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Few people kw that nearly 100 native languages once spoken in what is w California are near extinction, or that most of Australia's 250 aboriginal languages have vanished. In fact, at least half of the world's languages may die out in the next century. What has happened to these voices? Should we be alarmed about the disappearance of linguistic diversity? The authors of Vanishing Voices assert that this trend is far more than simply disturbing. Making explicit the link between language survival and environmental issues, they argue that the extinction of languages is part of the larger picture of near-total collapse of the worldwide ecosystem. Indeed, the authors contend that the struggle to preserve precious environmental resources-such as the rainforest-cant be separated from the struggle to maintain diverse cultures, and that the causes of language death, like that of ecological destruction, lie at the intersection of ecology and politics. And while Nettle and Romaine defend the world's endangered languages, they also pay homage to the last speakers of dying tongues, such as Red Thundercloud, a Native American in South Carolina, Ned Mandrell, with whom the Manx language passed away in 1974, and Arthur Bennett, an Australian, the last person to kw more than a few words of Mbabaram. In our languages lies the accumulated kwledge of humanity. Indeed, each language is a unique window on experience. Vanishing Voices is a call to preserve this resource, before it is too late.
Daniel Nettle received his Ph.D. in Anthropology from University College London. He is the author The Fyem Language of Northern Nigeria and Linguistic Diversity (OUP). He lives in London. Suzanne Romaine has been Merton Professor of English Language at the University of Oxford since 1984. She is the author of numerous books, including Language, Education and Development: Urban and Rural Tok Pisin in Papua New Guinea and Language in Society: An Introduction to Sociolinguistics (both by OUP). She lives in Oxford.
Winner of BAAL (British Association for Applied Linguistics) Book Prize 2001.