Lost and Gone Forever

Linguists estimate that a language dies every 14 days.  Nearly 7,000 languages are spoken on this earth, and between 60% and 80% of them are still undocumented. 

When a language dies, a culture dies with it.  Think of the richness of a language of the Inuit in Alaska or the indigenous tribes of the Amazon.  Their experiences of survival in the harshest climates of the planet are key to their continued survival and have been passed down from generation to generation in spoken language.  But larger civilization inevitably encroaches and the offspring speak that language less and less. And then one day, the language vanishes and the culture with it. 

They are lost forever.

Every continent on earth save for Antarctica has vanishing languages.  K. David Harrison and his team traveled around the globe to interview the few remaining speakers of dying languages from Siberia to Bolivia.  He documents this extraordinary adventure in his book, “The Last Speakers: The Quest to Save the World’s Most Endangered Languages.”  This book is published by National Geographic and has become available this year at Amazon.com.

As a linguist I feel like a tapestry holding the humanity of the world whose threads are the languages that interweave in a complex and fascinating pattern is slowly developing holes that over time grow larger and unravel until only the skeletal fragments of the tapestry will be left–those being the big, major languages of the world–while the small, rich, unnoticed, lesser language fall by the wayside, victims of modernity and progress, taking their unique rich lustre with them.

I wish K. David Harrison and his team Godspeed and good luck.  They have a lot of work ahead of them. And they are running out of time.

Contact Us

3555 Inverness Blvd
Carmel, IN 46032-9381 U.S.A

317.446.0951 (Main) 559.751.2878 (eFax)

Send us a note