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Janielle Guzinski

Graduate Student - Landscape Architecture,

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What will happen when the world speaks only a few languages?

Increasing levels of globalization are causing a few languages to spread at unprecedented rates. But many less common languages and their associated cultures are going extinct. Programs exist for the conservation of species and habitats at risk of extinction, but very little attention is given to language extinction. Some scientists are suggesting that there are more languages at risk of extinction than bird or mammal species

Does language extinction really matter? It is hard to imagine how the loss of a language halfway around the world would impact your life, and diversity in language makes it difficult to understand one another. But should that diversity be preserved?



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    Jun 6 2013: I think that language diversity is important because no two languages convey the exact same meanings with every word said. For example, in English you can say “My friend and I went to the park yesterday” and no one knows the gender of your friend, but if you say the same thing in Spanish, the listener has to know the gender of your friend (amigo vs amiga). These differences affect how you can convey spoken information to others in a language.
    There are also many types of slang that make sense in one language but are impossible to translate to another. For example, one of my favorite insults in Spanish is “La madre que te parió” lit. “The mother who gave birth to you.” Depending on the context it can be very offensive, but I’ve most often heard it used in a more friendly context, to express astonishment or admiration for someone you know when they do something crazy/outlandish. (I’m obviously not an expert on Spanish, this is just how I’ve heard and used this phrase in Spain. This may not be true in other Spanish speaking countries). It’s hard to explain but I really like the phrase and what can be conveyed by using it and I can’t think of an equivalent in English.
    It’s hard for me to convey these ideas in a comment, but what I’m trying to say is that different languages allow/require us to interact with others in different ways, by the implicit and explicit information the grammar and syntax require us to provide when speaking and by the unique words and phrases that exist in every language. Losing languages entails loosing this diversity in expressing ourselves and in some ways our ability to describe our experiences and the world around us. So, I do think that language extinction matters
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      Jun 6 2013: Wonderful contribution Christine. (your first paragraph)

      It made me think of the Greek language, and the many words for love.
      Some languages are richer than others.

      Now if we could combine all these into one........well then......

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