Dying languages: What world linguistic diversity means for us

Brown University Linguistics Mini-Courses: The Third Language and Linguistics Mini-Course Series
May 21-25, 2012, 10:00 am - Noon
MacMillan Room 115

Tony Woodbury
Professor, Dept. of Linguistics, University of Texas at Austin
(email me)

Among the world’s 7000 language, more than half are poised for extinction in the next century. How does it happen? What does it matter? Does a culture disappear when a language dies? What is the scientific and humanistic significance, if any, of the wide differences in sound and grammar that we encounter in the world's languages? Are oral and written literatures in a language lost even when they are translated? This course delves into the work of language activists and documentary linguists—some speakers themselves—as they document endangered languages, identify what is special about them, and use them to ask questions about cognition, social behavior, human origins, literary expression, and more. 

Schedule of topics
Day 1: Language documentation, language preservation, and the nature and meaning of linguistic diversity

Day 2: Does a culture die when a language dies?

Day 3: On the documentation and significance of sound: Chatino tone languages

Day 4: On the documentation and significance of grammar: Cup'ik word structure

Day 5: On the documentation and significance of verbal art, poetics, music, and speech play