Monday, December 03, 2007

Hooray for The Linguists!

A film featuring the amazing work of my friend David Harrison and his colleague Greg Anderson - linguists studying dying languages across the planet - has been chosen for the Sundance Festival in 2008! The film, called (unsurprisingly) "The Linguists" follows David and Greg as they travel to extremely remote areas of the world, documenting languages facing extinction. Currently, there 7,000 languages on our planet. However, we lose a language approximately every two weeks, and, within a hundred years, half of the world's languages will have died. As the last speakers, elderly and isolated, pass away, their languages - and so many elements of their knowledge systems - will simply cease to exist. David, Greg, and other concerned linguists are working hard to document these tongues before they vanish. It's fascinating and tragic and, in our shrinking world, probably inevitable.

If you will be at Sundance, I encourage you to try to get a ticket! It will be shown four times during the festival, and David and Greg will be there for Q&A.


Heather Meadows said...

Wow, that is awesome. Hopefully I'll get to see the movie someday!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like fun!

And sorry to hear about your freaky person troubles (the feed sometimes holds on to posts that have been erased for a few hours). That has got to be very scary.

Anonymous said...

Hate to be the wiseass (what am I saying, I love being a wiseass). Anyway, shouldn't linguists have be able to come up with a better title than "The Linguists"?

Anonymous said...

I wonder if these dudes are cunning? teehheee cunning linguists? I am so immature.

Anyway I heard a special on CBC radio about dying languages and it was fascinating but there really is some debate on if we should be actively trying to save languages that are dying- especially if the speakers of it don't seem to be interested in saving them. Food for thought.

Heather Meadows said...

I personally think that archiving as much as we can is great, but we have to realize that the death of language is a natural part of our existence, just like death itself. And we also have to remember that "death" isn't really "the end" in either case. As people affect the other people around them, sending ripples out to change the world, so too do languages change other languages around them.

It's not like every language is fixed and then they just sort of die when fewer and fewer people speak them. The languages we know today were not the same even a hundred years ago. The languages we currently speak are descended from other languages that are already dead. All languages are growing and changing, all the time.

We can't stop language evolution, and it's silly to try. People who are nuts over grammatical "rules" that make no sense, like avoiding ending a sentence with a preposition when that formation is far more natural than our attempts to avoid it, remind me of the old "Those damn kids and their ____" complaint. Just because things aren't the way they were when you were growing up doesn't mean there's something wrong. It just means things change.

That said, I see nothing wrong with appreciating the beauty of languages both past and present :) And I believe the more languages we study, the more we can come to understand about humanity...culture and society, of course, but beyond that, how our brains work.

Man, sometimes I really wish I had found employment that had something to do with my linguistics degree ;>