On the Death and Life of LanguagesFeb 15th, 2010 | By oshir | Category: 21-3: Tribal College Faculty, Spring 2010, Media Reviews
By Claude Hagège
Translation by Jody Gladding Yale University Press (2009)
Review by Dr. Ofer Shir
Claude Hagège’s book provides a fascinating journey into the world of languages across all known civilizations around the globe. Languages enable human life. The book especially addresses the life cycle of languages within the context of anthropological evolution and population dynamics, with special emphasis on death and revival.
Hagège is not the first person to consider languages as a phenomenon of natural sciences, subject to a life-cycle spanning birth, growth, development, and death. Yet he succeeds in establishing a refreshing as well as a robust linkage between languages and life.
Hagège discusses in detail several issues related to Indian languages, such as theImperialism of English, the trend of monolingualism in industrialized societies, and the construction of a “death machine for Indian languages,” carried out by both the American and Canadian federal governments. Finally, the book concludes with a case study of the Hebrew language and its regeneration after Israel was established.
This book provides an important scholarly contribution to research in a large spectrum of topics, including linguistics, anthropology, and Natural Evolution.
Dr. Ofer Shir, an Israeli-born scientist, is currently a postdoctoral research associate at Princeton University, investigating Quantum Chemistry. He fluently speaks Hebrew, English, Arabic, Dutch, and Spanish.