Sunday, 28 March 2010

The language collector - save the world's languages

There is a good article by Mark Turin in the latest CAM magazine called the Language Collector which charts the challenges of trying to record and collect some of the world's languages before they disappear. He tells of his work in Nepal where he has been learning Thangmi - a language which was until recently not only endangered but also almost undescribed. You can read the full article on page 24 of the magazine (pdf here).
Turin is part of the World Oral Literature Project which has a website with links to good resources, lectures and further reading on how to protect and collect the disappearing langauges and oral literature of the world. Turin will also be making a contribution to the Cambridge ideas series on youtube from mid April, something to lok out for.
In the CAM article he gives a good defence of calling the oral narratives of languages and cultures "literature". Great literature does not have to be either written or printed to be great or literary. In oral cultures the reliance is on human beings speaking the language and learning the literature across the generations, the people their tongues and memories are themselves the living literature ... but if there are no people speaking the language any more then the story will be lost and the narrative of literature will not go on.

1 Comment:

janetlees said...

I told Hannah about this - it sounds right up her street.