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Re: Fw: Lost in translation

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  • Don Osborn
    Thanks, Elsa. Terralingua was indeed one of the inspirations for Bisharat. The area of language preservation, and research on the importance of linguistic
    Message 1 of 3 , Mar 14 12:39 AM
      Thanks, Elsa. Terralingua was indeed one of the inspirations for
      Bisharat. The area of language preservation, and research on the
      importance of linguistic diversity, is important (essential) but
      limited in my opinion unless it links with exploration of what to do
      about it. This is not new, but the implications re focusing at
      preservation & documentation of the languages on the edge vs. the
      wider tasks of facilitating revitalization of all languages need may
      not be widely appreciated. This issue was explored briefly in a few
      messages on a temporary board entitled "Beyond language documentation
      (what roles for researchers & activists?)" at
      http://www.quicktopic.com/21/H/tVDdWCiBY7MgJ (it was a spin-off of a
      discussion on the Code-switching group).

      Consideration of literacy in multilingual societies is in part
      another perspective on this, although it obviously includes a lot of
      situations where multiliteracy does not involve less widely spoken or
      endangered languages. Hopefully, though, research and techniques
      having to do with reading education and literacy training in any
      context can be applied to situations where language revitalization is
      a goal.

      Don Osborn
      Bisharat.net

      --- In Multilingual_Literacy@yahoogroups.com, Elsa Auerbach
      <elsa.auerbach@u...> wrote:
      > There is a website which addresses these issues:
      http://www.terralingua.org/
      >
      > Elsa Auerbach
      > On 3/10/04 4:59 PM, "Don Osborn" <dzo@b...> wrote:
      >
      > > This item on the manifold changes in the world's linguistic
      landscape raises
      > > the issue of what the implications for literacy and education are.
      > >
      > > First there are groups working on preserving indigenous tongues
      through
      > > education and use of writing where this may not have been
      traditional.
      > > (Meaning multi/bilingual strategies of one sort or another.)
      > >
      > > Second, it would seem that young people with multi/bilingual
      skills would be
      > > at an advantage to cope in such a changing and changeable
      environment. (Both
      > > for the languages they speak but more than that, for their
      presumably
      > > enhanced capacity to learn language as necessary.)
      > >
      > > Don Osborn
      > > Bisharat.net
      > >
      > > ----- Original Message -----
      > > From: "phil cash cash" <cashcash@E...>
      > > To: <ILAT@L...>
      > > Sent: Wednesday, March 10, 2004 4:01 PM
      > > Subject: Lost in translation (fwd)
      > >
      > >
      > > Lost in translation
      > >
      > > By Leigh Dayton
      > > 11mar04
      > >
      http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,8928176%
      5E28737,
      > > 00.html
      > >
      > > IT'S a modern parable. While the box office take from Mel Gibson's
      > > controversial film The Passion of the Christ skyrockets into the
      > > multi-millions, the number of people speaking the language of
      Jesus is
      > > dwindling into insignificance.
      > >
      > > Aramaic, the 2500-year-old tongue of the Assyrians, Babylonians,
      > > Persians, Egyptians and Palestinians, is used as one of the
      languages
      > > in Gibson's film, yet today it is spoken in only three Syrian
      villages.
      > > Its probable fate as a spoken language? Extinction, say concerned
      > > linguists.
      > >
      > > It's all part of a language crisis heralding the emergence of a
      new
      > > linguistic world order, according to scholar David Graddol of
      Britain's
      > > aptly named The English Company.
      > >
      > > "We will experience some decades of rapid and perhaps disorienting
      > > change," he predicts ominously. In other words, Aramaic is not
      the only
      > > language facing an uncertain future.
      > >
      > > Surprisingly, as Graddol says, English is sliding down the "league
      > > table" of dominant languages.
      > >
      > > Why? To borrow from Treasurer Peter Costello, "demography is
      destiny".
      > > The number of people born into English-speaking communities is
      falling
      > > when compared with those born to parents whose native language is
      > > Cantonese, Mandarin, Arabic and Hindi or Urdu, which many
      linguists
      > > class as a single language.
      > >
      > > While English will power on as the language of science and
      politics,
      > > Graddol spots a business trend which may unsettle monolingual
      English
      > > speakers. "Employers in parts of Asia are already looking beyond
      > > English," he argues. "In the next decade, the new must-learn
      language
      > > is likely to be Mandarin."
      > >
      > > Graddol is not the only expert flagging enormous changes in what
      they
      > > call the world's language system, one that has evolved over
      centuries.
      > > David Harrison, a linguist at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania,
      > > estimates that as we speak -- literally -- we do so in between
      6000 and
      > > 7000 languages worldwide, but not for long.
      > >
      > > "Linguistic diversity is undergoing a precipitous and
      unprecedented
      > > decline," he said at the recent American Association for the
      > > Advancement of Science meeting in Seattle.
      > >
      > > "This state of affairs has given rise to the dire, but not
      entirely
      > > preposterous prediction, that fully one half of extant human
      languages
      > > might well vanish in the course of this century."
      > >
      > > Graddol, a linguist, went further last month in the journal
      Science.
      > >
      > > "We may now be losing a language every day," he wrote, adding
      that 90
      > > per cent of all languages will perish this century.
      > >
      > > While Aramaic is the language of concern now, authorities such as
      > > Harrison and Graddol claim it is unlikely to be the next language
      to
      > > fade into nothingness. They predict that dubious honour will go
      to even
      > > more obscure tongues such as Middle Chulym, a language Harrison
      > > "discovered" last year in remote central Siberia. Out of a
      community of
      > > 426 people, he says only 35 speak it fluently. When those elders
      die,
      > > so too will Middle Chulym.
      > >
      > > Clearly, indigenous languages worldwide are at greatest risk of
      serious
      > > decline or extinction. After all, speakers experience the combined
      > > impact of declining populations, technological advances and often
      > > overwhelming economic and cultural pressure to join the global
      > > community. Case in point: Australia's Aboriginal languages.
      > >
      > > The statistics are rubbery, yet they suggest that roughly 250
      indigenous
      > > languages were spoken in 1788. Today, possibly one-third of those
      > > first-contact languages are gone. Of those remaining, only about
      20
      > > have any hope of surviving.
      > >
      > > "It's undeniable that we're losing speakers," notes Faith Baisden,
      > > projects manager with the Federation of Aboriginal and Torres
      Strait
      > > Islander Languages, a national body advising the Aboriginal and
      Torres
      > > Strait Islander Commission. Although she's studying it, Baisden
      doesn't
      > > yet speak her own ancestral tongue, Yugambeh. There are only a
      handful
      > > of people who do, she claims.
      > >
      > > Still, it's not all gloom and doom for so-called minority
      languages.
      > > Speakers of such languages and advocates such as Baisden are
      fighting
      > > back with some success. Hebrew was brought back from near
      extinction.
      > > In the US, Mohawk has undergone a revival, and ever more New
      Zealand
      > > kindergarteners are learning Maori.
      > >
      > > In Australia, Baisden claims that growing numbers of Aboriginal
      > > communities are working with elders, applied linguists and groups
      such
      > > as FATSIL and ATSIC to shore up endangered languages.
      > >
      > > They're developing dictionaries, web-based resources and other
      learning
      > > materials, as well as pushing for native language instruction.
      > >
      > > It's all part of an international trend to bolster ancient rural
      and
      > > indigenous languages, or at least to document them before they
      vanish.
      > > For native speakers, this is a matter of urgency. Language
      epitomises
      > > group identity and carries important cultural meanings, ones they
      hope
      > > to pass on to the next generation.
      > >
      > > Moreover, Harrison points out that collectively the world's
      languages
      > > embody the diverse possibilities of human speech. They embody
      > > underlying mental structures that both shape and are shaped by
      the way
      > > different peoples speak of their world, for instance number
      systems,
      > > grammatical structures and ways of classifying kinship or natural
      > > events.
      > >
      > > "Each language that vanishes without being documented leaves an
      enormous
      > > gap in our understanding of some of the many complex structures
      the
      > > human mind is capable of producing," Harrison says.
      > >
      > > University of Sydney linguistics specialist Jane Simpson, who is
      working
      > > to save threatened languages, agrees.
      > >
      > > "What does it matter if you lose a particular frog species or if
      you
      > > lose Michelangelo's David," she says.
      > >
      > > "Think of languages as works of human creativity."
      > >
      > > Simpson has teamed up with colleagues at the University of
      Melbourne and
      > > the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
      > > Studies in Canberra. Along with four doctoral students, the group
      is
      > > following pre-school children in three Aboriginal communities in
      the
      > > Kimberley and Northern Territory.
      > >
      > > Over the four-year project the team hopes to learn how the
      youngsters
      > > manage the different languages they hear, from their native
      language to
      > > varieties of English. They want to know how the children shift
      between
      > > languages with such ease and hope to find out if the linguistic
      > > flip-flops affect language learning and use.
      > >
      > > "There are implications for how kids learn at school and what
      kind of
      > > teaching strategies to use," she says.
      > >
      > > But Simpson and company are particularly interested in the
      dynamics of
      > > hybrid languages known as creoles. Such languages develop
      spontaneously
      > > when -- usually -- children listen to a pidgin language cobbled
      > > together as a lingua franca by adults who speak different
      languages.
      > >
      > > "The Lajamanu and Kalkaringi kids are either acquiring a weird
      variety
      > > of a local creole, called Kriol, or they are developing a new
      mixed
      > > language based on Kriol," says Simpson, who explains that children
      > > everywhere are master language builders. Indeed, youngsters are
      on the
      > > job around the globe, especially in cities where languages mingle
      and
      > > change rapidly. The question is, are they creating enough new
      languages
      > > to counter the startling rate of language extinction?
      > >
      > > Yes, no, maybe, replies Yale University linguist Laurence Horn.
      Speaking
      > > at the AAAS meeting, he suggested the answer may well be a matter
      of
      > > definitions. "What counts as a language, a mere dialect or
      jargon?" he
      > > asked in rhetorical mode.
      > >
      > > According to Horn, non-linguist factors affect the answer. Power,
      money,
      > > literary tradition, the nature of a writing system and even
      whether or
      > > not a community needs a new language are all involved in
      separating
      > > true languages from linguistic wannabes such as Esperanto, which
      > > lingers in the conversational backwaters.
      > >
      > > Although Esperanto was devised deliberately by Ludwig Zamenhof,
      Eubonics
      > > is a version of English popularised by young African Americans.
      Is it
      > > non-standard English, a dialect, a language, or a street
      vernacular?
      > > Some linguists agree with the Oakland, California's 1997 school
      board
      > > decree that Eubonics is "a genetically-based language", while
      others
      > > disagree vehemently.
      > >
      > > And what about Scots, spoken in the film Trainspotting, the
      Slinglish of
      > > Singapore, the Japlish of Japan or any of the other Englishes of
      the
      > > world? Debates rage as to whether they're shiny new languages or
      > > jumped-up dialects destined for the linguistic scrap heap.
      > >
      > > At the broadest level, the definitional debates may be irrelevant
      if one
      > > of Graddol's predictions comes true. He argues that although a
      handful
      > > of languages will dominate, people will continue speaking other
      tongues
      > > at home.
      > >
      > > The bilingual - even multilingual - world of tomorrow may well
      resemble
      > > the one in which Jesus walked. After all, like his
      contemporaries, he
      > > probably spoke Greek, Aramaic and maybe even a touch of Latin.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > Yahoo! Groups Links
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
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