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On Sun, 21 Dec 2003, Costentin Cornomorus wrote:

> --- Tristan McLeay <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>
> > > Is there a way we could start programs to
> > > save endangered languages?
> >
> > Become a linguist and start documenting. There
> > are already groups there
> > trying, but I think the main problem is the
> > fact that they don't have
> > enough money (the people with it don't see the
> > value, one of the many
> > negative features of capitalism)
>
> While I don't think we need get into politics, I don't think it has
> anything to do with "capitalism" per se. It has to do with normal
> people's (and monied people's) attitudes towards language. Most people
> simply do not give a fiddlers fart for dying languages and do not see
> any point whatsoever in saving or even documenting same. They might be
> made to understand that it could be important to people descended from
> that culture - but there's nothing stopping them from either learning
> that language or doing the documentation themselves.

Ah, but you forget: capitalism is marked by money. Without money in a
monied society, you don't get to eat. If money wasn't the way to get food,
more people would be willing to spend time documenting language. I didn't
mean to imply that capitalism is the only system like this, or that
capitalism has no redeaming features (though I do think that capitalism as
it's currently implemented, at least, is more trouble than good, for
reasons I won't go into here). All I meant is that in capitalism, if the
people with the money don't see the value of something, that it becomes
worthless, even if the people without money see it as valuable. (Sometimes,
of course, the people with the money will buy the people without the money
off by doing good; I imagine mostly when it has the chance of offering
long-term financial gain.)

Or more simply, by placing a value on things based on their relevance to
the people with money, rather then their relevance to the people who value
them, capitalism (and any other system similar in this regard) is aiding
and/or abetting the deaths of languages. Few people would regard it as a
loss to have written documentation of a language; I would imagine more
would regard it as a pro. Based on this, I would consider it a negative of
capitalism. (Though I'm turning shoulds into ares there...)

As to documenting ones own language, most people don't have the knowledge
to know how to. I certainly don't, and I have an interest in Linguistics.

> Is socialism any better at it? No, except that such governments steal
> more money and therefore have more to spend on those projects if they
> deem them necessary.

If socialism has money, then it's still capitalism (or at least still has
the same negatives), it's just moved the power to the Government (or the
soviets ore whatever it might have), rather than the 'Bourgeois' (one of a
handful of words IMD to have [u:] without /l/ after it). (And if the
Government has the power, then it's more fascist than communist I would've
though. Communism, as I've understood it, is system where the worker have
control; 'Communist' regimes weren't really.)

But yes, that's all off-topic and if someone wants to send me a message on
this topic, do it offlist.

> > and linguists
>
> Agreed. Too many ducks, not enough hunters.

What, so linguists are *killing* languages now? :P

> > > I feel we really need to do something about
> > lang extinction; it's
> > > extremely sad to see cool ways of doing
> > things being lost
> >
> > There's no way to stop them dying.
>
> The best thing you can do, as a nonlinguist, is to LEARN. Take any
> ancient art or craft or lifeway, learn it and live it. Learn how to
> knap flint; how to spin yarn on a distaff; how to make mead; how to
> paint frescoes; how to carve stone using bronze age tools; how to make
> bronze age tools; how to speak Cornish or any other dying language.
> Pass those skills on to others. Somebody, somewhere might just be
> willing to learn...

[I keep meaning to make mead. I had some at 0-week at uni last year and it
was nice. Aeons better than beer, but that isn't hard :) ]

Well, there's still the issue of languages not written down. While there
are still problems associated with those written, at least these ones can
stay in stasis for a while. (I assume most people don't have the resources
to stop what they're doing, move to some lost corner of the world for six
months, to learn a dying language, an activity with no value to the people
with money, otherwise why haven't we done it?) Not mentioning the
traditional dances and other cultural artefacts of a myriad of dying (or
murdered) cultures. (Learning how to paint frescoes, knap flint, spin
yarn, curve stone using bronze age tools and the like are activities I
would think could be re-learnt well after no-one's  practiced  them because
they leave things behind; by studying a bronze-age tool, you can learn how
to craaft  one. Whether or not the activity is therefore dead until the
laast  life-form is I'm not sure. Language and culture, on the other
hand---thousands have died before we've even known they existed. Some,
like Indo-European, we can reconstruct because they were fortunate enough
to have offspring. Others, like Krleni,* we can only hypothesise a
potential existence, because they did not, and no-one ever thought to
write it down.) You can slow down the deaths of some languages/cultures,
but they will die in the end. But don't let that stop you trying.

* /krle ni/, two syllables, is a nice-sounding word. Complex onsets, open
  syllabels, and /l/. Apropos of that, are there languages with complex
  onsets and no codas as the basic syllable-form?

> It, or any natural language you decide to learn and teach your
> children, will be useful if it is spoken in a context. If I learn
> Cornish and then always use it for prayer, my kids would pick up on
> that and learn the Cornish in that context. Even if we only rarely use
> it elsehow.

What happens when your children grow up and become atheist? or say grace
in the schoolyard and are chastised for speaking gibberish? (Similar
arguments will always apply.) I personally doubt a language spoken by 100
people can be saved but by documentation; I would be interested to hear of
any (promising) counter-examples.

(And also, if language is anything more than just gibberish with meaning,
then it's an insight into the culture

> Well, you can always buy acid free, archival
> paper. Or you could learn to write on parchment
> or carve upon stone or write on metal plates...

True. (Why do they put acid in paper anyway? There must be a reason.)

> > Which is not to say that it is totally
> > worthless; after all, when
> > civilisation collapses and we all revert to
> > fudalism or something, our
> > efforts to prevent slavery and child abuse will
> > be easily thwarted.
>
> Unless you're willing to take up as a warlord and are willing to blow
> the knackers off any child abuser that cowers before your Justice!

:) [Though I would solve the same problem in a different way; punishment
does more harm then good.]

> > I'm merely pointing out that these cool ways of
> > doing things will be lost
> > regardless of what we do; perhaps, though, we
> > can remember how these things were done.
>
> Sure. But there'll always be new cool ways of
> doing things as well...

Of course. I was going to say something about that. I imagine that English
will one day break up and we'll have Scots and Australian and New English
and Great Lakesish and New English and New Yorkish and New Zealish and so
forth, as we have French and Rumantsch and Mandarin and Cantonese.

--
Tristan