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Global warming and language
Thread poster: Catherine Bolton

Catherine Bolton  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:03
Member (2002)
Italian to English
+ ...
Nov 28, 2004

Hi,
I just came across this article today and thought it was fascinating. I would never have expected global warming to affect language too!
Catherine

FROM "THE INDEPENDENT"

Climate change and unfamiliar species leave Inuit lost for words

By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor
28 November 2004


Global warming is increasingly rendering Inuit and other Arctic peoples at a loss for words. They simply do not have names in their languages for the temperate species flocking up from the south.

They have plenty of ways of describing their own wildlife - some have more than 1,000 words for reindeer - but none for, say, the robin, which is only now venturing north of the treeline.

The Inuit are reduced to describing it as "the bird with the red breast" in their language, Inuktiut, said Sheila Watt-Cloutier, chairwoman of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, the top elected representative of the people worldwide.

Nor, she said, are there words for salmon, hornets and barn owls, all of which are appearing in the Arctic for the first time. "We can't even describe what we are seeing," she added.

Last month, the Arctic Council presented the most comprehensive report ever carried out on the climate of the region, which is made up of parts of the United States, Canada, Russia, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. It concluded that the far north is warming up twice as fast as the rest of the planet.


To read the rest of the article (not related to language but worth reading):
http://news.independent.co.uk/world/environment/story.jsp?story=587568


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Bernadette Mora  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:03
English to Spanish
+ ...
Global warming affecting languages alarmingly Nov 28, 2004

Hi!

Thank you for such an article. It's really interesting, indeed.
What when I finished reading , the only question that came to my mind is: What does the future hold for my poor son?

Have a nice day.

Bernadette


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Piotr Sawiec  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:03
English to Polish
+ ...
No need to worry Nov 28, 2004

the only question that came to my mind is: What does the future hold for my poor son?

It is not the first time that Earth has to cope with climate changes, however this is the first time when men have realised that such things happen and use it to promote themselves as defenders of our "poor" planet. Since their career is at stake, this "defending" is quite vigorous. In Spain you will probably hardly feel the changes so your son's future looks bright.

And not only Inuits face new language problems. We all do, but in our case it is related to technological progress. That is how languages develop.

Regards

Piotr


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xxxga5
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
History is repeating itself Nov 28, 2004

History is repeating itself..
GOd, the master of this universe, gives us a chance to think and to reconsider, to do smthing to prevent the disaster...
it is such a human nature that self comes first, and the eternal instinct of self-destruction also are to be followed.
well, i think it now time for all to think.


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Balaban Cerit  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 08:03
English to Turkish
+ ...
Interesting article - could soon be a common problem. Nov 28, 2004

An interesting article indeed.

I think that in years to come, many of us will feel the need to find some new words for strange climate phenomena (need not to be extreme, maybe weird only), even for some bird species foreign to us who will have to change their migration paths.


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Jaakko
Local time: 08:03
English to Finnish
+ ...
Global warming Nov 30, 2004

Did I get this right? Because of globalization the sun is getting bigger and warmer and that causes global warming?

Jaakko


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Robert M Maier
Local time: 07:03
English to German
+ ...
nothing too unusual, i'm afraid Dec 3, 2004

I fully agree with Piotr: nothing really excitingly new there... does anyone believe Greek would have developed 15 etymologically separate words to distinguish beans if Greece were anywhere in the polar circle? (luckily, it is not )
So the Inuit language has to come up with new words for new species that were previously unencountered by its speakers... that happens. In a very similar way, many languages have had to come up with new words for new things that were previously unencountered by their speakers: LAN-hubs, storage media, software copyright, etc... having to come up with new words is nothing unusual for a language, so stop crying there for the status quo (anyone who might have been).
BUT it always indicates something else, something big is going on... climate changes - and we have been in a position to know about it for probably decades. A wakeup call for some who might have missed it, then...

(Please please please: if there are signs from God, surely they are something less predictable and explainable than languages adjusting to their speakers' changing environment?)


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Shane H
English to Spanish
Yeah. Dec 14, 2004

Yeah, you're all right- It happens in all languages. We all know language change and addition of new words is one of the major disciplines of linguistics- and it makes sense to call them 'bird with red chest'-- after all, most of our freshly created words originate with other, previously existing words. (Even if these words don't mean the same thing as they used to.) That's why most of us have trouble with Shakespeare.

I think this stands out because the Inuit and far-northern people don't really have to change their language drastically very often- their environment has minimal change, and they are, as mentioned, quite out of the status quo. They also don't have to make many additions for technology, since they don't use much anyway. The lack of season, warm-weather, and animal terms has been filled by multitudinous words for the few animals they do have and for 'snow', etc..

Not something you would really think about often, but I guess it makes sense..

Shane


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Uldis Liepkalns  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 08:03
Member (2003)
English to Latvian
+ ...
With the EU Dec 14, 2004

we here in Latvia also have to invent words for these 15 types of beans and 20 types of shrimps, they are needed to adequately translate EU directives.
Languages does develop

Uldis

Robert M Maier wrote:
I fully agree with Piotr: nothing really excitingly new there... does anyone believe Greek would have developed 15 etymologically separate words to distinguish beans if Greece were anywhere in the polar circle?


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drmab
English to French
Not quite Dec 15, 2004

Shane H wrote:

Yeah, you're all right- It happens in all languages. (...)

I think this stands out because the Inuit and far-northern people don't really have to change their language drastically very often- their environment has minimal change, and they are, as mentioned, quite out of the status quo. They also don't have to make many additions for technology, since they don't use much anyway. The lack of season, warm-weather, and animal terms has been filled by multitudinous words for the few animals they do have and for 'snow', etc..

Shane


Yes, it does happen to all languages. And the more the changes (e.g., technology, invasions, migrations, etc.) the faster the language will change.

As for the inuit, they use technology much more than people think. TVs, computers, sattelite dishes are all part of the live of the "urban" inuit (e.g., in Iqaluit, capital of Nunavut).

As for the "multitudinous words" for snow, there aren't that many (cf. Geoffrey Pullman's "The Great Esquimo Vocabulary Hoax")

Marc


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