Publication Date

1995

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Charlie Curry-Smithson

Abstract

Introduction (excerpt):

Linguists estimate that some 90% of the world's 6,000 spoken languages will become extinct in the next fifty years, if present trends continue. Some 150 of North America's 187 spoken Indian languages are already close to death. Only 7 of Australia's 250 indigenous languages have more than 1,000 speakers today. It is not only "tribal" languages that are threatened: Irish and Occitan, languages once spoken by many millions, languages possessing the earliest European literatures after Greek and Latin, seem likely to die soon.

Society faces an alarming number of crises of worldwide proportions as the twentieth century draws to a close. More and more people everyday are denied the opportunity to develop their human capacities, due to hunger and poverty. The planet's life-support systems have been altered in far-reaching ways whose consequences for human society are unforeseeable. War and violence are never far away. The question of language, in such a context, appears very peripheral. What does language matter, when so many people's very lives and health are at risk? Can it matter, whether he asks for bread in Saami or English?

This paper argues that the question of language is bound up with the other challenges that confront society today.

Disciplines

European Languages and Societies

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