Losing Language

Posted: October 8, 2010 in History, Literature, Science
Tags: ,

As most of you know, I’m reasonably (though not completely by a long shot) fluent in both English and Math. I’m also passingly familiar with a few silicon based languages (C, FORTRAN, Python…). However, I’m not so good with the rest of the languages of humanity. I’ve fumbled around with some Korean, Spanish and French and German over the years, but I certainly wouldn’t say that I can speak them anywhere near fluently. But these are common languages.

Apparently, a new language was discovered a couple of years ago. Check out the article, and listen to the language from a native speaker in the sound clips. It’s pretty neat. I’m never going to make it to that area of India, so it’s not going to be much use to me, though. However, the point of the project was to try and discover some of the many languages that are going extinct, and record them for posterity.

This is a non-trivial problem as so many of these “lost languages” have no written form, and when the native speakers die, they disappear forever. Most people are familiar with the Mayans, and the ancient Babylonians, and have at least heard of their languages. We know about them because there were written records. But how many languages have been lost to eternity because they were never written down? We’ll never know, but these guys at National Geographic are trying to preserve some of the ones that are disappearing now. And I thought that was pretty damn neat.

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