Cockroach wrote:XinuX wrote:I can't say I understand your logic here. Languages are dying in Australia with no teaching resources from which he could learn them to try and prevent them from dying, so he shouldn't learn a Romance language?
My anger was more directed towards the overattention given to the study of romance languages. Romance languages aren't going to go away any time soon.
Which is why someone whose interest is in communicating with someone nearby rather than trying to preserve a language in danger of dying would want to learn them.
Cockroach wrote:XinuX wrote:For one thing, your point is self-defeating. Unrecorded languages in Australia are dying, boo hoo
That is not the proper attitude to take with an emergency of this proportion
You broke my sentence in half. I wasn't trying to be flippant - language death is a problem, I wholeheartedly agree (although calling it an emergency sounds just a tad alarmist).
Cockroach wrote:XinuX wrote:[Unrecorded languages in Australia are dying, boo hoo - w]hat do you expect Beli Orao to do about it? He's sitting somewhere in I-assume-western Europe, if he cared passionately enough about the death of languages in Australia he'd be out there trying to do the job of a field linguist in recording native tribal chants and creation myths or whatever. He (and I, for that matter) want to learn languages which DO have an established body of interesting literature and ample opportunities practically on our doorstep for practice (pretty much the entire Romance-speaking population in the Old World is now contained in the EU, as far as I know).
I don't like this mindset. It seems to be the attitude which, 500 years ago, would have lead to someone like you saying something like "why should I bother learning German or Dutch or Russian or Swedish? Everyone knows Virgil wrote in Latin!".
Five hundred years ago someone wanting to get ahead in academia would be forced to learn Latin anyway because academic discourse took place in Latin as a matter of course; you'd still have to go learn French, German, Occitan, etc. to talk to other people. The two scenarios don't seem to be at all connected.
Cockroach wrote:The point of learning a language is that it connects you, in some small way, to the community and history of the people who bore that language.
But when your motivation is talking to real living breathing people (as in the case of Beli Orao and myself) what good does knowing endangered languages do you? Knowing fifty endangered languages might get you a publication; knowing one thriving language might get you a career. You're assuming everyone has the same motivation in learning languages as yourself.
Cockroach wrote:XinuX wrote:For another thing, language death is relative. If every speaker of a language with a long and rich written tradition fell over dead tomorrow of a heart attack then a large body of literature would be unavailable to us until we went back and retranslated it all using published grammars and such. (Note the extreme unrealism of this scenario - large written tradition and large speakerbase tend to correlate with well-documentedness.) If a tribe in New South Wales with no written tradition and no interesting cultural or linguistic differences from their neighbours stopped speaking Wapuwarni and became monolingual in Gurnguwarrpari it seems to me that not a great deal has been lost.
This is the type of attitude I hate the most. We have very good texts of French, Italian, Arpetan, Picard, Lombard, and Aragonese. There are even Assimil courses for most of these. And yet I've seen threads and pages and whole books bemoaning the fate of Occitan or Arpetan (or Gaelic, or Sorbian, or Wymysorys). While its sad that they're in the state they're in, its not even on the same level as Makah, the language of a proud warrior people who were the only tribe to consistently and succesfuly stave off the Tlingit and Haida slave raids from the north, has no books on it in public circulation (according to Google Library), probably no books on it written after the turn of the century, and only a handful of websites containing a collection of phrases and stories, including ONE PDF from which I am currently studying it (of course, its not even written for teaching).
There are (according to Wikipedia) 1214 Makah, all living in Washington state (distance from me: approximately 4772 miles). By contrast, there are about 9.8 million speakers of Catalan (taking the distance of Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, as representative, distance from me: 733 miles). If my sole interest in learning a language was communicating with other people, I'd get more out of learning Catalan than I would Makah - there's more speakers, and they're easier to get to.
Cockroach wrote:This is a fact of the world that constantly pains me. The fact that we will never know what the Vandal armies who sacked rome spoke, or the bronze age farmers of Pre-PIE Europe, or the many, many ancestors of the hill tribes of south China that were eventually assimilated into Chinese society. I wan't to stop this from going any further. Like you, my economic situation limits me from field linguistics (for now, at least), but for now learning what languages I can and becomeing something of a living repository will have to do
I wish you every bit of luck in your endeavour. What you fail to grasp is not everyone is engaged in your same adventure - some just want to be able to talk to people.
XinuX wrote:So I'd rather like to know what point you were trying to make. Romance languages are overstudied, sure, but there's a heck of a lot more people to speak them with, and (in both senses of the phrase) they're a heck of a lot easier to get to.
Precisely because there's more people who can speak them. If you have two beams supporting your roof, one at 85% structural integrity and the other at 45% structural integrity, which beam does it make sense to work on first?
It's a cute analogy, but language is not a house - one beam collapsing doesn't bring down the whole edifice.