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--- On Thu, 12/10/09, <deinx nxtxr> <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Not only would I say I'm pessimistic about preserving
> languages but how many are really worth preserving. 
> When they go extinct they do so because they are replaced by
> another language, usually a national language that provides
> access to a larger group.  I can see why certain
> languages should be documented because they have a body of
> literature that gives us a lot of historical information so
> there is something worthwhile to gain but keeping a language
> alive for its own sake doesn't make a lot of sense.

In linguistic circles, that would be considered politically incorrect to the point of racism, which is one reason I didn't pursue linguistics more than I did. I would say that the death of any language is a tragedy, just as the death of any person is a tragedy. But it isn't the Worst Thing. If I somehow had the choice of preserving endangered languages or seeing that starving people get enough to eat, I wouldn't hesitate at all: people are more important.

Documentation does matter regardless of the language, because each language tells us about Language in general. It's part of our data, and the more we have, the better.
 
> Hebrew is an example of one of those languages with rich
> history but you're right the modern language isn't the same
> thing.  These revivals are usually more like
> protolanguages than true resurrections.

They can't be the same. As Dr. Krauss asked, "How did they tell a child in Classical Hebrew to blow his nose?" We don't know. It's not in the Bible or any other Classical writing. So the "revivalists" had to make something up. Imagine how many times they had to do that with some perfectly ordinary word or phrase! A few times wouldn't matter, but eventually you would have a separate dialect, and eventually a separate language. And mostly because Classical Hebrew wasn't sufficiently documented for such a revival.

Steve