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zompist bboard • View topic - Linguistic Diversity

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 Post subject: Linguistic Diversity
PostPosted: Thu Aug 07, 2003 5:47 am 
Lebom
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 07, 2003 2:27 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Linguistic Diversity
PostPosted: Thu Aug 07, 2003 3:55 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Linguistic Diversity
PostPosted: Thu Aug 07, 2003 4:19 pm 
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 07, 2003 6:03 pm 
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 07, 2003 7:06 pm 
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A quirky answer: it's important because it would be greatly missed once it's gone, and impossible to restore.

In a number of areas I think we can see a progression: we start with endless local variation; modernity comes in and uniformizes everything; then all of a sudden people wonder why every place is the same, and start to value obscure and unusual things.

Mass production makes uniformity cheap, and modern style makes old and local styles seem quaint and uncool. Later, technology tends to advance to the point where local variation becomes cost-effective. Increasing prosperity also tends to revive interest in obscure things.

To put it another way: if local difference isn't important, why shouldn't the whole planet look like suburban America, so that Beijing and Barcelona and Bulawayo all have nothing but the same malls, the same restaurants, the same language, the same music, the same TV programs? Wouldn't it be boring, and possibly even politically and culturally dangerous? Variation creates flexibility and new ideas.

The thing is, restoring cultural diversity (especially in language) isn't something you could easily do after it's been lost. So maybe we should start valuing it now, while it can be preserved.


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 07, 2003 7:21 pm 
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 07, 2003 7:22 pm 
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 07, 2003 8:17 pm 
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 07, 2003 8:37 pm 
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 07, 2003 11:26 pm 
Lebom
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Let me see if I've got everyone's points down right.

1) Sentimental / Aesthetic Concerns

TK: The languages (or species, in the biological example) themselves are reason enough.

SHG: Ask an Aboriginal elder who can't teach young people the traditional chants and stories, in an entirely oral culture; or who can't pass on the true names of the sacred sites. ... Ask a Chechen, or Uighur in Western China, or an Amazonian native who has seen his entire way of life completely dissapear in a mere decade or so.

z: Wouldn't it be boring, ...

hrh: That would be a loss of incredible proportions.

2) Science

SHG: ... for fans of Universal Grammar, we need as many sample languages as possible, otherwise whatever grammar we have might not truly be Universal.

3) Cultural diversity for pragmatic reasons

TK: Why is it important to try to preserve different species of animals, even if they're genetically almost identical? We've got humans, what do we need chimps for?
(Because more diversity in a group/system means a greater chance to survive.)

Iscun: The preservation of those regional languages is part of a bigger plan: the upholding of the culture and heritage of the people who speak them.

SHG: Language is culture. Every language that dies takes a culture with it.

z: if local difference isn't important, why shouldn't the whole planet look like suburban America, so that Beijing and Barcelona and Bulawayo all have nothing but the same malls, the same restaurants, the same language, the same music, the same TV programs? Wouldn't it be boring, and possibly even politically and culturally dangerous? Variation creates flexibility and new ideas.


Anyone feels that I have left you out / misquoted you?

(Mercator: don't worry, I'll go on to your point later.)

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2003 1:14 am 
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2003 7:24 am 
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2003 8:43 am 
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[quote="Rik"]1. On the culture front, I think the argument about preservation of language to preserve culture is disingenious. The British Isles are a good example: while the English language has come to dominate the landscape (often through some brutal repression), this hasn't weakened cultural diversity. If anything, it has strengthened cultural identification: I dare anyone on this board to walk up to a Scots, Irish or Welsh person and call them a product of English culture to their faces. Regionalism within England is also alive and kicking, even though many of the shops in the High Streets of England's towns and cities are the same. While language can be part of a cultural identification, it isn't the whole story.[quote]

You're right, it isn't the entire story, but what would the French be without French? The Russians without Russian? It's a severe blow to a culture if they lose their language, and only the strongest of peoples can keep them while under brutal oppression (i.e: Celts, Greeks, etc.). The Celts of the Isles would never admit it, but they have been very Englishized. It's good that they fight to preserve their languages and traditions.


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