On the Death and Life of Languages Claude Hagege, Jody Gladding

An Editions Odile Jacob Book
Publication date:
22 Sep 2009
Yale University Press
384 pages: 210 x 140 x 29mm


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Twenty-five languages die each year; at this pace, half the world’s five thousand languages will disappear within the next century. In this timely book, Claude Hagège seeks to make clear the magnitude of the cultural loss represented by the crisis of language death.

By focusing on the relationship of language to culture and the world of ideas, Hagège shows how languages are themselves crucial repositories of culture; the traditions, proverbs, and knowledge of our ancestors reside in the language we use. His wide-ranging examination covers all continents and language families to uncover not only how languages die, but also how they can be revitalized—for example in the remarkable case of Hebrew. In a striking metaphor, Hagège likens languages to bonfires of social behavior that leave behind sparks even after they die; from these sparks languages can be rekindled and made to live again.

Claude Hagège is the Chair of Linguistic Theory at the Collège de France in Paris. He is the author of more than fifteen books and the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the Gold Medal from Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. Jody Gladding is an award-winning poet and translator, and author of Stone Crop, which appeared in the Yale Younger Poets Series.

'Innovative perspectives on the life and death of languages by a leading French intellectual.' -Bookseller

'On the Death and Life of Languages... is a wake-up call, covering languages across the globe, from Cornish to the polyglot brew of Papua New Guinea.' -Andrew Robinson, New Scientist

'…Beautifully written…Hagège makes his expert case for linguistic biodiversity.”—Steven Poole, The Guardian