LINGUIST List 11.1634

Wed Jul 26 2000

Books: Endangered Languages

Editor for this issue: Scott Fults <>

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  1. daniel.nettle, Endangered Lang: Vanishing Voices, D. Nettle & S. Romaine

Message 1: Endangered Lang: Vanishing Voices, D. Nettle & S. Romaine

Date: Wed, 19 Jul 2000 14:14:38 +0100
From: daniel.nettle <>
Subject: Endangered Lang: Vanishing Voices, D. Nettle & S. Romaine

Vanishing Voices: The Extinction of the World's Languages

By Daniel Nettle and Suzanne Romaine, Oxford University Press, 2000

Hundreds of the 6,000 or so languages of our planet are disappearing
every year, dying one by one like the creatures on the Endangered
Species List. Indeed, language-diversity and biodiversity have a lot
in common, so, shouldn't we be alarmed about the disappearance of
linguistic diversity as well?

VANISHING VOICES tells the story of how and why languages are
disappearing. Nearly 100 native languages once spoken in what is now
California are near extinction, and most of Australia's 250 aboriginal
languages have vanished. In fact, at least half of the world's
languages may die out in the next century. The authors Daniel Nettle
and Suzanne Romaine assert that this trend is far more than simply

Making explicit the link between language survival and environmental
issues, they argue that the extinction of languages is part of the
larger picture of near-total collapse of the worldwide ecosystem. The
authors contend that the struggle to preserve precious environmental
resources-such as the rainforest-cannot be separated from the struggle
to maintain diverse cultures, and that the causes of language death,
like that of ecological destruction, lie at the intersection of
ecology and politics.

And while Nettle and Romaine defend the world's endangered languages,
they also pay homage to the last speakers of dying tongues, such as
Red Thundercloud, a Native American in South Carolina, Ned Madrell,
with whom the Manx language passed away in 1974, and Arthur Bennett,
an Australian, the last person to know more than a few words of

In our languages lie the accumulated knowledge of humanity. Each
language is a unique window on experience. VANISHING VOICES is a call
to preserve this resource, before it is too late.

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Monday, July 17, 2000