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Media: Language Death: Wall Street Journal

Submitter: Doug Whalen

Submitter Email: whalen@alvin.haskins.yale.edu
Media Body: On Friday, March 8, 2002, page W13, the Wall Street Journal
published an editorial by John J. Miller entitled: "How do you say
'extinct'?: Languages die, the United Nations is upset about this."
Miller's basic point is that promoting minority languages entails a
"careless embrace of multiculturalism" that "gives short shrift to
the interests and choices of people in tiny language groups." Miller
makes many mistakes, including confusing language change with
language death and, by extension, the death of entire language
families with language change. He is dismissive of native culture,
preferring the "reality" --his word-- "that most people would rather
eat a Big Mac than a fistful of beetle larvae." He says that the
reason "some languages are disappearing is precisely that their
native speakers don't regard them as quite so precious" as linguists
make them out to be. He shows no recognition of the many factors
ranged against minority languages, and even against a "decision"
about abandoning a language.
I have written a response, but it will probably not be published.
If it is not, I may post it here.
Doug Whalen DhW
-
Doug Whalen (whalen@haskins.yale.edu)
Haskins Laboratories
270 Crown St.
New Haven, CT 06511
203-865-6163, ext. 234
FAX: 203-865-8963
http://www.haskins.yale.edu/

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Issue Number: 13.816
Date Posted: March 25, 2002

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