When Languages Die, They Stay Dead

John McWhorter defends his recent article on whether dying languages should be saved and spoken:

I write that within a context: of the 6000 languages on earth, it is estimated that only about 600 will exist a hundred years from now. The big languages are edging the tiny ones, and even the medium-sized ones, out. In recent centuries, this has been first because of active extermination – Native Americans were often forbidden to speak their home languages in school – and later because of “globalization”: children raised in a city by migrant parents are unlikely to learn the language their parents spoke back in the village...

[In] 2009 the simple fact is that there is a single example of a language brought alive from the page and now used as a native language by a massive population of users: Hebrew, and that was a very unusual story driven by a unique confluence of religious commitment, a sudden mixture of people speaking many different languages, and arrangements such as children early in the experiment that became modern Israel being removed from their parents and raised on kibbutzes where only Hebrew was spoken. This kind of thing can’t ever happen in, say, Ireland.

2006-2011 archives for The Daily Dish, featuring Andrew Sullivan

Why Principals Matter

Nadia Lopez didn't think anybody cared about her middle school. Then Humans of New York told her story to the Internet—and everything changed.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A History of Contraception

In the 16th century, men used linen condoms laced shut with ribbons.

Video

'A Music That Has No End'

In Spain, a flamenco guitarist hustles to make a modest living.

Video

What Fifty Shades Left Out

A straightforward guide to BDSM

Just In