[NDNAIM] Activists and Scholars Meet at UCSB to Learn How to Save Endangered Languages

voorhis at westman.wave.ca voorhis at westman.wave.ca
Sun Jul 6 14:21:55 UTC 2008

I certainly agree that we should give all help possible to anyone
struggling to preserve or revive an endangered language.  But the
efforts I have usually encountered involve second-language classes
inserted into the school curriculum.  And I believe in helping with
these classes if that's what is wanted.  But if asked about the
prospects for the success of such projects, then I have to honestly
admit that the chances of producing fluent speakers by this means are
slim, and the chances that any fluent graduates would produce families
with children that use the endangered language are slimmer still.

The Hebrew revival differs from the situation faced by most endangered
languages in two ways.  First, most of the men and many of the women who
immigrated to Israel had already studied Hebrew as a second language for
religious purposes.  Second, they weren't all speakers of any one other
language; they arrived (and still arrive) using virtually every language
from Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, though maybe Yiddish was
used more than any other language in early modern Israel.


rwd0002 at unt.edu wrote:
> To comment on Paul's question.  Outside of Israeli Hebrew, the honest
>  answer is no. However, there have been individual native speakers of
>  English, who by brute force have taught themselves to be fluent in 
> languages technically extinct, such as Cornish, Manx, or Karuk. They
> are not numerous enough to form genuine speech communities but they
> form some sort of community in the sense that speakers of Esperanto 
> world-wide form some sort of community.
> Regardless of how pessimistic or optimistic we personally wanna be
> about such efforts, we all agree, I suppose, that as
> documentary/descriptive linguists (I use both terms together because
> I believe you cannot separate both, but that is another controversial
> issue), we should support individuals and communities involved in
> such efforts, unless requested otherwise.

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