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

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