When Languages Die : The Extinction of the World's Languages and the Erosion of Human Knowledge: The Extinction of the World's Languages and the Erosion of Human Knowledge

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Oxford University Press, Feb 1, 2007 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 304 pages
13 Reviews
It is commonly agreed by linguists and anthropologists that the majority of languages spoken now around the globe will likely disappear within our lifetime. The phenomenon known as language death has started to accelerate as the world has grown smaller. This extinction of languages, and the knowledge therein, has no parallel in human history. K. David Harrison's book is the first to focus on the essential question, what is lost when a language dies? What forms of knowledge are embedded in a language's structure and vocabulary? And how harmful is it to humanity that such knowledge is lost forever? Harrison spans the globe from Siberia, to North America, to the Himalayas and elsewhere, to look at the human knowledge that is slowly being lost as the languages that express it fade from sight. He uses fascinating anecdotes and portraits of some of these languages' last remaining speakers, in order to demonstrate that this knowledge about ourselves and the world is inherently precious and once gone, will be lost forever. This knowledge is not only our cultural heritage (oral histories, poetry, stories, etc.) but very useful knowledge about plants, animals, the seasons, and other aspects of the natural world--not to mention our understanding of the capacities of the human mind. Harrison's book is a testament not only to the pressing issue of language death, but to the remarkable span of human knowledge and ingenuity. It will fascinate linguists, anthropologists, and general readers.
  

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Review: When Languages Die: The Extinction of the World's Languages and the Erosion of Human Knowledge

User Review  - Michael ODonnabhain - Goodreads

I learned a lot from this book, although it did take me a while to get through it. Harrison's passion for language diversity is clear and I share his enthusiasm Read full review

Review: When Languages Die: The Extinction of the World's Languages and the Erosion of Human Knowledge

User Review  - Sarah Rodriguez - Goodreads

I had to read this for a college class, and I loved this book. I kept my copy and enjoy re-reading it. Read full review

Contents

1 A World of Many Fewer Voices
3
2 An Extinction of Ideas about Species
23
Traditional Calendars and TimeReckoning
61
4 An Atlas in the Mind
101
5 Silent Storytellers Lost Legends
141
Counting to Twenty on Your Toes
167
7 Worlds within Words
205
Notes
237
Bibliography
263
Index
285
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