FT 010-G We are what we Speak: The Life and Death of Languages
Professor Jane Hardy, Department of Modern Languages, 9:45 TTh
Approximately 6,900 distinct languages are spoken in the world today, but only half of those are expected to survive into the next century. In fact, some linguists estimate that one language dies somewhere in the world every two weeks. Is this merely part of an inevitable process of linguistic natural selection? Or is it a tragedy that should concern us? We will consider these questions by exploring the inextricable link between language and culture and by reading the personal narratives of people who speak a minority language and function in two different linguistic and cultural worlds. We will then study how languages die and how language death can be brought about by government policy. Students will read a variety of essays and excerpts from K. David Harrison’s 2007 book When Languages Die. We will also observe the phenomenon of language death and attempts to document dying languages in the 2008 documentary film The Linguists.