A language dies only when the last person who speaks it dies. One day it's there; the 1___________ it is gone. Here is how it happens. In late 1995, a linguist, Bruce Connell, was doing some field work in the Mambila region of Cameroon. He found a language called Kasabe, 2____________ no westerner had studied before. It had just one speaker left, a man called Bogon. Connell had no time on that visit to find out much about the language, so he decided to return to Cameroon a year later. He arrived in mid-November, only to learn that Bogon had died on November 5.
November 4, Kasabe existed 3__________ one of the world's languages; on November
6, it did not. The event might have 4___________ a stir in Bogon's village. If
you are the last speaker of a language, you are often considered
special in your community. You are a living monument to what the
community 5__________ was. But outside the village, who knew or 6__________ the
passing of what he stood 7_____________?
There is nothing unusual about a
single language dying. Communities have come and gone throughout
history, taking their languages with them. But, judged by the standards
of the past, what is happening today is extraordinary. It is language
extinction on a massive 8_____________.
According to the best 9_____________,
there are now about 6,000 languages in the world. Of these, about half
are going to die out during this century. This means that, on 10__________, there is a language dying out somewhere in the world every two
weeks or so.
A survey published by SIL International, formerly known as the Summer
Institute of Linguistics, established that there were 51 languages with
only one speaker left - 28 in Australia alone. There are almost 500
languages in the world with fewer than 100 speakers; 1,500 with fewer
than 1,000 speakers; more than 3,000 with fewer than 10,000 speakers;
and 11__________ staggering 5,000 languages with fewer than 100,000 speakers.
Ninety-four per cent of the world's languages are spoken by only 6% of
its people. No 12____________ so many are in danger.
Many languages die as a result of cultural assimilation. When one
culture assimilates 13____________, the sequence of events affecting the
endangered language is usually characterised by three broad stages. The
first is immense pressure 14___________ the people to speak the dominant language.
The second stage is a period of bilingualism: people become increasingly
efficient in their new language while still retaining competence in
their old. Then, often quickly, bilingualism starts to decline, with the
old language 15____________ way to the new. This leads to the third stage, in
which the younger generation increasingly finds its old language less
Is language death 16__________ a disaster?
Surely, you might say, it is simply a symptom of more people striving to 17_______________ their lives by joining the modern world. So 18_________ as a few
hundred or even a couple of thousand languages survive, that is
sufficient. No, it is not. We should care about dying languages for the
same reason that we care when a species of animal or plant dies. It
reduces the diversity of our planet. In the case of language, we are
talking about intellectual and cultural diversity, not biological
diversity, but the issues are the same.
Diversity occupies a
central place in evolutionary theory because it enables a species to
survive in different environments. Increasing uniformity holds dangers
for the long-term survival of a species. The strongest ecosystems are
those which are most diverse. 19___________ the development of
multiple cultures is a prerequisite for successful human development,
then the preservation of linguistic diversity is essential, because
cultures are chiefly transmitted through spoken and written languages.
Encapsulated within a language is most of a community's history and a
large part of 20_______________ cultural identity. "Every language is a temple," said
Oliver Wendell Holmes, "in which the soul of 21_________ who speak it is
Sometimes what we might learn from a language is
eminently practical, 22__________ when we discover new medical treatments from the
folk 23___________ of an indigenous people. Sometimes it is intellectual, as
when the links between languages tell us something about the movements
of early civilisations. Sometimes it is literary: every language has its
equivalent - even if only in oral form - of Chaucer, Wordsworth and
Dickens. And of course, very often it is linguistic: we learn something
new about language itself - the behaviour that makes us truly human, and
without which there would be no talk at all. Ezra Pound summed up the
core intellectual argument: "The sum of human wisdom is not contained in
any one language, and no single language is 24____________ of expressing all
forms and degrees of human comprehension."
Not everyone agrees.
Some people believe that the multiplicity of the world's
languages is a 25__________ rather than a blessing. If only we had just
one language in the world - 26___________ English, Esperanto, or whatever - we
would all be better 27__________. World peace would be established. Or 28_____________ they think.
Adapted from The Guardian
Stir: /stɜː(r)/ excitement, anger or shock that is felt by a number of people. Commotion. Sp. Revuelo. E:g. Her resignation caused quite a stir.
Mourn: /mɔːn/ to
feel and show sadness because somebody has died; to feel sad because
something no longer exists or is no longer the same. Grieve for. Sp. Llorar,
lamentar. E.g. He was still mourning his brother's death.
passing: the fact of something ending or of somebody dying. Sp. fallecimiento. E.g. When the government is finally brought down, no one will mourn its passing.
Stand for something: To represent; symbolize. Sp. Significar, representar. E.g. I like to think that our school stands for all that is best in education.
scale: the size or extent of something, especially when compared with something else. E.g. They entertain on a large scale (= they hold expensive parties with a lot of guests).
Estimate: /ˈestɪmət/ a
judgement that you make without having the exact details or figures
about the size, amount, cost, etc. of something. Sp. Cálculo. E.g. I can give you a rough estimate of the amount of wood you will need. Official government estimates of traffic growth over the next decade. At least 5000 people were killed, and that's a conservative estimate (= the real figure will be higher).
staggering: very shocking and surprising. E.g. It costs a staggering $50,000 per week to keep the museum open to the public.
give way (to somebody/something) 1. to be replaced by something, especially something newer or better. E.g. Over the next few years, the city's buses will give way to a new light rail system. 2. to stop resisting somebody/ something; to agree to do something that you do not want to do. E.g. He refused to give way on any of the points.
Strive, strove, striven: to try very hard to achieve something. Sp. Luchar, esforzarse. E.g. We encourage all members to strive for the highest standards. Newspaper editors all strive to be first with a story. She strove to find a solution that was acceptable to all.
as/so long as used before saying the conditions that will make something else happen or be true. E.g. My parents don't care what job I do as long as I'm happy. We'll go as long as the weather is good. So long as there is a demand for these drugs, the financial incentive for drug dealers will be there.
enshrine: to contain or keep something as if in a holy place. E.g. Almost two and a half million war dead are enshrined at Yasukuni. A lot of memories are enshrined in this photograph album.
eminently: (used to emphasize a positive quality) very; extremely. E.g. She seems eminently suitable for the job. Tony comes from an eminently respectable family.
Folk medicine consists of the healing practices and ideas of body physiology and health
preservation known to some in a culture, transmitted informally as
general knowledge, and practised or applied by anyone in the culture
having prior experience.
Folk medicine may also be referred to as traditional medicine, alternative medicine, indigenous medicine, complementary medicine, or natural medicine.
It is traditional medicine as practised nonprofessionally
especially by people isolated from modern medical services and usually
involving the use of plant-derived remedies on an empirical basis.
Empirical: based on experiments or experience rather than ideas or theories. E.g. empirical evidence/ knowledge/ research. An empirical study.
curse: something that causes harm or evil. An unpleasant situation or influence that continues for a long time. Sp. maldición. E.g. the curse of drug addiction. Noise is a curse of modern city life. The curse of unemployment
whether used to show that something is true in either of two cases. E.g. You are entitled to a free gift whether you accept our offer of insurance or not. I'm going whether you like it or not. Whether or not we're successful, we can be sure that we did our best. The journey, whether by road or rail, takes under four hours.
be better off (doing something) used to say that somebody is/ would be happier or more satisfied if they were in a particular position or did a particular thing. E.g. She's better off without him. The weather was so bad we'd have been better off staying at home.