Thursday, 31 March 2016

swan song or pangloss

As classical and liturgical music has done a good job of preserving Latin—and how antique sounding constructs are fossilised in Christmas carols, some ethnographically-minded composers are doing what they know best in order to try to help save some snatches of the estimated three-thousand languages that are threatened the vanish or become moribund over the next century.
The New York Times has fascinating coverage of this global collaboration, which does not aim to set obscure and unintelligible speech to music necessarily but rather transform them into music. Sadly, many of the resulting compositions are dirges as the quarry and quiver available to linguists is limited and the world is a bit poorer for the loss of the last native speakers of Bawm, Karaim, Chamling, Faroese, Istriot or Manx. Languages have always been subject to extinction but a few dominant languages and mass communication have accelerated the process and lingual diversity has probably never been so meagre since before the Tower of Babel. Some creative minds, nonetheless, are employing interesting and hopeful strategies to promote learning, curiosity and perhaps conservancy. The European Day of Languages (all two hundred twenty-five of them), promoting plurilingualist, is observed on 26 September and UNESCO celebrates International Mother Language Day on 21 February but any day is a good day to safeguard a rarity by any means at one’s disposal.