F&M Stories

Saving Endangered Languages from Going Extinct

As he took the stage, the speaker urged the Franklin & Marshall College audience to say "Kap-la-ye!" and then to repeat the words to the person seated next to them.

"You have all just greeted each other in the very endangered Koros language of India," said K. David Harrison, associate professor of linguistics at Swarthmore College. He spoke at the Feb. 23 Common Hour, a community discussion that occurs every Thursday classes are in session during the semester.

"Just by uttering that word here, in this auditorium, you've totally doubled or tripled the number of people who have ever spoken this language," he said. "It's a very small language."

Harrison, who is director of research at the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages, talked on the topic, "What Happens When Languages Die? Cultural Survival Without a Tongue," in which he says the world's more than 7,000 languages are in decline with about half predicted to vanish by century's end, before they are recorded or documented.

Language extinction leads to intellectual impoverishment in all fields of science and culture, according to Harrison. However, efforts underway to sustain, value and revitalize linguistic diversity in indigenous communities worldwide may help reverse the process, he said.

Related Articles

January 16, 2024

Common Hour Returns Jan. 18

Common Hour will resume Jan. 18 in addition to Campus Hour programming. The weekly event enables the F&M and Lancaster communities to engage in a campuswide dialogue.

November 7, 2023

Post-Soviet Memories Shaped Professor’s Path

F&M Professor of Economics Yeva Nersisyan was just a child in Armenia when the Soviet Union collapsed, but the following turmoil shaped her life’s work. She'll discuss Modern Money Theory at a Nov. 9 Common Hour lecture.

October 16, 2023

’09 Alum Shares Passion for Political Organizing

Shakya Cherry-Donaldson '09 returns to campus to discuss her career in political organizing with students at Thursday's Common Hour during F&M's second annual Inclusion Week.