Language: The Canary in the Coalmine

One of the very first blog entries I ever wrote, back in December of 2012, was Express Yourself While You Can. In it I posited the theory that languages are the keepers of culture. I know I behave differently when I’m speaking Spanish, and we often attribute different traits, rightly or wrongly, to people who speak certain languages. I also discussed how languages are dying every day.

Well, it seems that that blog entry was kind of prescient, because according to this story in PRI (Public Radio International), a study by the World Wildlife Fund has determined that language has a very close link to biodiversity as well. It makes perfect sense. The same things that kill off ecosystems also kill off languages. Things such as overpopulation and deforestation not only destroy the environment, but they drive away small pockets of people with unique idioms, scattering them to the four winds.

The study goes on to say that just like with animals, once a language dies, you can’t get it back. And that’s more of a tragedy than you may realize, because these languages often include very specific knowledge about local ecosystems. These people, who have lived in the area for centuries, speaking in their unique ways, know more about the local plants and animals than we ever will.

Scientists say that the statistics for the death of ecosystems and those of the death of languages have a great many parallels indeed. I know that if I never spoke Spanish again, a very outgoing, bubbly, flirty and confident part of me would wither and die. Tragedy upon tragedy…



4 thoughts on “Language: The Canary in the Coalmine

  1. Kramer

    Yes, like the code talkers of WW1 and WW2, Navajo, Cherokee, Choctaw, etc. One of the most beautiful languages I have ever learned in my life, and is on the brink of extinction. Sad.

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