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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Not very magical, still... » » Preserving languages a waste of time? Preserving English? (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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kcg5
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You guys are just to smart for me
Nobody expects the spanish inquisition!!!!!



"History will be kind to me, as I intend to write it"- Sir Winston Churchill
critter
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Quote:
if everyone stopped speaking it, people could still study the language and be able to speak it to a decent level.


If everyone stopped speaking it then people could still speak it? What?
"The fool is one who doesn't know what you have just found out."
~Will Rogers
Jonathan Townsend
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Quote:
On 2010-04-28 11:59, kcg5 wrote:
You guys are just to smart for me


I guess we may have to work harder to preserve modern English as the word "too" seems to be losing ground.
...to all the coins I've dropped here
Davit Sicseek
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Quote:
On 2010-04-28 16:29, critter wrote:
Quote:
if everyone stopped speaking it, people could still study the language and be able to speak it to a decent level.


If everyone stopped speaking it then people could still speak it? What?


It's really quite simple. You got it right, other than you missed out the bit about study. Perhaps I need to be clearer?

If people stopped speaking french it would become a 'dead' language. It is still a language, it's just not being spoken by a 'people'. The french language has been well documented and thus even if there were no remaining people who spoke the language, a person with sufficient determination could learn to speak the language from the books and other materials that exist documenting and writted in the french language.

Assume that all the French speakers are in France. France and everyone it contains is destroyed by a series of nuclear bombs. The amount of academic material and source material books/movies/recordings is sufficent for people to learn to speak French.
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S2000magician
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Aspects of language include cultural identity. When a language is lost, much of the culture is lost as well.
Magnus Eisengrim
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But Davit, you've switched topics. You began looking for a reason to preserve languages. Presumably you seek either pragmatic or ethical reasons to preserve a language or languages.

In my country there are over 60 Aboriginal languages (the exact number is contested). Of these, only Cree, Inuktitut and Ojibway are considered to be viable without intervention. So should someone intervene? Should public funds be used to preserve these languages?

These are not simple questions. And a person's answers to them says a lot about how that person feels about culture, about the value of culture and about the value of other people.

John
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.--Yeats
Josh Chaikin
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Quote:
On 2010-04-27 21:03, Jonathan Townsend wrote:

Josh, would you elaborate upon your answer there. How specifically do you link identity to language?


The example given by the original poster, by way of the article, seems to show this more best. Many Native American tribes have little identity left, due to what European Americans did through the years. Tribes, that may have been warring, would, sometimes, be grouped together on reservations and children would be forced into American schools, to try to strip them of their identity.

I see many Native Americans in my town, as it's the home of Haskell Indian Nations University. What's considered "traditional" dress for various tribes, ceremonial or otherwise, is not typically worn (though culturally acceptable - either by theirs, or American culture at large). Their language is the only thing they truly have left; very rarely, if at all, are traditional tribal names given. The stories that Native Americans of my generation, or perhaps even one or two generations back, are not the stories told by their grand parents.

As America becomes more and more of a melting pot, cultural boundaries tend to blend as lineage is merged by marriage.
Magnus Eisengrim
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Oh, and BTW there are only about 1200 Tlingit speakers in the USA and about 200 in Canada. The language is unlikely to survive even with intervention.

What do you think, Davit? Is it a bad thing if Tlingit goes the way of the passenger pigeon?
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.--Yeats
Josh Chaikin
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This discussion reminds me of the opening monologue from "The Designated Mourner" by the ever esoteric Wallace Shawn.

Quote:
I am the designated mourner. I have to tell you that a very special little world has died and I am the designated mourner. Yes, you see it's a very important custom in many tribes and groups. Someone is assigned to grieve, to wail, to light the public ritual fire, someone is assigned, when there is no one else.


Which leads to a portion of a monologue near the end

Quote:
And my mind went back to a book that I read when I was very young, about a young boy, in a distant tribe, in a distant land. And in the process of explaining all the customs of the tribe, the book explained that within each tribe there were separate groups, or clans, and that whenever the last surviving member of a clan had died there would be naturally no one around to mourn for them. So someone who had in some way known that last surviving member - and if there was no one left who had known them well, then someone who had known them a little, would be appointed to mourn publicly, in the sacred spot, the passing of that whole extinguished clan.


Who will be the designated mourner for these languages?
critter
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Quote:
On 2010-04-28 17:37, Davit Sicseek wrote:
Quote:
On 2010-04-28 16:29, critter wrote:
Quote:
if everyone stopped speaking it, people could still study the language and be able to speak it to a decent level.


If everyone stopped speaking it then people could still speak it? What?


It's really quite simple. You got it right, other than you missed out the bit about study. Perhaps I need to be clearer?

If people stopped speaking french it would become a 'dead' language. It is still a language, it's just not being spoken by a 'people'. The french language has been well documented and thus even if there were no remaining people who spoke the language, a person with sufficient determination could learn to speak the language from the books and other materials that exist documenting and writted in the french language.

Assume that all the French speakers are in France. France and everyone it contains is destroyed by a series of nuclear bombs. The amount of academic material and source material books/movies/recordings is sufficent for people to learn to speak French.


Linguists are people too. But that's what I'm saying, we can't seperate the academic aspects from the cultural ones. The academians translate a text and the masses use the work of those academians for entertainment, enlightenment, whatever.
And where is the line between entertainment and academia anyway?
If I learn Mandarin so that I can watch kung-fu movies without having to read the subtitles then is that strictly academic?
What if you learn French so you can read Christian Chelman's non-English books? That serves both an entertainment and an academic role.
The point I am trying to make is one of personal taste so it can't be conclusively proven. If an extreme metal song is written in medieval Norwegian, then that's the way I want it sung.
Et Tu, Enya.
"The fool is one who doesn't know what you have just found out."
~Will Rogers
Davit Sicseek
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What do you think, Davit? Is it a bad thing if Tlingit goes the way of the passenger pigeon?

I know very little about Tlingit. My uninformed 'reckon' would be that it would be too bad a thing if Tlingit became a dead language. Sure it would cause some unhapiness to the existing speakers to know their language would soon cease to exist and this would probably be echoed by some of their decendents who consider the language to be part of their culture (that they never learned).

Quote:
These are not simple questions. And a person's answers to them says a lot about how that person feels about culture, about the value of culture and about the value of other people.


I have a great love of some aspects of many cultures, but this appreciation is not blind. I see some aspects of some cultures as deeply unsavoury and I look forward to the day that they die out, only to be remembered in the footnotes of history as some shameful practices that humans once tried. I feel much the same way about other people. Some I value greatly, some not so much.

Quote:
And where is the line between entertainment and academia anyway?

I'm not trying to draw a line between them. I was just using movies/books as an example of the mass of French material we have already ammassed. Together with academic documentation of the language - it is sufficient for someone to teach themselves the language to a proficient level.
Send me the truth: davitsicseek@gmail.com
critter
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Quote:
And where is the line between entertainment and academia anyway?

I'm not trying to draw a line between them. I was just using movies/books as an example of the mass of French material we have already ammassed. Together with academic documentation of the language - it is sufficient for someone to teach themselves the language to a proficient level.
[/quote]

This was kind of a rhetorical question Smile
It was posed more in response to the OP as a statement that if we are discussing whether the preservation of languages has a non-academic purpose then we should maybe be clear on our definition of non-academic.

To sum up: If entertainment is non-academic then I have an interest in "dead" languages for the purposes of entertainment.

And there are also the religious uses. Academic or nay?
"The fool is one who doesn't know what you have just found out."
~Will Rogers
Davit Sicseek
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If entertainment is non-academic then I have an interest in "dead" languages for the purposes of entertainment.

So you are suggesting that it's worth keeping dying languages alive because you want to enjoy future artistic works that are created with them?

The definition of academic is, I agree, somewhat unclear. I suppose I am using it in a fairly narrow sense. I'm talking about the actual study, documentation and archiving of a language so that if it were to die out, it wouldn't be lost pernamently. People could potentially refer to the academic studies of the language and the archived material and learn to speak it again.

This allows people to use the languages most suited to their needs (which is the case of dying languages is not said language), yet means that the language isn't lost along with any benifits the language may have. Admitadly without active speakers, unearthing new benifits is more difficult, but in theory still possible.
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kcg5
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who wants four fried chickens and a coke
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Quote:
On 2010-04-28 17:01, Jonathan Townsend wrote:
Quote:
On 2010-04-28 11:59, kcg5 wrote:
You guys are just to smart for me


I guess we may have to work harder to preserve modern English as the word "too" seems to be losing ground.



Glad you noticed Professor.
Nobody expects the spanish inquisition!!!!!



"History will be kind to me, as I intend to write it"- Sir Winston Churchill
scaevola
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I studied ancient Greek and Latin. I studied these dead languages to enrich my appreciation of works that were written in them. It was very striking to me how languages sometimes seem "suited" for expressing certain thoughts. Greek, for example, makes it simple to express the fact that something hasn't happened or that the speaker isn't sure if something has happened, etc. Ideas that one could express in English but that would be clunky or even amibugous can be quite clear and simple in Greek and vice versa. I recall Cicero discussing why he preferred Greek for some discourse and Latin for others. It comes down to the fact that language informs how we structure our thoughts, when we lose a language, we lose a unique system for, essentially, thinking.

Languages die everyday. New ones crop up and drive high school teachers insane. Anybody know about the Nicaraguan Sign Language? A cool story about a newly generated language.

I wish I could find an article I read, maybe in Science, about languages that were thought to disprove Chomsky's theories about innate grammar. Also very cool stuff. There was one dying language that did not use verbs. Kind of hard for me to describe and memory is failing but the speakers basically used prepositions to indicate kinds of motion and action. Also everything was described in how it related physically to the speaker. So it would be highly useful if you had to describe exactly where something was quickly. Not so useful for coming up with descriptive verbs which is easy in English. I do love verbing.

It is also interesting to me how certain cultures have reclaimed languages. The Greeks have readopted Greek over Turkish, which was much much more commonly spoke at the fall of the Ottoman Empire. The Irish are working on readopting Irish articifially and it seems to be working at least on the Western part of the Isle, though I am sure there is no one who speaks Irish without also knowing English. Israel brough Hebrew back from the grave, etc.

I am not sure if I can answer the question if we "should" preserve languages. I would say that is up to individuals. I love reading ancient Greek and Latin because it gives me a closer insight to what the authors meant rather than what the translator meant, this is especially interesting to me when people quote the bible, especially anything referencing "evil" or "sin" (the greek has several words for these ideas and sometimes I sense and oversimplification in translation). My dad reads Old English for the same reason. I would say if a language interests you then you "should" work to understand it and celebrate it and explore the differences in the kinds of thoughts you can express with it.

I feel sad that languages are dying but it is always happening. After all the Latin and ancient Greek languages probably eliminated many other languages as the empires expanded.
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