What happens to civilization as languages evolve and old ones die off? According to one global watch group: “‘Language death’ has accelerated to a current rate of 2 languages lost per month. As last speakers die, carrying their languages to their graves, repositories of information and understanding that took thousands of years to gather… gone. From a probable peak of 20,000 we are already down to only 6 or 7 thousand extant languages. Experts estimate that of these, 3,000 more will become extinct in the next 30 years, further gutting the storehouse of human knowledge.” (Source: http://www.globalwatchtower.com/2008/02/20/intl-mother-language/) Not only do we have to worry about preserving animal species, but also languages and dialects within languages. Let's not forget that, lest our great, great, great grand kids grow up speaking only one global language: a dumbed down, dried out, derivative English lacking all the flourishes of Shakespeare or rhythmic beauty of Sanskrit-based languages.
Oct 14, 2008 6:03 PM
Answers · 2
Human knowledge is based around language. When I think to myself, my thoughts come together and are built in English. It's perhaps the most amazing phenomena that something man created artificially is so powerful that it seeps into our brains and becomes a part of every conscious thought we have. However, the great thing about languages is, they too can communicate. What an English speaker knows can be taught to a Spanish speaker. What a speaker of Chinese knows can be taught to a speaker of Korean. In ancient times, the dieing out of civilizations such as the Mayans may have resulted in the loss of great amounts of their knowledge or just the knowledge of who and what the Mayans were. However, in today's world, this is no longer the case. The loss of a language doesn't mean the dieing out of a civilization, it means the standardization of language to more effectively serve it's fundamental goal: To communicate. You can't communicate with language if you are the only one speaking it. As people switch to languages that are more effective worldwide, the less competitive ones will disappear. That's natural. It does not necessarily mean the loss of all their knowledge, but in reality making them more efficient in their ability to share that knowledge.
October 14, 2008
I'm not sure where I stand on this issue. Like Mytch, I would agree that a language's main purpose is to allow people to communicate. Would it be bad if everyone in the world was able communicate and share ideas with one another? It would be awesome! And I don't think this would result in any loss of knowledge...we live in the information age! Almost everything we know is recorded. Besides, people still learn Latin, despite the fact it isn't commonly spoken anywhere. Languages live, die out, change and evolve, like everything else.
October 14, 2008
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