Here is a quick little book review I put together for one of my favorite language books:
Language Death, by David Crystal, is at once a practical handbook, a scholarly analysis of a sociolinguistic phenomenon, and a call to action, all in a thoughtful and highly readable 166 pages. Crystal starts by quickly covering topics such as how linguists count languages and how languages come to be classified as “endangered,” before examining causes of language endangerment. His main thrust, though, is pragmatic; his largest chapters cover the topics of “Why should we care?,” “Where do we begin?” and “What can be done?”
As someone very much interested in language preservation and revitalization, I found this book to be a remarkable primer on the subject. It is an excellent introductory text, suitable for non-specialists but detailed enough for budding linguists. The bibliography itself is a goldmine for anyone interested in further research within this field, and Crystal also includes an extensive (if perhaps somewhat out-of-date) list of organizations who are working on language documentation and revitalization all over the world as an Appendix. What I really appreciated about it was Crystal’s demand for action, which is both sensible and passionate. After firmly establishing the reasons we should care about this crisis, he provides specific, tangible steps that can be taken to prevent and even reverse the forces of linguistic extinction, everything from public awareness to fundraising to technical documentation. Every concerned citizen, linguist or not, has a role to play.
Interested in more book recommendations for language lovers? Check out the list I put together on Goodreads! Find some new recommendations, and vote to add your own!
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