LINGUIST List 14.1793

Thu Jun 26 2003

Disc: NYT Essay on Endangered Languages

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. Doug Whalen, Re: 14.1791, Disc: NYT Essay on Endangered Languages

Message 1: Re: 14.1791, Disc: NYT Essay on Endangered Languages

Date: Thu, 26 Jun 2003 09:45:06 -0400
From: Doug Whalen <>
Subject: Re: 14.1791, Disc: NYT Essay on Endangered Languages

 A. S. Sundar rightly points out that the most critical group in
saving an endangered language is the native speakers but wrongly
concludes that linguists have little role. There are so many pressure
on endangered languages that it is unrealistic to think that every
group will be able to withstand them. I have seen so many instances
when even simple recordings of a language have been of immense value
to the heritage community that I continue to believe that linguists
are doing great deeds when they document languages. Often, even the
heritage community does not recognize the value of the language until
after it is gone, and it may be at that point that the disinterested
(or, to critics, self-interested) linguist becomes the keeper of the
flame. (The Endangered Language Fund sponsored one master-apprentice
program last year in which the only master left was, in fact, the
linguist who had worked with the apprentice's grandmother.) So it is
certainly the case that linguists have a secondary role in the fight
to save endangered languages, but their role is still important.

 Doug Whalen DhW
President, Endangered Language Fund
Doug Whalen (
Haskins Laboratories
270 Crown St.
New Haven, CT 06511
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