Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Spoken Here

I'm getting quite enthusiastic about Mark Abley's Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages, which has been around for a few years but has only recently appeared in paperback. Not only is its theme--why the extinction of a language matters--important, but Abley has a good eye for detail and anecdote in each of the cultures he surveys. PLUS I'm finally learning what generative grammar is, I think.

A time-sucking website about language can be found here, courtesy of Brian Eno (of all people).

5 comments:

rindambyers said...

Thanks very much for the info on a book about languages I haven't yet got my greedy hands on...I ADORE books like this....just think of it! In other languages, there are words for concepts we can't even THINK about in English...

shewhousuallydoesn'tdothistypeofthing said...

OOOOO, it looks GREAT. Bill Bryson's The Mother Tongue, also very good. Also Made in America by same.

shewhousuallydoesn'tdothistypeofthing said...

I think it will be interesting to see what he says about the extinction of the Inuit. I am beginning to think that Farley Mowat is the only one who cares. The stories there are heartbreaking. And while we have native Canadians on reservations killing themselves at record rates and everyone beating their chests about what we have done to a people long gone, nobody is paying any attention to the people who are being "disappeared" in our own lifetime. The whole native thing has produced such a knee jerk reaction among the feel good about feeling bad about who we are set that it's hard to address it. But if you read their stories about their children being sent south to schools, families broken up, a way of life extinguished, a way of seeing the world gone, it is heartbreaking, not just for them but for the whole human race. Read FArley Mowet and see Snowwalker and read the first person accounts. It is shameful. it is hard to believe that we can be so blind. Or as the character of the boyfriend says in Hannah and Her Sisters, referring to the holocaust, when they ask how could this happen, they are asking the wrong question, given what we know about the human race, the question should be why doesn't it happen more often? But, of course, it does. It happens every day.

Andy Laties said...

Yes, I just read "1491" by Charles Mann and he poses this set of questions. He addresses the (presumed) death of 100 million pre-Columbian North/South Americans by asking the reader to imagine the Europeans as having discovered a Second Asia. What if those cultures had survived to inform world history??

But 97% of the people died of infectious hopscotching European diseases before many Europeans even made it out to those peoples' regions of the (two) continents. So -- hundreds of cultures lost.

Andy

rindambyers said...

Didn't anyone see the PBS documentary, about the book, "Guns, Germs, and Steel," at least the title had those three words in it that I remember, and I can't remember how to spell the author's name off-hand, but I want to re-see it and locate the books he's written. About a bird scientist who studied birds in the Amazon who started asking why? About this very subject. He started crying in the end of the film at the results of his own historical reasearch. It was heartbreakign to see and realize the implications of what he had discovered.