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What I learned from Werner Herzog


At 7:56 PM, Blogger Andrew said...

"Environmentalism is very important, but people should not overlook how horrible it is that languages are rapidly dying: of 6000 spoken now, more than half will be dead by 2050."

I, for one, think that is a rather silly view. If you look at language as a form of art, sure. But I would wager the primary purpose of language is to facilitate communication. It is only common sense that as people mix much more easily than previously possible (eg jet planes, etc) that language would evolve into a single planetary language as soon as everyone is instantaneously connected. It already happened with computers (everyone in the world has an IP address if they want to 'talk' to anyone else) and it will happen with people eventually. Only politics could get in the way (eg future China views their language as 'better' and forces everyone to use it instead of X).

I guess this goes with his 'Tourism is sin.' line. But I won't get into how it is kind of hypocritical to say that and then make a movie like 'Wheel of Time'. Oh, but it is a metaphor. Hmm.. I guess he doesn't know what that metaphor is, either.

At 12:57 AM, Blogger Miguel said...

I don't think people who speak little-used languages should be told not to use more widely-used ones such as English.

However, I think Herzog is right that the basic trend of languages dying is too bad. To take one example, we actually know a lot about Yiddish - both its expressiveness and its rich cultural background; the fact that it is slowly becoming a scholars-only language is basically sad. Most of the "6000" (I have no idea how reliable that statistic is) we know next-to-nothing about, and their demise represents something of a lost opportunity for linguists, anthropologists, story collectors, and others.

It's an inevitable part of progress that certain historic artifacts are destroyed, but I think it would be a good idea to think of creative ways to reward people for keeping at-risk languages alive for posterity.

At 7:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

one kind of project already exists.. only ~1000 languages, though:


At 7:33 PM, Blogger joŇ°ko said...

I think we are moving toward a global daily usage of about a dozen languages in the next 150 years or so, and I also think it's sad.

Maybe someone will develop 'babel-fish' technology so we can preserve some diversity. But then again, there is often no one-to-one mapping between specific words, which is something awesome and a good reason to keep diversity. You know, like, the whole "Inuits have 90 different words for snow."

Meanwhile, if you're wondering where the 6000 laguages come from, consider that Papua New Guinea itself has 900, and it's only the size of California.

Wikipedia says there are about 7,330 languages on the planet with 39,491 dialects, give or take.

At 9:40 PM, Blogger Andrew said...

There is only one language. 100101010101101001010111010


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