The next century will see more than half of the world’s 6,000 languages become extinct, and most of these will disappear without being adequately recorded. Written by one of the leading figures in language documentation, this fascinating book explores what humanity stands to lose as a result.
- Explores the unique philosophy, knowledge, and cultural assumptions of languages, and their impact on our collective intellectual heritage
- Questions why such linguistic diversity exists in the first place, and how can we can best respond to the challenge of recording and documenting these fragile oral traditions while they are still with us
- Written by one of the leading figures in language documentation, and draws on a wealth of vivid examples from his own field experience
- Brings conceptual issues vividly to life by weaving in portraits of individual ‘last speakers’ and anecdotes about linguists and their discoveries
About the Author
Nicholas Evans is Professor of Linguistics at the Australian National University and a fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. He is on the editorial boards of the journals Linguistic Typology and Australian Journal of Linguistics, and on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen. He is the author of a number of books, including Bininj Gun-wok (2 volumes, 2001), Archaeology and Linguistics: Aboriginal Australia in Global Perspective (co-edited with Patrick McConvell, 1998), and A Grammar of Kayardild (1992).
Table of Contents
A Note on the Presentation of Linguistic Material.
Part I: The Library of Babel.
1. Warramurrungunji’s Children.
2. Four Millennia to Tune In.
Part II: A Great Feast of Languages.
3. A Galapagos of Tongues.
4. Your Mind in Mine: Social Cognition in Grammar.
Part III: Faint Tracks in an Ancient Wordscape: Languages and Deep World History.
5. Sprung from Some Common Source.
6. Travels in the Logosphere: Hooking Ancient Words onto Ancient Worlds.
7. Keys to Decipherment: How Living Languages Can Unlock Forgotten Scripts.
Part IV: Ratchetting Each Other Up: The Coevolution of Language, Culture, and Thought.
8. Trellises of the Mind: How Language Trains Thought.
9. What Verse and Verbal Art Can Weave.
Part V: Listening While We Can.
10. Renewing the Word.
Epilogue: Sitting in the Dust, Standing in the Sky.
Index of Language Names.
What People are Saying About This
"A fascinating and colourful view of what we are losing aslanguages die, by a linguist who understands the significance ofour loss more deeply than most."–Greville G. Corbett, University of Surrey
"Nick Evans’ book is an elegant, eloquently renderednarrative of the human story as revealed through our languages.With deep erudition in world literatures both oral and written, hecaptures the interplay between speaker and tradition, word andthought, language and land; and he shares with his readers theintellectual life of speakers and humanist-scientists seeking topreserve and document this heritage."–Tony Woodbury, University of Texas at Austin