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Language Death (Canto) Paperback – 29 Apr 2002

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Product details

  • Paperback: 210 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; Canto Ed edition (29 April 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521012716
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521012713
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 1.3 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 566,573 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

David Crystal works from his home in Holyhead, North Wales, as a writer, editor, lecturer, and broadcaster. He published the first of his 100 or so books in 1964, and became known chiefly for his research work in English language studies. He held a chair at the University of Reading for 10 years, and is now Honorary Professor of Linguistics at the University of Wales, Bangor.

Product Description

Review

'… this work is directed at anyone with an interest in humanities and a concern about our future as mankind. Its wealth of information, observation and analysis enlightens the mind and invigorates the spirit of community and identity.' Language International

'This is the most personal and passionate of the many excellent books that Crystal has written in the past two decades.' The Times Higher Education Supplement

'David Crystal [is] the most charismatic lexicographer since Dr Johnson.' Boyd Tonkin, Independent

'A serious study of why so many languages across the world are dying.' Hasan Suroor, The Hindu

'… this book lucidly reveals the complex truth about language death, and suggests a practical programme to avoid it.' Good Book Guide

'Crystal provides a very readable and non-technical analysis.' Christianpolitics

'… this book so succinctly fulfils the goals which the author set himself …'. Bulletin of the School of Oriental & African Studies

'Language Death is an excellent book with which Crystal sharpens our sense of the complexity of language endangerment and eventual language loss.' Anglia (Zeitschrift für Englische Philologie)

Book Description

The endangerment and death of minority languages across the world is a matter of widespread concern. In this 2002 book, a leading commentator on language issues, David Crystal asks the question, 'Why is language death so important?', reviews the reasons for the current crisis, and investigates what is being done to reduce its impact.

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Laszlo Wagner on 9 Jan. 2005
Format: Paperback
This slim book is perhaps the best one in which to start reading about the danger of massive extinction of languages in our world.
The author, who claims to care much about this worrying issue despite admittedly never having spent longer periods in any endangered language environment, does a pretty good job systematically examining the causes of language death and what could be done to halt the process. He not only points out the fact that often communities themselves are to blame for not doing enough to pass on their native tongues to the following generation, but also examines what may have lead them to do so.
One shortcoming of the book is that very few actual "real-life" cases are mentioned to illustrate his points and breathe life into the subject, and those few cases that are mentioned only get a few lines - this leaves the text somewhat dry and academic.
He has also devoted one chapter to "Why should we care?", and as usual in books about this issue, that is where his writing is weakest. I found his arguments rather unconvincing, but also unnecessary - I personally don't feel the need to have practical arguments to care about preserving languages, which I think should be considered valuable in their own right.
A valuable extra in the book is the appendix listing organizations devoted to the preservation of endangered languages worldwide.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By "glam67" on 5 Mar. 2003
Format: Paperback
Having an interest in lesser used languages and a high regard for the author (acclaimed linguist, David Crystal) I purchased this book. I just could not put it down, until I had read from cover to cover. The most compelling, stimulating, enlightening and thought provoking language book I have ever picked up. Definately not one to pass by. I give this book my highest reccomendation.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 8 reviews
53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
Very readable, impassioned, scholarly, accessible to public 24 Oct. 2000
By Pete Unseth - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Crystal has done a difficult job well: he has produced a scholarly book about the "death" of languages that is readable by non-linguists, but also useful to linguists. "Language death" means that the last speakers of a language die, leaving nobody alive who knows and uses the language.
Just as many people are actively involved in preserving species from extinction, Crystal argues that preserving languages is also important. He argues clearly and passionately for the value of every language, however small its population. Each language is part of mankind's intellectual accomplishment; as we lose each language, we lose some of our collective humanity.
I was disappointed that Crystal does not credit the work of missionaries in stimulating ethnic awareness and promoting literacy among many minority language groups, rather mentioning only cases where they have been detrimental to language use (though he does not document any such cases).
The book is highly readable, the topic is timely, the price is reasonable: read the book.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
It Simply MUST Be Read! 5 Jan. 2004
By LostBoy76 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I think that this is an extremely important book that should be read by politicians and concerned citizens in every country around the world. The mass extinction of languages that is occurring, and will continue to occur, from now on is a terrible tragedy in every respect. This book seeks to enlighten the reader by giving reasons why languages die, why people should be so concerned, and suggests ways to keep minority languages alive and well. The thought that more than 50% of the world's six thousand or so languages are going to die by the year 2100 should be enough to get many people motivated about preserving languages (and cultures), but the word needs to get out. That's why a book like this is so vitally important. Governments, as a general rule, need a good shove when it comes to projects like saving languages, which some cynics would dismiss as trivial or a luxury. The simple, straightforward manner in which this book is presented can be read and appreciated by anyone, not just linguists. What I liked very much about the book was that it never went overboard in blaming the so-called "language killers" like English, Spanish, Russian, Mandarin, and German. It offered concrete answers and laid a good portion of the blame on the people themselves, not just their oppressors. Incidentally, English is unique in that it is actually killing the other "language killers" in addition to minority languages, and (if current trends continue) may be the only language left on Earth by the year 2500!!
A book like this has a particular resonance for me because I have been studying Irish Gaelic for the last six months and I am determined to be fluent in the language within the next couple of years. But Irish is a threatened language that has less than fifty thousand fluent speakers worldwide, and the forecast is not good for the language unless something drastic is done in Ireland. A strong majority of the Irish people want the language to thrive, but government incompetence, underfunding, and English encroachment even into the Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking areas) are still happening. It makes me so sad and angry that this problem isn't being given due concern! And this only my particular situation; the story is the same for so many other languages! Unless people start taking action and making an effort (reading a book like "Language Death" is an excellent start to get an idea of what's at stake), the voices of so many of our ancestors will disappear in the coming century.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A Good Introduction 17 Oct. 2004
By Laszlo Wagner - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This slim book is perhaps the best one in which to start reading about the danger of massive extinction of languages in our world.

The author, who claims to care much about this worrying issue despite admittedly never having spent longer periods in any endangered language environment, does a pretty good job systematically examining the causes of language death and what could be done to halt the process. He not only points out the fact that often communities themselves are to blame for not doing enough to pass on their native tongues to the following generation, but also examines what may have lead them to do so.

One shortcoming of the book is that very few actual "real-life" cases are mentioned to illustrate his points and breathe life into the subject, and those few cases that are mentioned only get a few lines - this leaves the text somewhat dry and academic.

He has also devoted one chapter to "Why should we care?", and as usual in books about this issue, that is where his writing is weakest. I found his arguments rather unconvincing, but also unnecessary - I personally don't feel the need to have practical arguments to care about preserving languages, which I think should be considered valuable in their own right.

A valuable extra in the book is the appendix listing organizations devoted to the preservation of endangered languages worldwide.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Are you bilingual? This book will make you think. 5 Sept. 2003
By readymade - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I originally ordered this book because I was curious about extinct languages, people that decrypt and study them. None of it I've found in this book, which I don't regret since the book is about something more important. I would say this book focuses on social processes that make language death possible and makes many valid points on why it is bad. Indeed, a language dies only because people speaking it abandon it in favour of another language. And this they do because they abandon their culture in favour of a "domination culture". The book unveils how it's all tied together. Quite an eye-opener.
Eveything that Crystal writes about in this book will make perfect sense to anyone who lives away from home in a different country or just actively uses a second language in everyday life. Very insightful book. And the price is just a joke!
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
An accessible presentation of a pressing world problem. 5 Oct. 2005
By Christopher Culver - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
David Crystal's book LANGUAGE DEATH is meant to bring attention for the general public to the dire loss of indigenous languages around the world--one every two weeks on average. This is a truly serious problem, and merits the attention of everyone. Crystal's work is somewhat scholarly--footnotes abound and it is published by Cambridge University Press--but the writer is expert at bringing eggheaded concerns to the average reader.

Crystal's book is organized according to five questions. In the first chapter, "What is language death?", he introduces the problem of the increasing disappearance of most of the world's tongues and how they are classified. "Why should we care?", the second chapter, explains the loss we face in the disappearance of each language. Crystal counters myths about language diversity. The existance of so many languages, he notes, is actually good for the market, for instead of fouling up capitalism, it creates competitive advantages when company A decides to deal with a minority group in its own language while company B thinks everyone should just learn English and consequently loses business. He also dispells the old myth peddled around by the Esperanto movement that having a single world language would create peace on Earth--after all, the 20th century has seen some bloody civil wars in places where people speak the same language, Cambodia, the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda...

"Why do languages die?" lays out how political oppression and globalization drives the disappearance of languages. One further cause that Crystal mentions, which I had never thought of before, is how the AIDS crisis in Africa will result in the death of myriad languages simply because all their speakers are dying. "Where do we begin?" recommends coordinated action, with both grassroots efforts to instill pride in one's native language combined with top-down government funding to finance traditional-language arts. "What can be done?" continues the previous chapter with a more long-range view.

If you find languages fascinating in the least bit, you should read LANGUAGE DEATH.
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