Dying Words / Edition 1

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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
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Its straightforward and compelling style will make itappealing to a general audience as well as to professionallinguists and anthropologists.”  (Journal ofLinguistic Anthropology, 10 April 2013)

"This is a wonderful book.... This is story telling of thehighest quality - with each story told in its relevant language,together with a translation - but it is also text with somemessages of great importance." (Aboriginal History, 1 January2011)

"Evans's book is one of the most penetrating and insightfulworks we have had on language for years." (CurrentAnthropology, February 2011)

"In sum, this is the best book I've yet seen in terms of itspotential to persuade the broader public of the need to valueendangered languages and to support the fight to keep them in dailyuse. Will Dying words convince my recalcitrant friends? Idon't know, but I will urge them to try it." (LanguageDocumentation and Conservation, 2010)

"In sum, this is the best book I've yet seen in terms of itspotential to persuade the broader public of the need to valueendangered languages and to support the fight to keep them in dailyuse." (Language Documentation and Conservation, October 2010)

"The style of this book is at a level that both interestedlaypersons and undergraduate students of linguistics can understand- and indeed be inspired by - without excessive pondering. But itscontent is so important, so beneficial - and hitherto, sodistinctive among works of general linguistics - that it should beput into the hands of most, if not all, graduate students in thisfield. It is supported with good bibliographies which will generatefurther interest in its readers through the examples it discusses.With luck, it will encourage them to go out and do likewise."(International Journal of Applied Linguistics, Spring2010)

"Of all the books on language disappearance that have appearedin the last decade, Dying Words is intellectually the mostchallenging and the most persuasive. Evans sets out to show whylinguistic diversity is an essential part of what makes us human… .Modestly yet persuasively, Evans has thrown down anintellectual guantlet." (Times Literary Supplement, May2010)

"I predict that Dying Words will be an important additionto the fields of linguistics and cultural anthropology.... Evansmaintains a style which is thought-provoking without beingoverbearing. I found the experience of reading Dying Wordsto be an exciting one." (Journal of Folklore Research,January 2010)

"Nicholas Evans ... has written a sensitive and deeplypersuasive book about what endangered languages can tell us. Hegives us a huge mosaic of the dwindling storehouse of humandiscovery that is our languages. That's why we should care."(Courier Mail, August 2009)

"Dying Words ... is an astonishing book. This is a study ofdying languages, of tremendous variety and richness. It makes clear... the importance of describing each language and each culture onits own terms ... .I recommend this book to any person with anenquiring mind, prepared to be astonished by the variety oflanguages, living and dead, which enrich our world." (TeacherMagazine, September 2009)

"Evans has made an outstanding contribution toward increasingawareness of endangered languages with this book, and it deservesto be one of the go-to books on the topic." (Linguist List,August 2009)

"Evans describes the dimensions of the loss, culled from hisyears of work in northern Australian Aboriginal communities, in therecently released Dying Words: Endangered Languages and WhatThey Have to Tell Us." (The Australian, June 2009)

"While some linguists worry that helping communities shore uptheir languages saps too much time from research, Evans believesthat linguists who document languages in the field should take anactive role in such activities." (The Chronicle of HigherEducation, May 2009)

"Nicholas Evans manages to conquer the mammoth task of sharingthe plight of the endangered languages of the world in a mannerthat very few have been able to do. Intertwining anecdote andnarrative with concepts of linguistics, Evans touches upon the needfor awareness about the plight of the world's languages withoutunnecessary dramatics." (Endangered Languages, April2009)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780631233060
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 5/11/2009
  • Series: Language Library Series , #9
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 310
  • Sales rank: 989,656
  • Product dimensions: 6.70 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet 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).

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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 andDeep World History.

5. Sprung from Some Common Source.

6. Travels in the Logosphere: Hooking Ancient Words onto AncientWorlds.

7. Keys to Decipherment: How Living Languages Can UnlockForgotten Scripts.

Part IV: Ratchetting Each Other Up: The Coevolution ofLanguage, 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.

General Index.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2012

    Uhhhh........... ok i guess

    This book was really confuising to me. I love the authors books. but this book just seemed to not be as interesting as all the other books she writes. I think its pretty good its just not a book for not very good readers.

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