Why have 1500 separate languages developed in the Pacific region? Why do Danes understand Norwegians better than Norwegians understand Danish? Is Ebonics a language or a dialect?
Linguistics tends to ignore the relationship between languages and the societies in which they are spoken, while sociology generally overlooks the role of language in the constitution of society. In this book Suzanne Romaine provides a clear, lively, and accessible introduction to the field of sociolinguistics and emphasizes the constant interaction between society and language, discussing both traditional and recent issues including: language and social class, language and gender, language and education, and pidgins and creoles. The text shows how our linguistic choices are motivated by social factors, and how certain ways of speaking come to be vested with symbolic value and includes examples drawing on studies of cultures and languages all over the world.
This new edition incorporates new material on current issues in the study of gender as well as other topics such as the linguistic dimension to the ethnic conflict in the Balkans, and the controversy over Ebonics in the United States.
Few people know that nearly 100 native languages once spoken in what is now California are near extinction, or that most of Australia's 250 aboriginal languages have vanished. In fact, at least half of the world's languages may die out in the next century. What has happened to these voices? Should we be alarmed about the disappearance of linguistic diversity?
The authors of Vanishing Voices assert that this trend is far more than simply disturbing. Making explicit the link between language survival and environmental issues, they argue that the extinction of languages is part of the larger picture of near-total collapse of the worldwide ecosystem. Indeed, the authors contend that the struggle to preserve precious environmental resources-such as the rainforest-cannot be separated from the struggle to maintain diverse cultures, and that the causes of language death, like that of ecological destruction, lie at the intersection of ecology and politics.
And while Nettle and Romaine defend the world's endangered languages, they also pay homage to the last speakers of dying tongues, such as Red Thundercloud, a Native American in South Carolina, Ned Mandrell, with whom the Manx language passed away in 1974, and Arthur Bennett, an Australian, the last person to know more than a few words of Mbabaram.
In our languages lies the accumulated knowledge of humanity. Indeed, each language is a unique window on experience. Vanishing Voices is a call to preserve this resource, before it is too late.