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14th June 2017
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Can we preserve old languages?

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Languages are not just for communication. It is a social currency and the transmitter of culture. It means that languages are the reflection of the songs, stories, traditions of the current generation as well as the past. It is a reflection of the society and the culture we live in. Linguists would often say that to understand language, you would need to immerse yourself in the culture behind the language, and vice versa.

Languages change along the changes that society and culture experience. It is dynamic; new words are being introduced sometimes influenced by other languages. The life of a language can be measured if a population that speaks it as a primary language continues to live. But when the population of the native speakers is gone, the language is often categorized or referred to as an extinct language. Even if there are still younger generations left, if they choose to speak a different language as their tongue, then the language could still be considered extinct.

Latin is an extinct language other languages include include Cochimi, which was spoken from north of Loreto to the northern part of the Baja California peninsula, Eyak, historically spoken in south-central Alaska and the Kakadu or Gaagudju language was spoken in northern Australia, in the environs of what is now known as Kakadu National Park and lastly the Coptic language which was replaced by Arabic.

Even if the languages are still extinct, it does not mean that nobody can speak it. There are still people who can speak them, but it is not used as a language for communication.

Linguists and specialists have agreed that the rate of extinction of a language is becoming alarming. There is one language dying in every fourteen days. By 2100, about 7,000 languages would be extinct. This would be more than half of the languages we currently have. There are five places where the extinction of a language is happening fast; it is in Northern Australia, Central South America, North America’s upper Pacific coastal zone, Eastern Siberia and Oklahoma and the southwestern United States. Sad to hear is that there are about 500 languages which are spoken by less than ten people.

Unfortunately, the public is still not aware the effects of language extinction. Some would say that the extinction of a language would be justified enough because the language is obsolete. The strong link of language to culture and the people’s world view are among the things that would be most affected. The extermination of languages is not just about the death or loss of a different set of vocabulary and words. In a greater sense, it would signify the loss of a culture and history embedded in the language itself.

 

You can read more articles about languages and translation right here on ytranslate.

 

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