Saturday, April 18, 2009

Five best: books on language

Michael Quinion, author of Gallimaufry: A Hodgepodge of Our Vanishing Vocabulary, named a five best list of books on language for the Wall Street Journal.

One book on his list:
Language in Danger
by Andrew Dalby
Columbia University, 2003

Languages not only change, they also die: World-wide, a language vanishes on average every two weeks. Andrew Dalby argues that each disappearance diminishes us, because a language encapsulates local knowledge and ways of looking at the human condition that die with the last speaker. Stronger languages squeeze out others: An early example is the language extinction that occurred around the Mediterranean in classical times, through the rise of Latin. Closer to our own time, minority languages -- Irish, Welsh, Native American and Australian tongues -- were banned in school to force minority groups to speak the language of the majority. The mood is now swinging toward encouraging minority languages, and some of those in danger may be saved. Dalby's engrossing account documents endangered languages throughout the world.
Read about Number One on Quinion's list.

--Marshal Zeringue