The linguistic diversity of our species is under extreme stress, as are the communities who speak increasingly endangered speech forms. Of the world’s living languages, currently numbering around 7,000, around half will cease to be spoken as everyday vernaculars by the end of this century.
For communities around the world, local languages function as vehicles for the transmission of unique traditional knowledge and cultural heritage that become threatened when elders die and livelihoods are disrupted. As globalisation and rapid socio-economic change exert complex pressures on smaller communities, cultural and linguistic diversity is being transformed through assimilation to more dominant ways of life.
In 2016, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages to help promote and protect Indigenous languages. This celebration of linguistic vitality and resilience is welcome, but is it enough? And in an increasingly and often uncomfortably interconnected world, what is the role for the ‘heritage’ languages that migrants bring with them when they move and settle in new places?
In this richly illustrated lecture, I will draw on contemporary examples from North America, Asia and Europe to explore the enduring importance and compelling value of linguistic diversity in the 21st century.
Dr. Mark Turin is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and First Nations Languages at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Trained in anthropology and linguistics, he has worked in collaborative partnership with Indigenous peoples in the Himalayas for over 20 years and more recently with First Nations communities in the Pacific Northwest. He is a committed advocate for the enduring role of Indigenous and minority languages, online, in print and on air through his BBC radio series.
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March 06, 2019 at 7:00pm
Italian Cultural Centre - Museum & Art Gallery - (3075 Slocan St, Vancouver, BC V5M 3E4)