Endangered languages, endangered thought

Anthea Fraser Gupta A.F.Gupta at leeds.ac.uk
Wed Mar 4 10:59:47 UTC 2009

I continue to worry that this deterministic idea has become a matter of

Languages are not things out there but are human constructs. Speakers
make them, speakers change them, speakers change, languages change.

Obviously it's appropriate to encourage communities who feel that
aspects of their cultural life is being destroyed by outside forces. But
on the other hand, the idea that language change, language shift and
language contact are not natural processes of change that have always
happened and always will happen is inimical to some of the most deeply
held tenets of linguistics. 

Languages shouldn't be put in reservations any more than people should.
Even if you speak the same 'language' as your all your
great-great-grandparents did (which I happen to) you do not know the
same bits of it as they do, because you are engaged in different
activities and because the world has changed. New diversities arise as
old ones go. New 'languages' develop from processes of separation and

When each person dies we lose "ways of seeing and describing reality; we
lose valuable knowledge and worlds of thought." Each individual is a
unique repository of knowledge, thought, and personality. 


*     *     *     *     *
Anthea Fraser Gupta (Dr)
School of English, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT
NB: Reply to a.f.gupta at leeds.ac.uk
*     *     *     *     *

> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-lgpolicy-list at ccat.sas.upenn.edu 
> [mailto:owner-lgpolicy-list at ccat.sas.upenn.edu] On Behalf Of 
> Harold Schiffman
> Sent: 03 March 2009 20:33
> To: lp
> Subject: Endangered languages, endangered thought
>  Forwarded From: Edling at lists.sis.utsa.edu
> The UNESCO Courier
> Endangered languages, endangered thought
> Some 200 languages have become extinct in the last three 
> generations, according to the new "UNESCO Atlas of the 
> World's Languages in Danger". When languages die out, not 
> only words disappear, but ways of seeing and describing 
> reality; we lose valuable knowledge and worlds of thought.
> http://portal.unesco.org/en/ev.php-URL_ID=44549&URL_DO=DO_TOPI
> C&URL_SECTION=201.html
> --
> =+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+
>  Harold F. Schiffman
> Professor Emeritus of
>  Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
> Dept. of South Asia Studies
> University of Pennsylvania
> Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305
> Phone:  (215) 898-7475
> Fax:  (215) 573-2138
> Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com
> http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/
> -------------------------------------------------

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