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

ISBN-10: 0195372069
ISBN-13: 9780195372069
Edition: 2008
List price: $17.95 Buy it from $14.89
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Description: 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  More...

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Book details

List price: $17.95
Copyright year: 2008
Publisher: Oxford University Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 7/21/2008
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 304
Size: 6.25" wide x 9.00" long x 0.75" tall
Weight: 1.166
Language: English

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.

Wade Davis was named one of the Explorers for the Millennium by the National Geographic Society. He is an anthropologist and ethnobotanist whose books include the international bestsellerThe Serpent and the Rainbow. K. David Harrison is a linguist whose work with endangered languages is receiving national attention. He conducts expeditions to remote places around the world in his study of global language loss.

A World of Many (Fewer) Voices
An Extinction of (Ideas about) Species
Case Study: Vanishing Herds and Reindeer Words
Many Moons Ago: Traditional Calendars and Time-Reckoning
Case Study: Nomads of Western Mongolia
An Atlas in the Mind
Case Study: Wheel of Fortune and a Blessing
Silent Storytellers, Lost Legends
Case Study: New Rice versus Old Knowledge
Endangered Number Systems: Counting to Twenty on Your Toes
Case Study: The Leaf-Cup People, India's Modern 'Primitives'
Worlds within Words
Notes
Bibliography
Index

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