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By Nicholas Evans

The following century will see greater than half the world’s 6,000 languages develop into extinct, and every one of these will disappear with out being appropriately recorded. Written by means of one of many top figures in language documentation, this attention-grabbing publication explores what humanity stands to lose as a result.Explores the original philosophy, wisdom, and cultural assumptions of languages, and their impression on our collective highbrow heritageQuestions why such linguistic variety exists within the first position, and the way will we can most sensible reply to the problem of recording and documenting those fragile oral traditions whereas they're nonetheless with usWritten by means of one of many prime figures in language documentation, and attracts on a wealth of shiny examples from his personal box experienceBrings conceptual concerns vividly to existence via weaving in pix of person ‘last audio system’ and anecdotes approximately linguists and their discoveries

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Additional resources for Dying Words: Endangered Languages and What They Have to Tell Us (Language Library)

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Many other words in Seri contain information about the treatment, products, and harvesting of eelgrass. qxd 09/02/2009 11:34 Page 21 Warramurrungunji’s Children 21 Publisher's Note: Permission to reproduce this image online was not granted by the copyright holder. Readers are kindly requested to refer to the printed version of this chapter. 4 A group of Seri people in what outsiders call the “desert,” but which they call heheán (“place of the plants”) (photo: Arizona State Museum) iizax (“moon of the eelgrass harvest”), and the onset of harvest time is signaled when the black brant bird known as xnois cacáaso (“the foreteller of eelgrass seed”) dives into the sea to feed on the plant.

There is evidence from many parts of the world that small groups in favored areas did not simply rely on the drift of time to carry their languages apart from those of their neighbors. qxd 09/02/2009 11:34 Page 13 Warramurrungunji’s Children 13 distinct language variety. This then sanctions the investiture by tribal elders of variant forms as proper to their local languages, driving along a relentless diversification. Peter Sutton, working on clan identities in the Cape York Peninsula of Australia, reports cases where the fission of clans is rapidly followed by the emergence of new language varieties.

In Arnhem Land there are no significant geographical barriers at all. And marriage patterns, in Arnhem Land or the Vaupés region of Amazonia, mean that several languages are spoken on a daily basis inside the one household – hardly a case of mutual isolation. But maybe we are approaching the problem from the wrong end. qxd 10 09/02/2009 11:34 Page 10 The Library of Babel the Cameroon, or the Caucasus have so many languages, but rather why Europe or parts of Asia have so few? Indeed, there are good reasons to believe that our little transect through Arnhem Land is a good representation of how humans have been for most of our past – not just for the 99 percent or so of our history up to 10,000 years ago when we were all hunter-gatherers, but also for much of the time that followed.

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