Let Languages Die?

I recently attended a conference and a lecture on translation by Diego Marani at the University of Bristol. The lecture, which was on artificial languages such as Esperanto for instance, aimed at demonstrating how this utopia of creating a simple and immutable language is not viable.

Because these languages are not linked to a particular culture, they cannot accurately represent or express concepts that some people have. Because they are unchangeable, they cannot adapt to a time culture. These languages are restrictive, purely functional and consequently unpractical in many situations and for many people. Consequently, artificial languages soon die out – if they ever live.

When, at the end of the lecture, someone from the audience asked: “So do you think that dying languages and dialects are not worth saving, then?”, Diego Marani made the interesting point that, for him, a language could not be saved by itself. A language depends on its culture, therefore the culture needs to be nurtured, supported, used for such things as science, discoveries, philosophy, literature, etc. for the language to remain relevant to its speakers and alive.

This was a perspective that even we, linguists in the audience, had not necessarily thought of, however logical or even obvious it seems once enunciated.

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