The language death is the process of dying a language to a language not native has more. Speech death often arises in situations of language contact in which two or more languages compete with one another in a society. Fewer and fewer speakers use a language in fewer and fewer contexts, until finally there are hardly any competent speakers of the language and it is completely replaced by the dominant language. An extreme case of language death is the extermination of its speakers through hunger, epidemics or genocide .
If a language leaves no written recordings or sound recordings, it is completely gone and is considered extinct . Scientific estimates assume that there are around 6,000 to 7,000 living languages worldwide, of which between 50 and 90 percent will become extinct in the 21st century.
Notes on terminology
The term speech death is a metaphor and not to be taken literally. The metaphor of language death is used to describe a dramatic process, because the death of a language usually goes hand in hand with the loss of a cultural tradition and the ethnic and socio-economic independence of a language group. In the past 500 years alone, around half of the world's known languages have become extinct.
Dead languages and extinct languages
Occasionally, a distinction is made between extinct languages, for which there are no longer any speakers, and dead languages, for which there are no longer any native speakers, but speakers who understand the language. A dead language can be well documented, taught as a foreign language and possibly even used in certain contexts, such as Latin or Old Church Slavonic . So is z. B. Latin is a dead language because there is no one who speaks it as a mother tongue. Nevertheless, there are many people who understand Latin because they have learned this ancient language as a foreign language. Classical Latin no longer evolves as a dead language, but there are the Romance languages that have evolved from Vulgar Latin.
With certain phonological restrictions, it is even possible to revive a dead language, such as B. Cornish or Iwrit (Modern Hebrew), which became the state language of Israel over 2000 years after the extinction of Hebrew as a spoken language .
Differentiation from the linguicide
Speech death must be distinguished from the less commonly used term linguicide . Linguicide (language murder) is provoked speech death. Since the 16th century, a language policy has been pursued, particularly in colonial contexts , that explicitly forbids speakers from speaking their mother tongue or makes it difficult for them to speak. In the literature, linguicide is also considered a form of ethnocide .
Causes of Speech Death
There is not a single cause of speech death, but rather a number of factors that can contribute to speech death:
- Influences that endanger or even extinguish speakers of a language: natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or tsunamis, droughts and famine, epidemics, the destruction of tribal countries of indigenous peoples, wars and military conflicts
- Influences that trigger cultural changes: cultural assimilation, urbanization, language policy with negative effects on minorities or with the purpose of suppressing linguistic minorities
Examples can be found both from today and in world history: As a result of an earthquake in 1998 on the coast of Papua New Guinea , the villages of the Arop and Warupu were destroyed and 30% of the inhabitants were killed. The survivors moved to other regions or urban centers, so it is questionable whether their languages will survive. Another example is Irish , which although not extinct, its decline was accelerated by the famine of 1845–1851 with over a million deaths and subsequent mass emigration. In America, about 30 languages have become extinct since the arrival of the Spanish conquerors through military aggression during colonization .
Course of language death
A language can die when speakers use two languages and eventually give up one language in favor of the second language. The process of language death comprises three phases:
- Phase I ( language change ): In a bilingual or multilingual society, language groups originally speak two languages, one language of which is usually their mother tongue and a second language, the target language, which is used in different domains in society (e.g. school, public Institutions, media) is dominant. The first phase of language death is reached when speakers begin to prefer the target language over the mother tongue, often due to socio-economic pressures from outside. Children may only hear their mother tongue in the family context, but no longer outside of home. This is often accompanied by a change in attitudes towards the language spoken in the family, which is increasingly seen as useless.
- Phase II (linguistic decline): Parents do not pass on the original language to their children, or do so no longer. The result is “half-speakers” who only have an imperfect command of the language: although they still have extensive vocabulary, their repertoire of grammatical structures and stylistic diversity is limited. This is accompanied by a phonological decline, i. H. the half-speakers have insufficient command of the sounds typical of the language.
- If there are almost only speakers who are over 50 years old for a language, as well as "half-speakers" in the age group between 25 and 50 years, but hardly any speakers in the age group under 25, this language is considered to be "moribund" ( Doomed), as it is hardly possible to pass the language on from parents to their children.
- Phase III (speech death): The original language is no longer used and is completely replaced by the target language. However, it is possible that linguistic peculiarities of the original language find their way into the target language as a so-called substrate .
Consequences of speech death and measures for language revitalization
With the death of languages comes the loss of other human achievements:
- The concepts of designations and views of the world that are specifically immanent in a language can perish and with them traditional knowledge about our environment, medicine, plants, animals or the earth.
- Every language represents a cultural heritage that can be lost, including orally transmitted history, poetry, epic, lullabies, jokes, sayings, myths.
- Researchers are losing data bases for researching human cognition, e.g. B. whether the grammar or the vocabulary of a language influences thinking and worldview.
Examples of the loss of cultural heritage are the myths and legends of the Tuva , knowledge of traditional rice cultivation among the Ifugao in the Philippines or the number system used in different languages.
By language policy , it will attempt to obtain in many countries or languages alive to revive again. The success of such measures, however, depends on the size of the remaining number of speakers, their political influence, financial possibilities and the stage of language death. An example of such attempted language preservation is language policy in Wales: Welsh is taught in schools and has official language status in Wales , and there is a Welsh language television station.
Dialects can also recede and disappear to very different degrees; one then speaks of dialect death. For example, in most parts of France the various local Gallo-Roman varieties have completely disappeared. The same thing happened in various areas of Northern Germany with the Low German varieties - for example in the Hanover area . In southern Germany, on the other hand, the dialects - such as Bavarian - are still widely used. In the course of the 20th century, the Swiss German dialects even largely replaced Standard German as a spoken language.
- Lyle Campbell: Language Death . In: RE Asher, JMY Simpson (Eds.): The Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics . Volume 4. Pergamon Press, Oxford 1994, ISBN 0-08-035943-4 , pp. 1960-1968.
- David Crystal: Language Death . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2000, ISBN 0-521-65321-5 .
- K. David Harrison: When Languages Die. The Extinction of the World's Languages and the Erosion of Human Knowledge. Oxford University Press, Oxford et al. 2007, ISBN 978-0-19-518192-0 .
- Brand Janse, Sijmen Tol: Language Death and Language Maintenance: Theoretical, practical and descriptive approaches . John Benjamin, Amsterdam / Philadelphia 2003, ISBN 90-272-4752-8 .
- Hans-Jürgen Sasse : Theory of Language Death. In: Matthias Brenzinger: Language Death. Factual and Theoretical Explorations with Special Reference to East Africa (= Contributions to the Sociology of language. 64). Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin et al. 1992, ISBN 3-11-013404-7 , pp. 7-30, (therein a well thought-out model for the sequence of speech death).
- Peter Schrijver, Peter-Arnold Mumm (ed.): Speech death and speech birth . Hempen, Bremen 2004, ISBN 3-934106-37-4 .
- ^ Lyle Campbell: Language Death . In: RE Asher, JMY Simpson (Eds.): The Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics . Volume 4. Pergamon Press, Oxford 1994, ISBN 0-08-035943-4 , p. 1960.
- ^ David Crystal: Language Death . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2000, ISBN 0-521-65321-5 , p. 2.
- ^ David Crystal: Language Death . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2000, ISBN 0-521-65321-5 , pp. 3, 18-19.
- ^ Hans-Jürgen Sasse: Theory of language death / Language decay and contact-induced change: similarities and differences . [Papers presented at the International Symposium on Language Death in East Africa, Bad Homburg, January 8-12, 1990]. In: Institute for Linguistics (Cologne). General Linguistics Department: working paper ; NF, No. 12. General Linguistics, Institute for Linguistics, University of Cologne, Cologne 1990, p. 1.
- ↑ Wilfried Stroh: An immortal ghost: Latin . In: Peter Schrijver, Peter-Arnold Mumm (ed.): Sprachtod und Sprachgeburt . Hempen, Bremen 2004, ISBN 3-934106-37-4 , pp. 77-78, 85-86.
- ↑ Amir Hassanpour : The Politics of A-political Linguistics: Linguists and Linguicide. In: Robert Phillipson (Ed.): Rights to Language. Equity, Power, and Education. Celebrating the 60th Birthday of Tove Skutnabb-Kangas. Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah NJ et al. 2000, ISBN 0-8058-3346-3 , pp. 33-39.
- ↑ Beau Grosscup: Strategic terror. The Politics and Ethics of Aerial Bombardment. SIRD, Kuala Lumpur 2006, ISBN 1-84277-543-X , p. 33 ff.
- ^ Israel W. Charny: Toward a Generic Definition of Genocide. In: George J. Andreopoulos (Ed.): Genocide. Conceptual and Historical Dimensions. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia PA 1994, ISBN 0-8122-3249-6 , pp. 64-94, here p. 85.
- ^ David Crystal: Language Death . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2000, ISBN 0-521-65321-5 , pp. 70-88.
- ^ David Crystal: Language Death . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2000, ISBN 0-521-65321-5 , pp. 71, 76.
- ^ Hans-Jürgen Sasse: Theory of language death / Language decay and contact-induced change: similarities and differences . [Papers presented at the International Symposium on Language Death in East Africa, Bad Homburg, January 8-12, 1990]. In: Institute for Linguistics (Cologne). General Linguistics Department: working paper ; NF, No. 12. General Linguistics, Institute for Linguistics, University of Cologne, Cologne 1990, pp. 9-19.
- ^ K. David Harrison: When Languages Die. The Extinction of the World's Languages and the Erosion of Human Knowledge. Oxford University Press, Oxford et al. 2007, ISBN 978-0-19-518192-0 , pp. 15-19.
- ^ K. David Harrison: When Languages Die. The Extinction of the World's Languages and the Erosion of Human Knowledge. Oxford University Press, Oxford et al. 2007, ISBN 978-0-19-518192-0 , pp. 57, 142, 163, 169.
- ^ David Crystal: The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language , 2nd edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1997, ISBN 0-521-559677 , p. 305.
- ^ David Britain, Reinhild Vandekerckhove, Willy Jongenburger (Eds.): Dialect Death in Europe? International Journal of the Sociology of Language 196/197. Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2009.