Sunday, December 07, 2014

Does language really matter?

People are talking today, rightly, about John McWhorter's piece in the NY Times, "Why save a language?".  But a similar question is treated beautifully in a piece by Ewa Czaykowska-Higgins and colleagues (University of Victoria) in the Times Colonist, "Language a strong symbol of cultural identity". It treats revitalization efforts in British Columbia. Here's the punchline:

Supporting the health of these languages is … one way to support and strengthen the well-being of individuals and communities, and to support education and economies.
Language is, in the relevant sense here, very local, and the focused perspective of this piece makes it particularly valuable. But especially relevant for us here in Wisconsin is the partnerships between linguists and communities in revitalization work.

It's important to have good answers when the why-save-a-language stuff comes up (and it does), but the hard work on the ground here is far more important.

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