The Urgency of Language Documentation

Article by Laura McPherson: "We can't stem the tide of language death"

Before the turn of the next century, more than half of India’s 780 languages may die out. In this respect, India can be seen as a microcosm of the world, with experts warning that thousands of little-spoken languages are at risk for extinction within the century.

These reports might act as a call to keep teaching these languages to new users and ensure they are passed on to the next generation. But we have to be realistic, too. Without an unlikely transformation in political, socioeconomic, and ethnic conditions, it is naïve to think we can stem the tide of language death.

What we can and must do is document this rapidly diminishing linguistic diversity and archive these astonishing displays of creativity for the future. These cultural materials hold the key to understanding the range of human ingenuity in expression, and ultimately to giving these endangered languages a chance to bounce back, even if slim.

For the full article please go to Los Angeles Review of Books