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Thug Language

We don't necessarily think of languages as if they were living organisms, but in a way that is what they are. Languages are like animal species that evolve and die out. An article in the New Yorker says that a "great wave of language extinctions" took place eight or nine thousand years ago as people gave up hunting and gathering and started settling in ever-larger communities based on agriculture. A second great wave of language extinction began with Europe's colonization of the Americas and Oceana, and is currently in full swing. The planet now has 6,000 languages, but by the year 2100, the number could be half of that.

About 2,000 years ago Hebrew faded as a spoken language but was kept alive through rituals, ceremonies and texts. The Zionists were able to revive it in the late nineteenth century. Today, there are three million Hebrew speakers.

Right now there are many efforts to revitalize Native American languages. The Cherokees here in western North Carolina, for example, are making a strong effort to revive their language. Which brings me to today's quotation, by James McNicoll, passed on to me by Cherokee speaker Tom Belt:


"English doesn't borrow from other languages. English follows other languages down dark alleys, hits them over the head and goes through their pockets for loose vocabulary."

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sledding

August 2017

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