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A diffreent slant on clutural literacy? Login/Join
 
<Asa Lovejoy>
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmLYo8zQOVs

This message has been edited. Last edited by: <Asa Lovejoy>,
 
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Picture of Kalleh
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Sorry, Asa. I am at a conference and my computer connection won't let me watch the video. Can you summarize it?
 
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<Asa Lovejoy>
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He states that many (about 6000) languages are in such decline that they will become extinct in this century. Their loss decreases everyone's ability to perceive the world through that culture. There are ramifications for zoology, biology, medicine, etc. Not maintaining a culture's language decreases our own cultural literacy.
 
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Picture of Richard English
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I wouldn't have thought that there were that many languages extant, let alone threatened.


Richard English
 
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Picture of BobHale
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quote:
Originally posted by Richard English:
I wouldn't have thought that there were that many languages extant, let alone threatened.


As is often the case, this isn't the simple question that it appears to be. The following information has been abstracted from the article in The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Language (Crystal, 1987).

Estimates of the number of world languages vary from 3000 to 10000.

The distinction between a language and a dialect is by no means clear.

The following factors affect the count.

There are still undiscovered languages spoken in the Amazon basin and Central Africa - though this accounts for only a small variation in the count.

There are many countries where, although the languages and the people are known, there is little reliable linguistic data on what the actual languages are. The assumption that the people speak a variant of the main regional language has often been found to be false on further investigation.

A language that has any speakers at all is alive and a one that no longer has any speakers is dead. Determining if there is anyone alive who speaks a language isn't easy.

Some things which are mutually intelligible and should be classed as dialects of the same language are for political reasons classed separately (eg Danish and Norwegian).

Some things which are mutually unintelligible are for political reasons classed as a single language. The three "dialects" of Lapp, for example.

Sometimes even just on linguistic criteria there are conflicts. Written Chinese is one language. Spoken Chinese has many hundreds of dialects grouped into eight main types which are mutually unintelligible.

Some languages have more than one name, no specific name, or single names that are applied separately to different languages. (In Mexico the name mexicano is sometimes applied to Spanish and sometimes applied to Nahuatl.)

Finally, just for Indonesian languages, Voegelins Classification and Index of World Languages (1977) lists 20,000 languages or dialects. These are grouped into 4,500 living languages. Crystal suggests that while this figure may, for various reasons, now be smaller, it shouldn't be estimated at less than 4,000.


"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." Samuel Johnson.
 
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Picture of Richard English
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Some things which are mutually unintelligible are for political reasons classed as a single language.

Indeed. English and Scouse being just one example.


Richard English
 
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<Asa Lovejoy>
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A website of the linguist in the video: http://www.livingtongues.org/
 
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