Language Vitality and Endangerment
Thread poster: Parrot

Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:43
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
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Apr 7, 2006

Did you know that 97% of the world's population speaks about 4% of the world's languages?

Do you know how experts determine when a language is endangered?

These are only two of the questions tackled by UNESCO in its report dated March 2003. It is entitled Language Vitality and Endangerment

Downloadable at:

http://portal.unesco.org/culture/en/ev.php-URL_ID=9105&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html


[Edited at 2006-04-07 22:14]


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Peter Linton  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:43
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Good news Apr 7, 2006

This is a very encouraging trend. Hopefully, before long, 99% of the world's population will speak 1% all the languages, or better still, 99.9% of the world's population will speak 1 language.

Then we'll get back to the happy situation before the Tower of Babel when people could actually understand each other, and avoid all the misunderstandings that bedevil the modern world. It may be tough for translators and interpreters, but good for everyone else.


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Pavle Perencevic  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 04:43
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You're only kidding, right? Apr 7, 2006

Peter Linton wrote:

This is a very encouraging trend. Hopefully, before long, 99% of the world's population will speak 1% all the languages, or better still, 99.9% of the world's population will speak 1 language.

Then we'll get back to the happy situation before the Tower of Babel when people could actually understand each other, and avoid all the misunderstandings that bedevil the modern world. It may be tough for translators and interpreters, but good for everyone else.



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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:43
English to Spanish
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Before long Apr 8, 2006

...at least half the world's population will speak either English or Spanish, but not both, so that can be good for some of us at least.

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frank1
English to Dutch
Language Vitality and Endangerment Apr 8, 2006

Peter Linton wrote:
This is a very encouraging trend. Hopefully, before long, 99% of the world's population will speak 1% all the languages, or better still, 99.9% of the world's population will speak 1 language.
Then we'll get back to the happy situation before the Tower of Babel when people could actually understand each other, and avoid all the misunderstandings that bedevil the modern world. It may be tough for translators and interpreters, but good for everyone else.


Isn't this a rather naive thought, that people will understand each other better and that 1 language "will avoid all the misunderstandings that bedevil the modern world"? As naive as the idea behind esperanto and as naive as ... yes, as the story of the Tower of Babel (a story which, btw, is preceeded in the bible by indications that there were already several different languages before Babel)?
Only one example: there would never have been a quarrel between the States in what's now the US and England if all those people spoke the same language... ooops, wait, they did...:-)

Frank


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 17:13
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
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Already... Apr 8, 2006

Half of humanity speaks either Chinese or Hindi, not so good news for some body.

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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:43
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TOPIC STARTER
'Two countries divided by a common language?' Apr 8, 2006

frank1 wrote:

Only one example: there would never have been a quarrel between the States in what's now the US and England if all those people spoke the same language... ooops, wait, they did...:-)

Frank


[George Bernard Shaw]


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:43
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TOPIC STARTER
The two sides to the coin Apr 8, 2006

Encouraging, yes, in the sense that we can always hope a language will serve to foster understanding, and naive, maybe, in the sense that language is hardly ever the real cause of vital conflicts. There is also what you may call a 'Babel phenomenon' -- as in, once upon a time, Latin united an empire, and look at it now (well, Latin AND the erstwhile empire). We seem condemned to short-term memory and mortal forgetfulness, for which Babel may serve as a metaphor. In fact, I'd almost agree to the virtue of a common tongue, if only an inherited bilingualism could be maintained over a longer term -- this is one of the extinction/endangerment factors. In this connection, note that the highest indices of language 'health' are awarded to situations of 'universal use' and 'multilingual parity'.

It's probably more discouraging from the point of view of the UNESCO's survey of human assets: we all know about the world heritage lists as they apply to cultural sites and natural treasures. This report had to do with the OTHER list that dealt with the intangible human assets, and language -- in case we take it too much for granted -- rates high in those priorities.

The fact that an asset is intangible does not make it less valuable. Perhaps the question this raises for us to mull over is, are we losing diversity?


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Radu Voica
Local time: 12:43
English to Romanian
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Useful link Apr 10, 2006

For more information on language endangerment and experts’ involvement see www.hrelp.org

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Lesley Clarke  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 06:43
Spanish to English
Long live diversity Apr 10, 2006

I just have to say I am surprised that anyone involved in languages would see any benefit is the disappearance of a language. To me languages are so closely tied in with cultures that when you speak a different language you even think differently, even when they are languages with such comparatively close cultural ties as Spanish and English. Sometimes a whole universe is opened up for you when someone just explains the meaning of a word in another language.

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