by Nicholas Evans. The setting was chosen because much of Evans' work has dealt with indigenous languages of Australia.
Dying Words deals with a subject I am passionate about – the study and preservation of the many languages of humanity.
Professor Burridge said, amongst other things:
• The book is timely, due to the crisis in loss of languages. Of the six thousand extant languages, half will probably die in this century.
• It has much to say to experts in the field of linguistics.
• It is readable and enjoyable and is accessible to the general public.
Google book Search has a so-called 'preview' of the book, so it should be possible to read parts of it and decide whether you want to buy it. I bought it, because I'm interested in the way languages shape our view of the world. It seems a tragedy every time a language dies - that is, when the last speaker of the language dies. I remember, many years ago, meeting a young woman who said her language, Romansh, was nearly gone.
However, I read on a Swiss site that the language is still in use today.
Though Rumantsch has been an official language in canton Grisons for centuries, it has not been officially recognized as a national language of Switzerland until 1938. The sudden recognition was motivated by Switzerland's will to resist the ideology of incorporation of all ethnic Germans and Italians into Hitler's German Reich or Mussolini's fascist Italy. So the exotic fourth national language was very welcome to demonstrate that Switzerland is different from its neighbours ...
Until towards the end of the 20th century, there was no such thing as a standard Rumantsch language. If at all, people wrote in one of the five local dialects - which made it definitely unrealistic that anybody would translate anything into Romansh for a few readers (considering that a total of only 60,000 people are speaking one of the five Rumansch dialects). When it became clear that Rumantsch risks to become extinct the Lia Rumantscha [league for the preservation of the Rumantsch language] defined a common standard language called Rumantsch Grischun in 1982.
It seems a huge task to try to prevent small language groups being overwhelmed by larger ones, but all humanity loses out when a unique way of visualising the world is lost. I'm looking forward to reading Nicholas Evans' book, to see what he says about this distressing situation.