Monday, February 02, 2004

stone in my shoe

One of the big arguments of my PhD, and of the book I am working on for emergentYS, is that people “make do”; that in the face of cultural change, people are creative, transformative, adapting the bits from the world around them to create their own unique mixes. It is based on the work of French Jesuit Michel de Certeau.

The only flaw in the argument is this article on the disappearance of languages from around the world, via they blinked

How many languages have disappeared in the last century? About 60 or 70 per cent of linguistic diversity in the north-western region of Brazil has gone in the last 100 years. On the Atlantic coast of Brazil it’s worse – about 99 per cent – and around the world the figure is 60 to 70 per cent. It has been very rapid.

Being brought up in Papua New Guinea, a country of over 600 languages, the loss of even one language saddens me.

Posted by steve at 10:02 AM


  1. Good article Steve.
    You have touched on one of my passions. This is one of the reasons why I want to go out with Wycliffe and do Bible translation – language extinction. It would only take a few thousand crazy Christians who cared to stem the flow of extinctions. Greenpeace activists spend years trying to save a species from extinction. I would like to do the same for some small people group (aka language).

    Comment by Greg — February 2, 2004 @ 7:38 pm

  2. just asking questions here: how many languages and dialects are emerging? is it really such a bad thing that some languages are falling out of use? sure there is a sense of loss, history, and nostalgia; but is it really so tragic? are these languages truly disappearing? or are they re-creating themselves, recombining, mutating, adapting, evolving? they are not what they were, but the environment in which they live is no longer what it was either.

    Comment by Bald Man — February 3, 2004 @ 7:12 am

  3. From a balding man to The baldman.
    How many languages are emerging? None unless you count sms and chat variants in world dominating languages. Language death usually means they have been assimilated by a larger culture or died out because of colonisation or oppression. Hence Steves’ stone in the shoe comment. Usually if someone goes there and helps them to write down their language and read it then they get some sense of pride in their language and the process is reversed. Des & Jenny Oatridge (Kiwi’s) did this with the Binumarian people of PNG. The population was in decline with only 100 or so when they got there in the 70’s and since the NT completion and teaching the Binumarians to read (84) the population is up to over 600. It’s not survival of the fittest or adaptation, its domination by the oppressors leading to anihilation. God cares.

    Comment by Greg — February 3, 2004 @ 9:25 pm

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