Exista limbi care mor in fiecare saptamana - cui ii pasa?
Noua ne pasa - otherlanguages.org construieste treptat o sursa
de referinte pentru peste cinci mii de minoritati lingvistice
si limbi fara de tara din lume.
Mii de comunitati lingvistice unice trec in nefiinta. Din cele
cinci mii pana la sase mii de limbi din lume, nici nu ne dam
seama ce pierdem, ce literaturi, ce filozofii, ce moduri de
gandire dispar chiar acum.
S-ar putea sa regretam curand moartea unor mii de comunitati
lingvistice chiar mai mult decat regretam disparitia inutila a
multor animale si plante.
Planeta este dominata de un grup de culturi cu o limba principala
ca hindi, chineza din Beijing, araba, indoneziana, urdu, spaniola,
portugheza, engleza, swahili, rusa, chineza din Guangdong, japoneza,
bengali - toate limbi frumoase si fascinante.
Dar la fel sunt si celelalte cinci mii.
Sunt aceste comunitati lingvistice grupuri de oameni?
Comunitatile lingvistice sunt comunitati de oameni obisnuiti a
caror limba materna nu este limba principala a tarii in care
traiesc. Vorbitori de suedeza in Finlanda, vorbitori de franceza
in Canada, vorbitori de limba maghiara in Slovacia - si alte sute -
constituie comunitatile lingvistice.
Si limbi cu totul fara de tara constituie limbile materne ale
unora dintre cele mai surprinzatoare si putin cunoscute culturi.
Ca laponii dinauntrul cercului arctic, sardinienii din Sardinia,
ainii (Ainus) din Japonia, cherokee din Statele Unite ale Americii,
scotienii galezi din Marea Britanie, frizienii (Friesians) din Olanda,
zulu din Africa de Sud. Exista numai cateva sute de state si teritorii
a caror suveranitate este recunoscuta, dar mai mult de cinci mii de
limbi sunt limbile materne ale unor oameni fara de tara lingvistica.
Cum pot sa ajut?
Nu e nevoie sa inveti o limba pe cale de disparitie - asa cum nu
trebuie sa mergi sa traiesti in padurea tropicala ca sa incetinesti
Un bun inceput este sa spui prietenilor despre site-ul acesta.
Interesul public crescut ii ajuta pe lingvisti sa adune
fonduri si sa organizeze oameni ca sa invete limbile acestea
atat cat mai este timp.
Corect. Exista oameni care iubesc limbile si sunt
bucurosi sa le invete pentru noi toti, dar au nevoie de ajutor,
ca si zoologii, botanistii si istoricii.
to contact the Romanian translator, e-mail via firstname.lastname@example.org
Fewer languages still sounds good to me
Depends what you think languages are for. They're not just a tool for business. We never said you should learn three or four thousand rare languages - or even one. And which ones we make children learn in school, or whether we should force children to learn languages at all, is another question.
A century ago - before we understood ecology, and when we cared less about wilderness, most educated people would have laughed at the idea of worrying about plants or animals going extinct. Now we understand how important species diversity is for our own futures, we are more humble, and more worried.
In the same way, linguistic triumphalism by English-speakers who hated studying foreign grammar at school is dangerously ignorant as well as arrogant. Few of us know what we are losing, week by week. How many people realise these languages have scientific value?
You can think of these languages across the planet as beautiful cathedrals or precious archeological sites we are watching being destroyed. That should be motive enough.
But these five thousand languages also hold clues to the structure of the human mind. Subtle differences and similarities between languages are helping archeologists and anthropologists to understand what happened in the hundreds of centuries of human history before written history. And that is one of our best chances of understanding how human brains developed over the thousands of centuries leading up to that.
Study of the mind and study of language go hand in hand these days. The world's most marginal languages are actually precious jigsaw pieces from an overall picture of who we are and how our species thinks and evolves. Every tiny language adds another brightly-coloured clue to this academic detective story.
Yet researchers have hardly started sifting through this tantalising evidence, and language extinction is washing it away right in front of us.
And worst of all, most people have no idea that there is this fantastic profusion of cultures across our world, let alone that they are in danger of extinction. Even just more people learning that there are still five thousand living languages in the world today (most of us would answer five hundred or fifty) is already a huge help.
We English-speakers hardly notice English - it's like air for us. But every other language is also an atmosphere for an entire cultural world, and each of these worlds has people whose home it is. Each language encapsulates a unique way of talking and thinking about life. Just try some time in a foreign prison, being forced to cope in another language, and you'll realise how much your own language is your identity. That's true for everyone.
Minority languages are a human-rights issue?
One of the most basic.
Dozens of millions of people worldwide suffer persecution from national governments for speaking their mother tongue - in their own motherland.
Many 'ethnic' feuds puzzling to outsiders had as their basis an attempt to destroy a linguistic community. Would the Northern Ireland dispute be quite so bitter if we English had not so nearly stamped out the Irish Gaelic language, for example? Almost nowhere in the world does a language community as small as the few thousand Rheto-Romanic speakers - the fourth official language of Switzerland - get the protection of a national government. Next time you see some Swiss Francs, check both sides of the banknote.
But outside exceptional countries like Switzerland or the Netherlands, speakers of non-official languages have a much less protected experience.
Speakers of minority languages are often seen as a threat by both the governments and the other residents of the countries where they were born, grew up, and try to live ordinary lives.
They experience discrimination in the job and education markets of their homelands, often having no choice but to pursue education in the major language of the host state - a deliberate government policy usually aimed at gradually absorbing them into the majority culture of that country.
Most governments are privately gleeful each time another small separate culture within their borders is snuffed out by a dwindling population or a deliberately centralising education system.
The United Nations is no help. It is an association of a couple of hundred sovereign states based on exclusive control of territory, almost all of them anxious to smother any distinct group or tradition that in any way might blur or smudge the hard-won borders around those pieces of territory.
The usual approach by sovereign states is to deny their linguistic minorities even exist.
Mark Griffith, site administrator / email@example.com
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*2 image from
'Bäume', with thanks to
Bruno P. Kramer,
and Franckh-Kosmos Verlag