Vanishing Voices: The Extinction of the Worlds Languages

Paperback | March 15, 2002

byDaniel Nettle, Suzanne Romaine

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A dramatic account of the rate of language extinction, and how it endangers the future of biodiversityFew people know that nearly 100 native languages once spoken in what is now California are near extinction, or that 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. What has happened to these voices? Shouldwe be alarmed about the disappearance of linguistic diversity?The authors of Vanishing Voices assert that this trend is far more than simply disturbing. 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. Indeed,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 Mandrell, with whom the Manx language passed away in 1974, and Arthur Bennett, an Australian, the lastperson to know more than a few words of Mbabaram. In our languages lies the accumulated knowledge of humanity. Indeed, 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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A dramatic account of the rate of language extinction, and how it endangers the future of biodiversityFew people know that nearly 100 native languages once spoken in what is now California are near extinction, or that most of Australia's 250 aboriginal languages have vanished. In fact, at least half of the world's languages may die out...

Daniel Nettle is the author The Fyem Language of Northern Nigeria and Linguistic Diversity (OUP). Suzanne Romaine is Merton Professor of English Language at the University of Oxford and is the author of Language in Society: An Introduction to Sociolinguistics (OUP)

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Format:PaperbackPublished:March 15, 2002Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195152468

ISBN - 13:9780195152463

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Table of Contents

1. Where have All the Languages Gone2. A World of Diversity3. Lost Words / Lost Worlds4. The Ecology of Language5. The Biological Wave6. The Economic Wave7. Why Something Should be Done8. Sustainable FuturesReferences and Further ReadingBibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

`a "splendid and disturbing book."' The Irish Times (Dublin)