Endangerment of Language Isolates

Authored by: Eve Okura

Language Isolates

Print publication date:  September  2017
Online publication date:  September  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138821057
eBook ISBN: 9781315750026
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315750026.ch13

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Abstract

The death of a language is great loss to humanity on scientific, personal, social, and cultural levels. In Michael Krauss’ words:

In this circumstance, there is a certain tragedy for the human purpose. The loss of local languages, and of the cultural systems that they express, has meant irretrievable loss of diverse and interesting intellectual wealth, the priceless products of human mental industry.

(Krauss 1992:36) When that dying language is an isolate, the loss is even more dramatic. An entire system for coding human knowledge disappears from the earth with no way of retrieving that information. Although the loss of any language is a tragedy, in some cases, there are at least genetically related languages – surviving sister languages – that may share and thus preserve in a sense some of the features and richness lost in the extinct language. In the case of isolates, there are no surviving relatives.

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