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Book Title: Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages|
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 320 KB
v The author of the book: Mark Abley
Edition: Heinemann Educational Books
Date of issue: January 1st 2004
ISBN 13: 9780434011537
City - Country: No data
Read full description of the books Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages:A Canadian poet and journalist goes around the world visiting speakers of moribund languages. Aborigines of Northern Australia progressed within a few generations from the Mesolithic to their current lives of crime, welfare dependency, junk food and resultant diabetes, and watching television. Unsurprisingly, young people among them consider American rap music (and the language thereof) to be more relevant to their lives than traditional creation myths (and the languages thereof). Murals depicting idyllic traditional lives are besmirched with graffiti "NO MORE CULTURE FOR US GANGSTA GAMES WE RIDE" and "WE ARE THE JAIL BIRD WESTSIDE GANGSTERS OKAY MOTHER F---ERS". Manx revival enthusiasts force their small children to speak the language they themselves speak poorly, and coin Manx words for diapers and pacifier; at least they don't make them speak Klingon, like this linguist father. A ProvenÃ§al revival enthusiast defends the language as the true language of Provence, which is threatened not only by French, but also by the Arabic and Berber of immigrants. A Yiddish play about Harry Houdini staged in Montreal had tableaux translating the dialogue into English and French; where the English translation had "G-d", the French one had "Dieu" instead of "D---"; during the intermission, all conversations were in English and French except for a single one in Yiddish. At a lecture by Ruth Wisse, a professor of Yiddish literature at Harvard, a French Canadian man asked her why the Jews do not support the struggles of the Quebecois: without Quebec's notorious language laws, their language could suffer the fate of Yiddish in Anglophone North America.
Mark Abley acknowledges that he is a journalist and not a professional linguist, but at least he could have gotten one to proofread his book. It is probably not true that a certain Australian Aboriginal language and its forerunners were spoken "before the foundations of Sumer and Babylon were dug - and before the great myth of Babel first entered anyone's mind" in the area where its last living speakers live. The forerunner of English was spoken at that time too; it probably resembled Sanskrit (the noun has masculine, feminine and neuter genders, singular, dual and plural numbers, and 8 cases) or Hittite (the noun has animate and inanimate genders, singular and plural numbers, and 7 cases), and it was not spoken in England. Why should we assume that the Australian Aboriginal language changed less in 5000 years, and its speakers didn't move? What does it mean to say that among the living languages of Europe, only Basque is older than Welsh? The people of Rome have been speaking some sort of Latin for at least 2700 years; we call different stages of the language by different names (Old Latin, Classical Latin, Vulgar Latin, medieval Italian, modern Italian), but there is an unbroken chain of native speakers going back this far, and a record of the language slowly changing. The people of Crete have been speaking some sort of Greek for at least 3300 years. What makes Basque and Welsh older than Greek and Italian? Recent English borrowings into Russian like "defolt" and "keellyer" no more make the language impure than recent Arabic borrowings into English like "mujahid" and "shahid" make English impure. A language that does not require a dummy subject in sentences like "It rains" does not have to be as exotic as Hopi; in Spanish it is "Llueve". In an Australian Aboriginal language, a certain noun can mean a cycad (a kind of plant), its seeds, a cockroach that lives in its dead fronds, and a man with the cockroach totem, depending on the noun class. This sounds exotic until you consider that in American English, a jet is a stream of fluid, a kind of aircraft engine consisting of a gas turbine emitting a stream of hot gas, an aircraft powered by such engines, and (spelled "Jet") a member of an American football team whose home stadium is frequently overflown by such aircraft, depending on the context (there is an unrelated homonym meaning black coal, and an adjective describing the color of such coal, frequently applied to hair). The words in the Australian Aboriginal language are no more "held and balanced in an intricate web of relationships" than the English words. It is not true that languages "tend to evolve toward simplicity"; Italian indeed has simpler morphology than Latin, which the latter inherited from Proto-Indo-European, but chances are, Proto-Indo-European was a complication of something simpler; the 12 infinitive verb endings of Vedic Sanskrit were probably separate words that merged with the root the way the direct object pronoun merges with the root in the French word "t'adore".
Read information about the authorMark Abley was born in England in 1955. As a small child his family moved to Canada, and he grew up in northern Ontario, southern Alberta and central Saskatchewan. He studied literature at the University of Saskatchewan and, after winning a Rhodes Scholarship, at St. John’s College, Oxford. As a young man Mark travelled in more than twenty countries in Europe and Asia. Aspiring to be a poet, he began work as a freelance writer.
In 1983 Mark and his wife moved to Montreal. His first book, Beyond Forget: Rediscovering the Prairies, appeared in 1986. A year later he embarked on the adventure of parenthood and also joined the staff of the Montreal Gazette. He spent sixteen years there, working as a feature writer, book-review editor and literary columnist. His reviews and articles won him the National Newspaper Award for critical writing, and, following a trip to Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somaliland, he was nominated for an NNA in international reporting. Along the way he also wrote three books of poetry and the text of a children’s picture book, Ghost Cat. He returned to freelance writing in 2003, though he continues to write a regular column on language for the Gazette. It appears every second Saturday under the headline “Watchwords.”
His book Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages appeared in 2003. It has been translated into French, Spanish and Japanese, and earned praise from reviewers in many countries. But the responses that most delighted Mark came from readers who said that the book inspired them to keep fighting for their own language and culture. After winning a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2005, Mark began work on a project looking at the amazing changes in the spoken and written language of our time: from hip-hop to Singlish, text-messaging to Spanglish. The result is his 2008 book The Prodigal Tongue: Dispatches From the Future of English.
His latest book, Camp Fossil Eyes: Digging for the Origins of Words, appeared in the summer of 2009 from Annick Press. It aims to make etymology — the history of words — accessible and intriguing to children between about 9 and 13. (Much to Mark’s surprise, it was recently translated into Korean.) After this book appeared, he accepted an offer from McGill-Queen’s University Press to work there part-time as an acquisition editor.
Mark has been a writer, an editor and a guest speaker in the Creative Non-Fiction program of the Banff Centre for the Arts; he has read from his work at festivals and universities in Japan, Britain, the United States and most provinces of Canada. Despite his dislike of winter he continues to live in suburban Montreal, a few minutes’ walk from the banks of the St. Lawrence River. He is married with two daughters and three cats.
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