On the Death and Life of Languages

On the Death and Life of Languages

Paperback Odile Jacob Books

By (author) Claude Hagège, Translated by Jody Gladding

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  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Format: Paperback | 384 pages
  • Dimensions: 132mm x 201mm x 25mm | 408g
  • Publication date: 1 March 2011
  • Publication City/Country: New Haven
  • ISBN 10: 0300167873
  • ISBN 13: 9780300167870
  • Sales rank: 716,830

Product description

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 Hagege 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, Hagege 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, Hagege 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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Author information

Claude Hagege is the Chair of Linguistic Theory at the College 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.

Review quote

"This book brings forward a French perspective into the global debate on the endangerment of the world's language and cultural heritage. Hagege resourcefully shares his thought-provoking analysis of the dynamics in the development of language diversity."-Matthias Brenzinger, University of Cologne -- Matthias Brenzinger "With a distinctive and rich approach, Claude Hagege-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 -- Nicholas Ostler "An impressive book on an issue of great importance by a most accomplished linguist. Hagege 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."-Ghil'ad Zuckermann, The University of Queensland, Australia -- Ghil'ad Zuckermann "Innovative perspectives on the life and death of languages by a leading French intellectual."-Bookseller Bookseller Click here to listen to the author discussing the disappearance of tribal languages. http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_8311000/8311069.stm "A polemic by a noted French linguist alarmed at the accelerating death rate for languages around the world-he claims that at the current pace half of the world's five thousand languages will fade away within the next century. The book proffers a passionate and often eloquent argument against efforts to establish English as a single world language."-Bill Marx, PRI's The World (World Books: International Reads for the Holidays) -- Bill Marx PRI's "The World" '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 New Scientist '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 Morning Star Selected as one of the "International Reads for the Holidays," PRI's "The World" -- Bill Marx PRI's "The World" "[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 Choice "Hagege's book is a cornucopia of linguistic miscellanea, which will not fail to fascinate and intrigue."-Kerstin Hoge, Times Literary Supplement -- Kerstin Hoge Times Literary Supplement "...Beautifully written...Hagege makes his expert case for linguistic biodiversity."-Steven Poole, The Guardian -- Steven Poole The Guardian