Languages dying

This is a discussion on Languages dying within the A Brief History of Cprogramming.com forums, part of the Community Boards category; "As the legend goes, when the Turkish sultan first heard of Ubykh, the bizarre-sounding language spoken by Muslims who had ...

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    Languages dying

    "As the legend goes, when the Turkish sultan first heard of Ubykh, the bizarre-sounding language spoken by Muslims who had emigrated from the northwestern Caucasus in the mid-19th century, he dispatched a servant to learn more.

    When the servant returned, he described what a language with 83 consonants and one vowel sounded like by taking out a bag of pebbles and pouring them on the sultan's marble floor. ''Listen to these sounds,'' he said. ''Foreigners can gain no greater understanding of Ubykh speech.''

    Today, if people are curious about Ubykh, they can listen to a recording instead of a handful of tumbling stones, but they can't hear it spoken in person. The last Ubykh speaker, Tevfik Esenc, died in Turkey at the age of 88 in 1992." - http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~vaux/ubykh.htm

    83 consonants and one vowel!!!!! Now wouldn't that have been something to keep?

    Languages; history, ways to view the world, dye. Isn't it a pity?

    "Roughly half the world speaks one of 10 mega-languages as a primary, or mother, tongue. Mandarin Chinese is spoken by 16 percent of the world's population, followed by English and Spanish at 5 percent each; varieties of Arabic, 4 percent; Hindi, Portuguese, Bengali and Russian, 3 percent each, and French and Japanese, 2 percent each, Ethnologue reports.

    Meanwhile, 60 percent of existing languages have 10,000 speakers or fewer, said David Harmon, who analyzed the 'Ethnologue survey and is a member of Terralingua, a society dedicated to language preservation. Languages with so few speakers are highly vulnerable to disruption. "

    If your language is small, be proud of it! Don't see it as an obstacle.

    Anyway, besides trying to make you aware of the situation, I can ask you this; do you think that it's good or bad that there are fewer and fewer languages spoken throughout the world?

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    I think it's bad, I find languges quiet intresting
    They say that if you play a Windows Install CD backwords, you hear satanic messages. That's nothing; play it forward and it installs Windows.

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    Just a Member ammar's Avatar
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    Yes it's very bad, no language should die.

    And I think that if people speaking this language wanted it to remain spoken, it would not have died..
    none...

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    It's full of stars adrianxw's Avatar
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    Speaking different languages promotes misunderstanding. If we all spoke the same language, there would be one less divisive force on the planet.
    Wave upon wave of demented avengers march cheerfully out of obscurity unto the dream.

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    Yes, Adrianxw, but before we promote everyone to a closer understanding, let us record the current languages of the world. They can teach us a lot about ourselves. History etc. you know

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    Much older and wiser Fountain's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Zewu
    Yes, Adrianxw, but before we promote everyone to a closer understanding, let us record the current languages of the world. They can teach us a lot about ourselves. History etc. you know

    Yeh right, dont make me laugh-Think about WELSH before you speak!
    Such is life.

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    Just a Member ammar's Avatar
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    Originally posted by adrianxw
    Speaking different languages promotes misunderstanding. If we all spoke the same language, there would be one less divisive force on the planet.
    But at the sametime, if you are speaking a minority language, you shouldn't let it die, because it carries your culture and your history.
    none...

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    It's full of stars adrianxw's Avatar
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    >>> because it carries your culture and your history.

    Firstly, I don't actually think that is the case. I think it is a romantic illusion. Secondly, what is the point of having a history and culture if you cannot communicate these to anyone else?
    Wave upon wave of demented avengers march cheerfully out of obscurity unto the dream.

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    Just a Member ammar's Avatar
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    Originally posted by adrianxw
    >>> because it carries your culture and your history.

    Firstly, I don't actually think that is the case. I think it is a romantic illusion. Secondly, what is the point of having a history and culture if you cannot communicate these to anyone else?
    I didn't say that people speaking a minority language shouldn't learn other common languages like English...They shouldn't let their language die, and I don't think it's very difficult to speak your native language and another common language.


    EDIT:
    Is English your native language, if it's not, what would you think if no one was speaking your language anymore?
    Last edited by ammar; 07-27-2003 at 05:29 AM.
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    The Earth is not flat. Clyde's Avatar
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    Interesting topic, if we replaced all the languages in the world with a single master language, many cultures would be brought much closer together, in doing so cultural differences and a specific sense of cultural identity would ultimately be reduced. That is perhaps what people are afraid of.

    What you have to ask is whether that's really such a bad thing? I don't think cultural identities are really worth a great deal, but then language poses an interesting problem because I can see benefits; having diversity in how people solve problems, and even perceive can add something tangible to the human experience. If different languages merely used different phonetics for the same meanings, i would be all in favour of scrapping them all in favour of a single one, but because they are more than that in the sense that the meanings themselves can vary immensely ("information" that is simply unavailable in one language can be found in another) I think perhaps there is something worth saving. Its like you have a hundred paintings of the same scene all slightly different, none more correct that the other, despite the benefits (which probably outweigh the losses) it seems a shame to lose all the paintings but one.

    Perhaps the middle road of everyone learning their 'own' languages as well as a master language is the most desirable answer.

    In the end i suspect minority languages will die, in favour of the super languages, simply because ultimately the only thing that will motivate people to learn them is the cultural identity stuff and that won't last because like it or not cultures do change and they do grow more similar, which will reduce the desire to cling to old ways and old customs, as that happens i think the languages will die out in all but the academic sense.

    I do think its a shame but then, perhaps its a price worth paying for greater group similarity.
    Last edited by Clyde; 07-27-2003 at 07:13 AM.

  11. #11
    It's full of stars adrianxw's Avatar
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    >>>
    Is English your native language, if it's not, what would you think if no one was speaking your language anymore?
    <<<

    We speak Danish at home. When at an office, the working language is almost inevitably English. Often one simply doesn't notice which language is being used.

    >>> If different languages merely used different phonetics for the same meanings,

    I think that is the general case, however, I accept that this...

    >>> the meanings themselves can vary immensely

    ... has a certain truth. I can't remember the exact number but Innuit has something like 60 words for "snow" depending on it's condition.

    There are very few concepts in Danish that I could not translate to English, and vice versa.
    Wave upon wave of demented avengers march cheerfully out of obscurity unto the dream.

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    Originally posted by adrianxw
    There are very few concepts in Danish that I could not translate to English, and vice versa.
    Well, adrianxw, that might also be because of that both English and Danish are of the proto-Germanic language branch, in the indo-European family tree, and grammar between these languages are similar (I know this since I know Swedish, which is practically the same as Danish, and English).

    I read that there is a native American language where they use the same words for the subjects "me", "you" and "us". Now, I'm sure there are concepts in such a language that we will have a hard time translating to English or Danish, and vice versa.

    I just think that your comparing English and Danish is a badly drawn example, since they are so close.

    Here is another example on how we can benefit from languages:

    "Andamanese grammar reflects the aboriginal view that the universe is subordinate to and created for the benefit of humanity, i.e. the Negritos. The parts of the human body reflect the world which world-view is in turn is reflected in the grammar. A remarkable system of nominal classification based on parts of the human body is indeed one of the few clear points of contact between the Great Andamanese and the Onge-Jarawa languages, speaking for its antiquity. The word order follows the Subject-Object-Verb (SOV) pattern"

    Because of the way this people's language has arranged, we can tell how they viewed the world.

  13. #13
    It's full of stars adrianxw's Avatar
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    >>>
    Swedish, which is practically the same as Danish,
    <<<

    Of course I am aware of that, Norwegian also. One of my former employs had Danes Swedes and Norwegians on the project. When there were no Americans around, we spoke our own languages and, of course, we can all understand each other.

    >>>
    aboriginal view that the universe is subordinate to and created for the benefit of humanity, i.e. the Negritos.
    <<<

    We know that view is incorrect so I don't really see why preserving it has anything other than academic interest.

    >>> we can tell how they viewed the world.

    Again, academic interest only. Personally, I don't find it of any particular interest.

    Whatever.
    Wave upon wave of demented avengers march cheerfully out of obscurity unto the dream.

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    Originally posted by adrianxw
    >>>
    Swedish, which is practically the same as Danish,
    <<<

    Of course I am aware of that, Norwegian also.
    ok, sorry if you took it like I thought you weren't aware of that. Of course I assumed you were, it's just that I was speaking to everyone there.

    Sorry if I went a little off-topic here. Whatever.

  15. #15
    Pursuing knowledge confuted's Avatar
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    Germans say things differently than Americans. Translating exactly, with an understanding of both grammars so that the grammar in both languages is correct will frequently yield things that still don't make sense, simply because of the difference in the way things are said. I can't think of any good examples right now - I'm forgetting the German that I knew rather quickly, but I definitely remember encountering several instances in class.

    Having said that, perhaps some languages are worth preserving. However, English now has such a large vocabulary and is in such common usage that it should be possible for English to, if it has not already, assimilate any useful features of other languages. Other languages will always be around, though, at least in acadameia, since reading literature in the original language is far better than reading a translation.

    We'll probably reach a day when most of the world speaks English (more than now), but people will still know the languages of their "culture" or "heritage" or whatnot. International pilots are all required to know English already.
    Away.

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