ON THE DEATH AND LIFE OF LANGUAGES

CLAUDE HAGÈGE
384pp 2011 LIST PRICE: £19.00 (P) S393

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Description
Twenty-five languages die each year; at this pace, half the world’s five thousand languages will disappear within the next century. By focusing on the relationship of language to culture and the world of ideas, the author shows how languages are themselves crucial repositories of culture; the traditions, proverbs and knowledge of our ancestors reside in the language we use. Hagège reveals not only how languages die, but also how they can be revitalised -- for example in the case of Hebrew. In a striking metaphor, languages are likened to bonfires of social behaviour that leave behind sparks even after they die; from these sparks, languages can be rekindled and made to live again.

. . . a wake-up call, covering languages across the globe, from Cornish to the polyglot brew of Papua New Guinea. NEW SCIENTIST