jueves, 13 de marzo de 2008

Languages of the World

Browsing through the vast world of never-ending information that is the Internet, some time ago I encountered this amazing blog/website: Benetton Talk. As they say, they are a "blog, space to ponder global themes and stuff we think we should care about".

In one section of their blog there is a part called Babelwords. Interested in learning and studying languages, I found this post so interesting, I wanted to share it. Enjoy.

Languages in the road to extinction

Languages die when they are no longer spoken. This happens for various reasons. First of all when those who speak the language die because of natural disasters or genocide. When Europeans eradicated the inhabitants of Tasmania, in the nineteenth century, many languages died with them. Just like, within two hundred years from the arrival of the Europeans in America, many, many languages died together with 90 percent of the indigenous population killed by diseases imported by the colonizers.

War and dispersion can rapidly destroy a linguistic community within a few generations. Political choices can also lead to the death of a language: it happens when the dominate group in power opts for assimilation (cultural, religious, linguistic) of the minority groups and so bans languages different from theirs – in schools, in public- in the name of national unity and of a single language. There are many examples: it happened to the Kurds in Turkey, to the Australian Aboriginals-when the government and the church, for almost the whole twentieth century, removed their children so that they could be raised “the right way”- to native Americans.

The market also plays a part, in the sense that if a minority language isn’t used for economic exchange it is not likely to survive.

And the market is now global, with communities that have become like the stronger ones. It’s the end of geographic isolation. Urbanization and globalization create a scene made of global languages for global markets and dominant cultural models, to which new generations aspire and adapt, often preferring to abandon their origins, from cultural to linguistic identity, because that model is perceived as better.

Languages that are really in danger are those spoken only by old people and no longer taught to children – due to external causes or internal circumstances of the community dictated by the modification of the socio-economic context in which the languages were born.

(This post can be found in his original format here: http://www.benettontalk.com/opencms/opencms/benettontalk/en/min_0001/con_0006.html)

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