LINGUIST List 11.349

Thu Feb 17 2000

Disc: Species Extinction vs Language Extinction

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <karenlinguistlist.org>


Directory

  1. Lance Eccles, Re: 11.338, Disc: Species Extinction vs Language Extinction
  2. HilaireVal, Re: 11.338, Disc: Species Extinction vs Language Extinction

Message 1: Re: 11.338, Disc: Species Extinction vs Language Extinction

Date: Thu, 17 Feb 2000 14:31:22 +1100
From: Lance Eccles <lance.ecclesmq.edu.au>
Subject: Re: 11.338, Disc: Species Extinction vs Language Extinction

Anthea Gupta writes:
>
>Just to say that we need to remember that languages are constructs.
>There are no languages. Only people performing language and people
>creating abstract notions of language.
>

I just love it! The postmodernist view of language! I've stuck it up on the
noticeboard outside my office.

Lance Eccles

Lance Eccles
Department of Asian Languages
Macquarie University
NSW 2109
Australia
fax +61 2 9797 0003
ph +61 2 9850 7023
lance.ecclesmq.edu.au
http://www.ocs.mq.edu.au/~leccles
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Message 2: Re: 11.338, Disc: Species Extinction vs Language Extinction

Date: Thu, 17 Feb 2000 10:26:19 EST
From: HilaireVal <HilaireValaol.com>
Subject: Re: 11.338, Disc: Species Extinction vs Language Extinction

To briefly respond to Anthea Fraser:

The correspondent Anthea Fraser (avoiding any gender assumption on the basis 
of first name!) stated "Languages are constructs." So there need be no regret 
at the loss of such a construct, any more than for a bicycle.
First, I strongly agree that languages are "constructs," but they are 
*social* constructions. There is no such thing as a "language" unless it is 
socially constructed and given a name (whether by insiders or outsiders is a 
further interesting question). Such a construct is an essential part of the 
common activity of constructing a people.
Second, I strongly disagree with the conclusion: I regret when a *people* 
dies, even if the individuals continue living (speaking another language, 
amalgamated into another culture). That regret may sound like (and be) sort 
of unscientific sympathy for the inevitable. But to equate a language which 
is constructed by, and constructs, a people, with a bicycle is beyond belief.
Nonetheless, I think the Ahthea Fraser's comment was helpful; it made me, at 
least, think again about what we mean by "language" as a social construct. 
And why languages and cultures should not be destroyed, precisely as 
constructs.
All the best. Hilaire Paul Valiquette
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