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News & Events

Linguistic Diversity

 

Joyce McDonough Department of Linguistics

Monday, December 12, 2016
12:00 p.m.–1:00 a.m.
CSB 209

On the Uses of Linguistic Diversity

Abstract:

While diversity is an essential and acknowledged marker of the health of an ecosystem, and much warranted concern has been raised about the destruction of environments and the loss of biodiversity worldwide, linguistic diversity has been excluded from this discussion. Yet animals on this planet have evolved to increasingly complexity, with this complexity has been the development of social organization and complex cognitive behavior. Human language and linguistic diversity falls into this category. Linguistic diversity evolved and is part of human cognition. Yet this diversity is disappearing; we expect between 60-90% of the languages spoken today will be gone by the end of the century. This represents a tremendous loss of cultural identity, tradition and knowledge of the landscape and environment. For linguists is also represents a vanishing opportunity to understand linguistic typology and architecture which is critical to our understanding of the human cognition and our language component.

In this talk, I’ll address both these issues, with some examples of the kind of structures that have evolved in distinct families.