Posts Tagged ‘k. david harrison’
Monday is International Mother Language Day. Did you know the world shares 7,000 languages? Did you know more than half are endangered?
Linguist and leading specialist in the study of endangered languages K. David Harrison discusses these numbers and what it means for the health of the world’s intellectual history in a column for Huffington Post.
Harrison’s “Emerging Languages, Emergent Knowledge” column notes this: . . . we are now at risk of entering an informational and evolutionary bottleneck, heading for a global memory wipe as languages vanish.
What does this mean for ingenious peoples throughout the world?
While the top of the economic pyramid may be dominated by a few players, the knowledge pyramid is inversely skewed, with just 0.2 percent of the world’s population possessing a full 80 percent of our languages, and the vast knowledge they encode.
Humans spent millennia functioning in oral societies. Longevity of information was ensured by distributing it across multiple brains, and evolving complex social structures to ensure inter-generational transmission. In our knowledge-based economy, we now outsource most memory tasks to digital media, no longer memorizing stories, poems, or even phone numbers. But a hard drive is less durable than each successive medium that came before it: paper, papyrus, clay, stone, and human memory.
Just so you know: Feb. 21 is International Mother Language Day, established by UNESCO in 1999, “to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world.”