Hayden's Ferry Review


Endangered Species Take 2

While the forthcoming Issue 45 will feature an excellent selection of poems translated from endangered/dying languages, John McWhorter in World Affairs Journal, questions the value in trying to save languages at all. McWhorter argues,
What makes the potential death of a language all the more emotionally charged is the belief that if a language dies, a cultural worldview will die with it. But this idea is fragile. Certainly language is a key aspect of what distinguishes one group from another. However, a language itself does not correspond to the particulars of a culture but to a faceless process that creates new languages as the result of geographical separation.
And later that,
The main loss when a language dies is not cultural but aesthetic.
But as poetry suggests, language is always more than what it presents itself as--and so a language that disappears takes with it more than the particular sounds and geographic markings of a specific ethnic group. It takes with it a key to unlocking ideas embedded within culture, not created from, but understandable through, language.

Though perhaps the best response to this argument can be found by reading the poets and translators working within these endangered languages. Another reason to check out Issue #45.

-Brian Diamond
International Editor
BrianIssues 41-50, Translation