder,
>linguistic genocide (using the old 1948 UN definition, by the way...)
>- most react defensively, in an embarrassed way, often wanting to
>shoot the messenger rather than react to the message. - So, yes,
>Dave, let's call these spades spades, rather than hiding behind
>"neutral" language...
>Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, Roskilde University, Dept of Languages and
>Culture, 3.2.4., PB 260, DK-4000 Roskilde, Denmark, phone 45-46-75 77
>11/2740, fax 45-46-75 44 10, private: Troenninge Mose 3, DK-4420
>Regstrup, Denmark, phone 45-53-46 44 12
>email: TOVESK at

Dave Nathan
Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
GPO Box 553, Canberra 2601, Australia
djn at       djn at
Ph 06 246 1166 Fax 06 249 7714

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