|John McWhorter teaches linguistics, American studies and music history at Columbia University. His latest book is “The Language Hoax: Why the World Looks the Same in Any Language.”|
It’s a question I can expect whenever I do a lecture about the looming extinction of most of the world’s 6,000 languages, a great many of which are spoken by small groups of indigenous people. For some reason the question is almost always posed by a man seated in a row somewhere near the back.
Asked to elaborate, he says that if indigenous people want to give up their ancestral language to join the modern world, why should we consider it a tragedy? Languages have always died as time has passed. What’s so special about a language?
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