- Hardcover: 208 pages
- Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1st UK Edition 1st Printing edition (June 26, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0521653215
- ISBN-13: 978-0521653213
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #731,186 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Language Death 1st UK Edition 1st Printing Edition
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From Library Journal
Gauging that half of the world's estimated 6000 languages are threatened with extinction in the next 100 years, Crystal (editor, Cambridge Encyclopedia) explains why this is problematic and what can be done about it. He analyzes statistics that indicate the number of dying languages, explains the physical and cultural pressures contributing to language death, and cites bi- and multilingualism as the key to maintaining linguistic diversity. He also appeals to multiculturalism, noting the unique contributions linguistic diversity makes to both the arts and the sciences. Moreover, Crystal provides six characteristics of successful language maintenance efforts, which ideally combine literacy and education with improving the economic and political standing of the minority-language community. This well-documented book serves best as a starting point for further research. Not listed in the bibliography are two related books also being published this year: in Vanishing Voices (LJ 6/15/00), Daniel Nettle and Suzanne Romaine examine the current domination of a few languages and provide economic and ecological motivation to support linguistic diversity, while editor Joshua Fishman's forthcoming Can Threatened Languages Be Saved? (Multilingual Matters, 2000) contains case studies about a number of languages. Recommended for academic and larger public libraries.DMarianne Orme, West Lafayette, IN
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
'... this work is directed at anyone with an interest in humanities and a concern about our future as mankind. Its wealth of information, observation and analysis enlightens the mind and invigorates the spirit of community and identity.' Language International'
'This is the most personal and passionate of the many excellent books that Crystal has written in the past two decades.' The Times Higher Education Supplement
'David Crystal [is] the most charismatic lexicographer since Dr Johnson.' Boyd Tonkin, Independent
'A serious study of why so many languages across the world are dying.' Hasan Suroor, The Hindu
Professor David Crystal, a linguistics expert, whose book Language Death examines the prospects for 3,000 endangered languages.' in an article on Celtic languages.' Independent on Sunday
'Fascinating to the specialist and non-specialist alike, this is an important book which puts across its point in clear accessible prose.' Contemporary Review
'... inspiring by its inexhaustible optimism and its firm belief that something can and should be done ...'. Asian and African Studies
'Thanks to his skilful deployment of statistics, his book brings out starkly the scale of language loss that we are currently experiencing ...'. The Linguist
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Top Customer Reviews
Just as many people are actively involved in preserving species from extinction, Crystal argues that preserving languages is also important. He argues clearly and passionately for the value of every language, however small its population. Each language is part of mankind's intellectual accomplishment; as we lose each language, we lose some of our collective humanity.
I was disappointed that Crystal does not credit the work of missionaries in stimulating ethnic awareness and promoting literacy among many minority language groups, rather mentioning only cases where they have been detrimental to language use (though he does not document any such cases).
The book is highly readable, the topic is timely, the price is reasonable: read the book.
A book like this has a particular resonance for me because I have been studying Irish Gaelic for the last six months and I am determined to be fluent in the language within the next couple of years. But Irish is a threatened language that has less than fifty thousand fluent speakers worldwide, and the forecast is not good for the language unless something drastic is done in Ireland. A strong majority of the Irish people want the language to thrive, but government incompetence, underfunding, and English encroachment even into the Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking areas) are still happening. It makes me so sad and angry that this problem isn't being given due concern! And this only my particular situation; the story is the same for so many other languages! Unless people start taking action and making an effort (reading a book like "Language Death" is an excellent start to get an idea of what's at stake), the voices of so many of our ancestors will disappear in the coming century.
Eveything that Crystal writes about in this book will make perfect sense to anyone who lives away from home in a different country or just actively uses a second language in everyday life. Very insightful book. And the price is just a joke!
The author, who claims to care much about this worrying issue despite admittedly never having spent longer periods in any endangered language environment, does a pretty good job systematically examining the causes of language death and what could be done to halt the process. He not only points out the fact that often communities themselves are to blame for not doing enough to pass on their native tongues to the following generation, but also examines what may have lead them to do so.
One shortcoming of the book is that very few actual "real-life" cases are mentioned to illustrate his points and breathe life into the subject, and those few cases that are mentioned only get a few lines - this leaves the text somewhat dry and academic.
He has also devoted one chapter to "Why should we care?", and as usual in books about this issue, that is where his writing is weakest. I found his arguments rather unconvincing, but also unnecessary - I personally don't feel the need to have practical arguments to care about preserving languages, which I think should be considered valuable in their own right.
A valuable extra in the book is the appendix listing organizations devoted to the preservation of endangered languages worldwide.