On May 9th, UNESCO officially launched the World Language Documentation Centre. While the WLDC has a mission broadly defined as “championing linguistic research and facilitating the needs of linguistic communities”, they initially seem to be focused primarily on promoting multilingualism in cyberspace. The OmegaWiki is an example of the type of initiative in which they are currently involved. The prime sponsor of the WLDC is GeoLang (the successor to Linguishphere) who is the registration authority for the ISO 639-6 database. (The ISO 639-6 standard is a system for identifying not only languages, but also variants within each language.) Continue reading
The Language Realm blog reports:
A new chapter in the debate about Chomsky’s theory of universal grammar has opened up with real excitement. So even if you’re not into hard-core linguistics and have only heard of UG, read on. It’s worth it.
The story starts with field research nicely summarized on Physorg. The key point is that Daniel L. Everett, a linguist at Illinois State University, claims that the language Pirahã lacks certain fundamental features that UG predicts and requires.
Read it here: The Language Realm Blog Universal Grammar Ghosts «
An endangered language is one that is likely to entirely cease being spoken within a few generations. This kind of language death is not the same as the gradual change undergone by “dead” ancient languages like Latin which did not suddenly cease to be spoken, but that slowly evolved into something new. In the case of Latin, it evolved into the modern romance languages like French and Italian.
Language extinction occurs as speakers of minority languages come under economic, social, and/or political pressure to adopt the majority language being spoken around them (Woodbury 2000). The pressure exerted by major world languages is evidenced by the fact that 50% of the world’s population speak one of the top 12 world languages (Ostler 2005:526). A language becomes extinct when all the members of the new generation have adopted the language of the outside majority and the last older generation speaker of the minority language has died.