ELL: old quote
whalen at ALVIN.HASKINS.YALE.EDU
Fri Mar 1 14:13:40 UTC 2002
This is old news by now, but since I was one of the ones that was
amused, I thought it was worth setting the record straight.
In an AP story last year, it was claimed that only languages with
100,000 or more speakers were safe. Many on this list pointed out
that most languages *never* reach this level (and perhaps all of
Australian aboriginal languages together never did). But here is a
possible source for the (unattributed) quote, from 1998:
"During the coming century, according to some informed estimates,
3,000 of the existing 6,000 languages will perish and another 2,400
will come near to extinction. This leaves just 600 languages in the
'safe' category, assuming that category to be languages having
100,000 speakers or more." The source? Ken Hale in Grenoble and
Whaley, p. 192. So, I think he was talking about modern languages in
modern circumstances, but it is certainly easy to see how this comes
out as the need for 100K speakers for survival.
Well, this is a minor bit, but it solved a small riddle for me, so
I thought I would share it.
Doug Whalen DhW
Doug Whalen (whalen at haskins.yale.edu)
270 Crown St.
New Haven, CT 06511
203-865-6163, ext. 234
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