On the Death and Life of Languages

Overview

Twenty-five languages die each year; at this pace, half the world’s five thousand languages will disappear within the next century. In this timely book, Claude Hagège seeks to make clear the magnitude of the cultural loss represented by the crisis of language death.

By focusing on the relationship of language to culture and the world of ideas, Hagège shows how languages are themselves crucial repositories of culture; the traditions, proverbs, and knowledge of our ancestors ...

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Overview

Twenty-five languages die each year; at this pace, half the world’s five thousand languages will disappear within the next century. In this timely book, Claude Hagège seeks to make clear the magnitude of the cultural loss represented by the crisis of language death.

By focusing on the relationship of language to culture and the world of ideas, Hagège shows how languages are themselves crucial repositories of culture; the traditions, proverbs, and knowledge of our ancestors reside in the language we use. His wide-ranging examination covers all continents and language families to uncover not only how languages die, but also how they can be revitalized—for example in the remarkable case of Hebrew. In a striking metaphor, Hagège likens languages to bonfires of social behavior that leave behind sparks even after they die; from these sparks languages can be rekindled and made to live again.

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Editorial Reviews

Bookseller
"Innovative perspectives on the life and death of languages by a leading French intellectual."—Bookseller
PRI's "The World"

Selected as one of the "International Reads for the Holidays," PRI’s “The World”

— Bill Marx

New Scientist

On the Death and Life of Languages … is a wake-up call, covering languages across the globe, from Cornish to the polyglot brew of Papua New Guinea.’

— Andrew Robinson

Choice

"[The] book is quite readable . . . . It will be especially useful to researchers interested in language preservation and policy but worth the effort for others."—E. L. Battistella, Choice

— E. L. Battistella

Times Literary Supplement

"Hagege’s book is a cornucopia of linguistic miscellanea, which will not fail to fascinate and intrigue."—Kerstin Hoge, Times Literary Supplement

— Kerstin Hoge

The Guardian

“.....Beautifully written….Hagège makes his expert case for linguistic biodiversity.”—Steven Poole, The Guardian

— Steven Poole

Matthias Brenzinger
“This book brings forward a French perspective into the global debate on the endangerment of the world's language and cultural heritage. Hagège resourcefully shares his thought-provoking analysis of the dynamics in the development of language diversity.”—Matthias Brenzinger, University of Cologne
Nicholas Ostler
“With a distinctive and rich approach, Claude Hagège—one of today’s most celebrated linguists in France—addresses language endangerment against quite widely drawn historical and geographical backgrounds. This book provides a comprehensive tour d’horizon.”—Nicholas Ostler, Chairman, Foundation for Endangered Languages
Ghi&lgrave;ad Zuckermann
"An impressive book on an issue of great importance by a most accomplished linguist. Hagège warns that, though there are currently 5,000 languages, by 2100 there will only be 2,500, blaming our indifference as the cause of this catastrophe. He believes that we can—and should—do something to counter this threat. That is, we should not allow languages to die."—Ghi&lgrave;ad Zuckermann, The University of Queensland, Australia
http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_8311000/8311069.stm
Click here to listen to the author discussing the disappearance of tribal languages.
PRI's "The World" - Bill Marx
Selected as one of the "International Reads for the Holidays," PRI’s “The World”
New Scientist - Andrew Robinson
On the Death and Life of Languages … is a wake-up call, covering languages across the globe, from Cornish to the polyglot brew of Papua New Guinea.’
Morning Star - Karl Dallas
‘Regarded for millennia as a dead language confined to the synagogue and the scriptural scroll, Hebrew has become a living, vibrant tongue with its own demotic versions, slang and even linguistic pedantry … This rebirth is only one of the fascinating stories related by this leading French linguist, who brings to our attention the alarming fact that 25 languages disappear each year, meaning that the rich cultural heritage represented by half of the world’s languages will have died before we enter the next century.’
Choice - E. L. Battistella
"[The] book is quite readable . . . . It will be especially useful to researchers interested in language preservation and policy but worth the effort for others."—E. L. Battistella, Choice
Times Literary Supplement - Kerstin Hoge
"Hagege’s book is a cornucopia of linguistic miscellanea, which will not fail to fascinate and intrigue."—Kerstin Hoge, Times Literary Supplement
The Guardian - Steven Poole
“.....Beautifully written….Hagège makes his expert case for linguistic biodiversity.”—Steven Poole, The Guardian
Bookseller

"Innovative perspectives on the life and death of languages by a leading French intellectual."—Bookseller

Morning Star

‘Regarded for millennia as a dead language confined to the synagogue and the scriptural scroll, Hebrew has become a living, vibrant tongue with its own demotic versions, slang and even linguistic pedantry … This rebirth is only one of the fascinating stories related by this leading French linguist, who brings to our attention the alarming fact that 25 languages disappear each year, meaning that the rich cultural heritage represented by half of the world’s languages will have died before we enter the next century.’

— Karl Dallas

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300167870
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 1/31/2011
  • Series: An Editions Odile Jacob Book Series
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Claude Hagège is the Chair of Linguistic Theory at the Collège de France in Paris. He is the author of more than fifteen books and the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the Gold Medal from Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. Jody Gladding is an award-winning poet and translator, and author of Stone Crop, which appeared in the Yale Younger Poets Series.

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