World in HandsI seem to reasonably often post about languages that are becoming extinct, so I found this programme on the BBC of some interest.

Generally, I tend to think of the death of languages as a bad thing because of the associated loss of culture and heritage. This show presents alternative views, for example explaining that some tribes want the next generation to learn the most dominant language in their area so they can progress and get a good education.

With 6% of the world’s languages spoken by 94% of the population, there are arguments that the loss of some languages is the result of natural selection.

One linguist, Professor Salikoko Mufwene, of the University of Chicago, has argued that the social and economic conditions among some groups of speakers “have changed to points of no return”.

As cultures evolve, he argues, groups often naturally shift their language use. Asking them to hold onto languages they no longer want is more for the linguists’ sake than for the communities themselves.

There will continue to be debate about this issue, and it’s interesting to see what the commenters say about the story. One poster is for a single global language:

The utility of a single global language, spoken by everyone as their mother tongue, would surely outweigh any loss of cultural heritage. The proliferation of Scots Gaelic bilingual signs in areas without Gaelic speakers (Aberdeenshire?!) is eccentric to say the least. Let languages die their natural deaths -there are plenty left.
Danny McShane, Aberdeen

While another feels:

When a language disappears, the knowledge and thought that has been stored in the language through generations of use, disappears with it. With the growth of powerful and widespread world languages, such as English, Chinese and Spanish, it will be necessary to take steps to protect linguistic diversity, in order to ensure the survival of smaller languages.
Shouvik Datta, Orpington, Kent, United Kingdom

What are your thoughts? Is a single global language a good idea? Would it help promote peace and understanding? Or is linguistic diversity essential to human culture?