“ The question for us here is this: how many languages still spoken today are no longer being learning by children? This is a key question, as such languages are no longer viable, and can be defined as moribund, thus to become extinct during the [next] century…” (Krauss, 1992)
“ Of supreme significance in relation to linguistic diversity, and to local languages in particular, is the simple truth that language—in the general, multifaceted sense—embodies the intellectual wealth of the people who use it.” (Krauss, 1992)
“ Some forms of verbal art—verse, song, or chant—depend crucially on morphological and phonological, even syntactic, properties of the language in which it is formed. In such cases the art could not exist without the language, quite literally.” (Krauss, 1992)
Every day, English, Spanish, Russian and French, along with almost all other living languages are being altered by speakers to suit changing times…. Language evolution is taking place every day; why interfere with it?
David Berreby 2003. Fading Species and Dying Tongues: When the Two Part Ways. New York Times . May 27:F3.
is “not because they are suppressed, but because native speakers yearn for a better life. Speaking a language such as English, French or Spanish, and discarding traditional habits, can open up new worlds and is often a ticket to modernity.”
Kenan Malik 2000. Let them die. Prospect. November.
CIPL is fully aware that as an apolitical organisation it is unable to reverse … gradual decline of many languages, because this process is largely determined by social and political factors beyond our influence. …we have to make an effort at least to record languages, … do fieldwork, … write grammars, … dictionaries, and to preserve and make accessible their oral and written literature.
R. H. Robins & R. Uhlenbeck eds. 1991. Endangered languages . Oxford: Berg. xiii.
While the link between documentation and revitalization is appreciated (and desirable), the prime focus of the funding is documentation. Applicants are encouraged to structure the documentation in ways which assist the local communities to perceive and foster language and also increase the potential for ELDP funds to be combined with revitalization funds from other sources.
linguistic salvage work that consists solely of recording for posterity certain structural features of a threatened small language is inevitably a political act, just as any other act touching that language would be…. Fieldwork, however antiseptic it may try to be, inevitably has political overtones.
Nancy Dorian 1993. A Response to Ladefoged's Other View of Endangered Languages . Language 69(3): 575-579.
One of the great ironies of the information age is that while the late twentieth century will undoubtedly have recorded more data than any other period in history, it will also almost certainly have lost more information than any previous era.
Alexander Stille 2003. The future of the past . How the information age threatens to destroy our cultural heritage . New York:Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Indigenous peoples and biolinguistic diversity
The greatest linguistic diversity is found in some of the ecosystems richest in biodiversity inhabited by indigenous peoples, who represent around 4% of the world's population, but speak at least 60% of its 6,000 or more languages.
Nettle & Romaine 2001. The Last Survivors. Cultural Survival Quarterly 25(2):44.
[A language] can only exist where there is a community to speak and transmit it. A community of people can exist only where there is a viable environment for them to live in, and a means of making a living. Where communities cannot thrive, their languages are in danger. When languages lose their speakers, they die.
are a dwindling group on the edge of the world. Their suicide rate is horrendous. But they do still speak their language. Another expression of their identity is shooting rare Bowhead whales with .50 caliber hunting rifles. The point here is not to be facetious. The hunts are not just for the meat. They are defended on cultural grounds: shooting whales is deemed essential for the preservation of identity. This, surely, is not what the ecolinguists have in mind.
much … in common with reactionary, backward-looking visions [that] seek to preserve the unpreservable, and all are possessed of an impossibly nostalgic view of what constitutes a culture or a 'way of life'… it is modernity itself of which Nettle and Romaine disapprove. They want the peoples of the Third World, and minority groups in the West, to follow 'local ways of life' and pursue 'traditional knowledge' rather than receive a 'Western education'. This is tantamount to saying that such people should live a marginal life, excluded from the modern mainstream to which the rest of us belong. There is nothing noble or authentic about local ways of life; they are often simply degrading and backbreaking.