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Dying Words: Endangered Languages and What They Have to Tell Us (The Language Library) [Kindle Edition]

Nicholas Evans

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  • Sprache: Englisch
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"Its straightforward and compelling style will make it appealing to a general audience as well as to professional linguists and anthropologists." (Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 10 April 2013)
"This is a wonderful book.... This is story telling of the highest quality - with each story told in its relevant language, together with a translation - but it is also text with some messages of great importance." (Aboriginal History, 1 January 2011)
"Evans's book is one of the most penetrating and insightful works we have had on language for years." (Current Anthropology, February 2011)
"In sum, this is the best book I've yet seen in terms of its potential to persuade the broader public of the need to value endangered languages and to support the fight to keep them in daily use. Will Dying words convince my recalcitrant friends? I don't know, but I will urge them to try it." (Language Documentation and Conservation, 2010)
"In sum, this is the best book I've yet seen in terms of its potential to persuade the broader public of the need to value endangered languages and to support the fight to keep them in daily use." (Language Documentation and Conservation, October 2010)
"The style of this book is at a level that both interested laypersons and undergraduate students of linguistics can understand - and indeed be inspired by - without excessive pondering. But its content is so important, so beneficial - and hitherto, so distinctive among works of general linguistics - that it should be put into the hands of most, if not all, graduate students in this field. It is supported with good bibliographies which will generate further interest in its readers through the examples it discusses. With luck, it will encourage them to go out and do likewise." (International Journal of Applied Linguistics, Spring 2010)
"Of all the books on language disappearance that have appeared in the last decade, Dying Words is intellectually the most challenging and the most persuasive. Evans sets out to show why linguistic diversity is an essential part of what makes us human ... .Modestly yet persuasively, Evans has thrown down an intellectual guantlet." (Times Literary Supplement, May 2010)
"I predict that Dying Words will be an important addition to the fields of linguistics and cultural anthropology.... Evans maintains a style which is thought-provoking without being overbearing. I found the experience of reading Dying Words to be an exciting one." (Journal of Folklore Research, January 2010)
"Nicholas Evans ... has written a sensitive and deeply persuasive book about what endangered languages can tell us. He gives us a huge mosaic of the dwindling storehouse of human discovery that is our languages. That's why we should care." (Courier Mail, August 2009)
"Dying Words ... is an astonishing book. This is a study of dying languages, of tremendous variety and richness. It makes clear ... the importance of describing each language and each culture on its own terms ... .I recommend this book to any person with an enquiring mind, prepared to be astonished by the variety of languages, living and dead, which enrich our world." (Teacher Magazine, September 2009)
"Evans has made an outstanding contribution toward increasing awareness of endangered languages with this book, and it deserves to be one of the go-to books on the topic." (Linguist List, August 2009)
"Evans describes the dimensions of the loss, culled from his years of work in northern Australian Aboriginal communities, in the recently released Dying Words: Endangered Languages and What They Have to Tell Us." (The Australian, June 2009)
"While some linguists worry that helping communities shore up their languages saps too much time from research, Evans believes that linguists who document languages in the field should take an active role in such activities." (The Chronicle of Higher Education, May 2009)
"Nicholas Evans manages to conquer the mammoth task of sharing the plight of the endangered languages of the world in a manner that very few have been able to do. Intertwining anecdote and narrative with concepts of linguistics, Evans touches upon the need for awareness about the plight of the world's languages without unnecessary dramatics." (Endangered Languages, April 2009)


"A fascinating and colourful view of what we are losing as languages die, by a linguist who understands the significance of our loss more deeply than most."
-Greville G. Corbett, University of Surrey
"Nick Evans' book is an elegant, eloquently rendered narrative of the human story as revealed through our languages. With deep erudition in world literatures both oral and written, he captures the interplay between speaker and tradition, word and thought, language and land; and he shares with his readers the intellectual life of speakers and humanist-scientists seeking to preserve and document this heritage."
-Tony Woodbury, University of Texas at Austin


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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 4.1 von 5 Sternen  9 Rezensionen
5 von 5 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Aim is general population not complex writing 1. Februar 2010
Von Abigail Brown - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Taschenbuch|Verifizierter Kauf
Easy to follow, easy to understand and Evans has a sense of humour within his writing. You don't have to worry about deep, technical and complex linguistics. The text is aimed at general audiences which is refreshing. Even though I was required to read it for a seminar in linguistics it was the few books that I enjoyed.
4 von 4 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen From dying words to living language 21. April 2010
Von Serena D. Gould - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
I was entranced with my journey through this book from first to last- one in which the reader does not need to be a linguist, a sociologist, or a specialist, but only a member of the tribe of curious people.

The only thing that stopped me from gobbling it all up in one weekend was the temptation to stretch it out and prolong the pleasure.

Nick Evans tells a story that lies at the epicenter of the ebb and flow of human history. It reveals the narrative of human experience through a wonderful voyage of discovery into the common ties of language, culture and, ultimately, our membership in the world of intelligent beings. The reader engages in a fascinating journey into the aspects of the human soul that are common to us all as well as those that differentiate us from others.
3 von 3 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen A wonderful book about dying languages and linguistics in general 25. April 2012
Von San Franciscan for Peace - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
"Dying Words: Endangered Languages and What They Have To Tell Us" not only renewed my decades-old avocational interest in linguistics, but proved overwhelmingly fascinating as well. The author is a Professor of Linguistics at the Australia National University College of Asia-Pacific who specializes in Australian Aboriginal languages, but who also has vast and deep knowledge of other small and dying languages around the world. The book focuses on languages spoken by small communities--some with only a handful, at most, of speakers left--and the worldviews they represent, many of which differ very significantly from the perspectives of large and ever-growing languages such as English, Chinese, and Spanish. For just a few examples, consider the following (written as well as they can be in the restricted character set available to me in this review): in Ubykh, a dying language in the Caucasus, the one-word verbal expression aqhjazbacr'aghawdoetwaaylafaq'aytmadaqh translates roughly as "if only you had not been able to make him take it all out from under me again for them"; while !Xoo, spoken in Namibia has from 84 to 159 consonant sounds, as opposed to English's roughly 45; in Nuxalk, also known as Bella Coola, spoken in British Columbia, Canada, xlp'xwltlpllskwc' says "he had a bunchberry plant"; in Navajo (made famous by the Navajo code talkers employed by the U.S. forces in the Pacific in World War II), there are many "l"-like sounds and the possibility of assigning a low or high tone to each syllable in a word to change its meaning; and in the Australian Aboriginal language Kayardild, distinguishing two kinds of r-like sounds and t-like sounds can turn what translates as "I'll see you tomorrow; I won't come back to the beach this evening." into "I'll bathe you tomorrow; I won't have sex with you to the beach this evening." Switching from sounds to perception of the natural world, in at least one Aboriginal language, it's vitally important to give directions by points of the compass, as I learned to do at least in part when I moved from the East Coast of the U.S. to the Great Plains, and as I still do in part living in San Francisco.
2 von 2 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen An informative and enjoyable book about languages and their speakers 14. Januar 2013
Von E. J. Teh - Veröffentlicht auf
As I read this book, I felt like I was on an exciting cultural excursion! DYING WORDS takes readers on a linguistic journey all over the world: around Australia, Asia, the Americas and Europe; through modern and remote cultures, and into both monolingual and multilingual societies. By looking through the lens of language, the author skilfully explores the different perspectives of people all over the world.

The journey also goes far back into history. Ancient language samples reveal information about long-dead communities, such as their lifestyles, skills, ideas and possible origins. I was most fascinated by the author's insight into how Homer's epic poem may have been orally composed years before writing was formed.

The book shows that languages capture valuable knowledge about a community's specialised age-old knowledge - be it in botany, geology or other fields. It makes me wonder how much more than a language is lost when its last speaker dies!

Using a combination of theory and amusing anecdotes, the author makes a strong case that we need to find a way for our languages of today to be preserved for tomorrow...or to use the charming metaphor of one culture, "for our words to beach safely" (page 221). Overall, an enjoyable, informative and thought-provoking book!
3 von 4 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Informative, but lacks the polish to make it truly enjoyable 5. Februar 2012
Von Christopher Culver - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
DYING WORDS by Nicholas Evans makes a case that the rapid disappearance of languages around the world risks depriving the human race of vital knowledge. Over the past decade or so, a number of books have been published about language diversity in danger and why it matters, but DYING WORDS is perhaps the most theoretically detailed survey so far. In spite of suggestions in the introduction that Evans is writing for a fairly popular audience (for example, he describes phonetic transcription and glossing as if the reader doesn't know), it swiftly becomes clear that he is writing for a university audience that has at least basic training in linguistics.

If you don't have such formal training, you'll probably be over your head. Instead, try K. David Harrison's books The Last Speakers, written for the general public, or When Languages Die, more theoretical but accessible to dilettantes.

DYING WORDS is centered around four central reasons why the death of undocumented or insufficiently documented languages is a loss:

* Languages may contain data on the natural world that scientists have not yet discovered. This theme forms a large part of other books on the threat to language diversity, but Evans gives it the least attention. Still, he does cite several recent cases where botanists or zoologists were led to new discoveries after encountering speakers of indigenous languages.

* By looking at a wide array of languages, we can discern what ways of speaking can, through common use, become grammaticalized, that is, become obligatory in discourse.

* There are still undeciphered writing systems, but if descendents of the language inscribed in them still survive today, they can provide vital clues for decipherment.

* Lesser-known languages have provided key data for exploring the relationship between language and cognition, such as the infamous Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. Here Evans draws heavily on recent descriptions of Australian Aboriginal languages that require the speaker to always keep his geographical bearings (as spatial expressions require reference to compass points)

* Languages are inseparate from their poetic traditions, and evidence from smaller languages reveals mankind's capacity for poetic techniques features that may not be attested in cultures documented to date.

DYING WORDS will aid budding linguists to understand the importance of language diversity so that they can then make their case to the public. However, it has its flaws. One issue, as I mentioned before, is that Evans is clearly writing for an audience trained in linguistics, but he still laboriously explains concepts that such readers would have already learnt very early on (such as IPA and the comparative method).

There are other points where the book could have used more attention from the editor. For example, at one point he says Coptic may have survived until the 19th century in some places, and later he calls it "extinct in everyday life for a thousand years".

Still, for readers who want to see a case for language diversity made especially on the basis of the study of typology and universals, there is some valuable material here. And if you enjoyed Guy Deutscher's THROUGH THE LANGUAGE GLASS, Evans examines some of the same unusual languages.
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