Wednesday, September 26, 2007

catching up...

as i was catching up on blog reading, i saw this post by jane simpson and thought the discussion was refreshing.

she followed that post up with another interesting outlook here.

jane's first post about this seems to be in response to claire's first post about it (something i am reading now for the first time). go get 'em!

here is her continuation of the discussion.

talking about language death

it seems like the spot in the NYTimes which focused on K. David Harrison's research has really grabbed people's attention.
i belong to the Indigenous Languages and Technology list and there has been a lot of discussion there regarding language death and the attention that this issue is getting in the media. the responses have been very positive over there and i share the excitement.
there have been some other responses on this topic, including that by the lousy linguist which began here. see also the language guy's response here.
i have mixed feelings about the issue at hand - language death and what we (humans, and especially linguists) should be doing about it.
while i personally am not a member of a community that speaks an endangered language, i do conduct fieldwork on an endangered language. my friends and language consultants in the community seem to be somewhat aware of the fact that spanish is quickly taking its hold on the younger generation of speakers, but it's still at the early stages so people do not see any immediate danger of their language "dying". i want people to keep on speaking their language, but does my opinion count? who am i to say what members of this community should or shouldn't do since i don't even belong to the community? what is my role in the discussion? will informing community members about the potential of language death do anything? what can i do, if anything, so that community members themselves fight to keep children speaking the language? these are the kinds of questions i ask myself on a regular basis.
and one thought just comes back into my head which was brought up by a friend and fellow linguist - this community has survived so much over time. the mexican government tried to kill them, they survived all kinds of illness and hardship and yet, they still speak their language and have maintained many aspects of their culture. so what is the biggest enemy to potential language loss - television.